In Review: Carnival Row Season 1

A detective and a fairy rekindle a dangerous affair in a Victorian fantasy world; the city's uneasy peace collapses when a string of murders reveals an unimaginable monster.

Synopsis: A detective and a fairy rekindle a dangerous affair in a Victorian fantasy world; the city’s uneasy peace collapses when a string of murders reveals an unimaginable monster.

Review: Created by Travis Beacham and René Echevarria offers up a series that blends steampunk with mythical beings such as fae and pucks and gives us a detective mystery, which goes far beyond just being an average procedural. In Carnival Row the writers have given us a world filled with mysterious characters and intrigue. The show feels like a blend of many things and has a somewhat Dickensian slant with its portrayal of a class system and all of the baggage that comes with that. It’s a tale of two races. The Fae and the Human’s as the try to live together.

The Story

Set in a fictional city called Burgue the series takes place a few years after a great war in which people from the Burg fought the Pact, but this war revealed the Fae upon the world, who were enlisted by both sides of the conflict. The Burgue lost the war and many of the Fae wound up living among them as servants or low skilled workers in the city.

The story kicks off as a Fae is murdered by a mysterious assailant and Detective Philo investigates. Philo is sympathetic to the Fae inhabitants of the City for reasons that get revealed in the third episode of the show. But suffice to say. He is perhaps the only police officer in the Burg that will try and get justice for the Fae.

Things get complicated for Philo when Vignette arrives in the city looking for a fresh start. She is pretty much sold into indentured servitude to Ezra and Imogen Spurnrose, who both share little regard for the Fae in their employ. Vignette doesn’t last too long before she breaks away to join the Ravens, which is a Fae crime syndicate, which runs various rackets in the Burgue. Vignette and Philo share a past and she is the only person that knows his secret.

By the close of the first episode. We have a pretty good idea of who the characters are and learn that Philo has a much bigger mystery to solve, which not only sees him looking into his own past, but also sees him make a few discoveries about his roots along the way.

The Acting

Cara Delevingne puts in a strong performance as Vignette who is a feisty character that is not to be messed with. Delevingne who have not been too taken with in the past manages to bring a good mix of fire and wit to the role and provides a pretty solid accent throughout. It’s a performance that shows that Delevingne is far more capable as an actor if given the right kind of material to work with.

Orlando Bloom gets away from his ‘Lord of the Rings’ character in this and brings us a far more complex character as Philo, who has a past and a really intriguing story as well as a certain darkness to him. Episode three is where we get to learn more about Philo and Vignette’s relationship, but we also learn a great deal about Philo too. Especially when it comes to his secret.

All the supporting cast members provide much of the backdrop for the story and give Phlo some interesting characters to interact with.


Carnival Row is a really complex show with lots of layers and characters who all seem to have a story to tell. I loved how it was all set up and particularly enjoyed seeing a tram suspended in the air on rails a bit like the monorail. The twist concerning Philo in episode 3 is a genuine surprise and adds an element of mystery to the character.

I really liked the idea of the Fae characters being an underclass and I loved how the Raven leader said that we are not from their world and as such are not helped by their laws. It felt very much like a sentiment that most marginalized people would share.

We even have a glimpse into the murky world of Burgish Politics, which seems to be very much a mirror of what seems to be going on in the world today given that things are so polarised. Thankfully the political side of the story is not hitting you with a sledgehammer but is just part of the world that the characters exist in.

This is definitely a series that I think most will enjoy if they are into multi-layered storytelling, which delves deeply into the murkier and less black and white side of things.

Carnival Row - Season 1
  • Story
  • Acting
  • CGI
  • Incidental Music

Ian Cullen is the founder of and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: When he is not writing for Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of You can contact ian at:
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