Carnival Row Season 2 Review – The next promising fantasy show cancelled before its time

Season 1

Season 2


Episode Guide

Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 9 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 10 -| Review Score – 3.5/5


Carnival Row is an exciting fantasy show that started pretty slow but takes a completely different route in season 2 which everyone approved of. It could have been the next big hit fantasy show had it been given time to kick off, but unfortunately Amazon Studios have pulled the plug way too soon.

With a star-studded cast including Orlando Bloom, Cara Delevingne, Joanne Whalley, Jared Harris and Indira Varma, Carnival Row combines gritty cop procedural shows, period dramas and fantasy to give a thrilling experience.

In a world where humans and faeries are at odds with each other, Orlando Bloom plays the self-righteous Philo, a human detective with a dangerous origin story. While in the military, he falls for the fae rebel Vignette portrayed by Cara Delevingne but they are separated due to heartwrenching circumstances.

Then we have the uptight Imogen who tries to use the class traitor of a faun, Agreus, for his money but falls for him instead. Jonah and Sophie are annoying humans with power who buy into the oppressive and segregating regime with it falling upon Philo, Vignette and their friends Darius and Tourmaline to stop them. 

Season 1 stumbled through a mostly expository storyline with a one-track mystery of the Darkasher, likely to blame for the low ratings and Amazon’s decision to cancel the show even before season 2 aired. But with the total 180 degrees that the show takes with the new season, if the studio had given it a chance, Carnival Row could have taken our screens by storm.   

Sure, Orlando Bloom brings back his squinty eye move when he cannot think of something clever to do in his righteous-filled monologues making it difficult for the season 1 audience to believe he is the same Hollywood star who was part of two huge movie franchises. But it seems that he was just having a bad day or year because he finally returns to his old self and brings out all the stops for season 2, giving us a believable portrayal of the troubled Philo.

And while expectations were low for Cara Delevingne who has been going through highs and lows of her acting progress, season 2 went from a Vignette that made us cringe with her idealism and awkward deliverance of dialogue to a relatively well-defined rebel whom we hate that we root for. 

Meanwhile, Agreus goes from being a boring, imposter faun who aims to be like the humans to a grey character who does bad things with good intentions. Meanwhile, Tamzin Merchant as an actually dark and complicated Imogen shines as she is allowed to do her thing instead of her character being boxed in the ‘Legally Blonde’ archetype as seen in season 1.

So does Tourmaline, who is more than a fae hooker as she is upgraded from a plot device to a main character with her own troubles which honestly was the best part of season 2’s beginning. 

The dialogues are still a little childish and preachy as they overtly talk about how bad racism is by showing a bunch of white guys being oppressed. Sprinkle in a little bit of communism with Agreus being a traitor for wanting to have a good life for himself and we’ve got a season 2 bingo card on how to make the show more ‘woke’ without any really meaningful representation (we’re still mad about Vignette’s ending). 

The makers should have focused more on the action and plot development the way they did with season 2 episode 5 which made things interesting finally. From that point onwards, the show finds its groove –  if only we had gotten this pace and story and structure from season 1, maybe Carnival Row wouldn’t have been cancelled.

From the ambitious but intriguing introduction of Ragusa and New Dawn fighting for equality for all species to Tirnanoc, the land of the fae, the show could have gone on a much larger scale with multiple storylines of epic shows like Game of Thrones, Vikings and Outlander. Alas, this is another show lost to the growing cancellation pile of streaming gravestones.

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  • Verdict - 6/10

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