The Big Reveal
The Season 1 finale to Carnival Row begins with Puck killing a few stray guards in the alleys of the city. While chaos slowly begins to bubble to the surface in The Row, Vignette stages a failed break-out attempt, only to be thrown back in her cell for her troubles.
Meanwhile, Absalom puts a gun up to Rycroft’s head and tells him to beg for his life. He tells the Chancellor he didn’t kill his Mother and admits he thought Absalom was the one who killed her. In a strange twist, it turns out the Chancellor is actually his Father. He tells Rycroft he can’t go back to the city but he is free to go, convinced that the Inspector is actually the Darkasher’s next victim.
After his encounter with Imogen, Agreus is warned not to push his affair too far as Fergus tells him people are already talking. Meanwhile, Imogen tries hard not to show her true feelings to Ezra, telling him it’s exhausting caring what everyone thinks all the time. As Jonas speaks to his Mother about Sophie, she lets slip that she’s his sister, prompting her son to stagger back in disgust. Nearby, Absalom begins writing out a release letter to free Vignette but finds a crazed Puck in his office instead, who stabs him repeatedly in the chest before hurrying out the room.
Deciding not to keep it a secret anymore, Rycroft tells Tourmaline the truth about his ancestry, prompting her to show him a book brought from Vignette’s old life; a relic from a time unknown and signifying that the fae’s love for him never really died.
As Imogen and Agreus engage in sexual relations again, Ezra grabs the gun from the drawer and approaches the Puck. However, Imogen knocks the gun free from his hand, as Agreus follows this up with a headbutt, forcing him to fall to the ground. Realizing it’s no longer safe for them, Imogen pleads with him for them to leave, and they make their hasty retreat.
An enraged Piety suffocates Absalom while he lies in bed. The dead witch tells Rycroft that Piety is the one who’s responsible for the killings. It’s here we see her use the liver of her victims to control the Darkasher, which Rycroft manages to fight off while Vignette sits tied up in her room. As the final fight approaches, Rycroft is attacked again but Vignette manages to break free, plunging a knife through Piety’s skull and killing her.
Meanwhile Jonas takes up the mantle of Chancellor and warns that hard days are to come; things are going to get worse before they get better. The Radical Puck group remain unaccounted for and out in the streets, police rally together to try and get things back under their control.
With the ominous promise of change hanging in the air, Tourmaline says goodbye to Vignette who leaves with Rycroft. However, thanks to the radicalized Puck, all fae and puck are to remain inside the city, prompting Imogen and Agreus to be told to head home, which they refuse. Watching the outline of the city grow fainter, they sail away together while Ezra remains in the city alone.
Back in the heart of The Row, Jonas is given an ultimatum by Sophie whom he realizes is responsible for writing the blackmail letter. Thriving in chaos, she asks him to remain friends together and as the parliamentary meeting begins, Sophie and Jonas join hands, and forces, for the battle ahead. As change sweeps through the streets, Rycroft and Vignette embrace one another in the segregated area of the city.
With a cliffhanger ending and plenty of questions left unanswered, Carnival Row glances to the future for its second season, where I’d assume we’ll see the radical Pucks begin to assert their influence on the city. Even now, the faint glimmers of a rebellion cling to the air and seeing the police overpowered in the streets, only further accentuates this. For now though, the finale does do a pretty good job wrapping things up for this season’s big narrative hook, with Piety’s reveal a nice little twist, albeit not much of a surprise.
If I’m honest, Vignette has felt like the weak link in the series and her back story just isn’t all that interesting. As the series has worn on, she’s really fallen into the background for the more interesting, heartbreaking story of Rycroft’s half-blood past. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it still would have been nice to see a more compelling duo fronting the show, rather than allowing the subplots to do the heavy lifting and showcase the more interesting stories in this world.
Despite my lukewarm reaction to Carnival Row, I am looking forward to the second season. I love all things fantasy, and with Lord Of The Rings, Wheel Of Time and His Dark Materials all looming on the horizon, now is a very good time to be a fan of this genre. It’s not perfect, and at times the show does have some serious issues with its pacing, but if you can look past this there’s enough here to make Carnival Row an enjoyable series nonetheless.