For those suffering from Penny Dreadful and Game of Thrones withdrawal, Carnival Row provides a quick fix with a dose of fantasy and imperialist politics.
The eight-episode-long season delves into the lives of fae folk of Anoun (or fairies), who are being forced to leave their homeland due to war and genocide and are fleeing to the prosperous but human shores of the Republic of Burgue.
The humans detest the faes, who are born with a pair of wings and are referred to as Critch. Those on the run end up living in a ghetto called Gloamingside doing menial jobs for a living.
The fae women resort to sex trade given that men secretly desire their beauty and have a fetish for their wings.
In this fantastical yet familiar backdrop, Orlando Bloom (Philo), a Burguish man, falls in love with Cara Delevingne (Vignette), a fae, and they navigate an eerily similar world where the marginalised are being prosecuted and killed, where refugees are being deported and where immigrants are treated as less than human.
The Burguish is perhaps a metaphor for all first world countries and how their shores offer asylum to those fleeing their homelands, albeit at a price.
The fae is shown to be of different sects—some have wings while some have horns and hoofs—perhaps representing the refugees who are currently fleeing their countries.
There is a hint of the Victorian era with the societal customs, costumes and carriages but no real historical connection is established throughout the show.
There’s also a major religion in Burgue known as Martyrite Faith. The phrase ‘oh my martyr’ is constantly repeated and statues of a ‘martyr’ are hung in holy places, perhaps referring to Catholicism.
Chernobyl star Jarred Harris (Absalom Breakspear) appears as the chancellor of Burgue and a ‘Game of Thrones-esque’ power struggle is explored.
There’s even incest thrown in to ensure you are reminded of King’s Landing but the real star that emerges in the corridors of power is Indira Verma (Piety Breakspear).
She plays the ruthless mother and lover with such deftness that one is reminded of Lady Macbeth.
Alas, there are no ghosts but there are witches known as Haruspex. And what’s a show without cute animals? Watch it only for the goblin-like kobolds, if nothing else.