So this week we started watching Carnival Row, a new streaming fantasy series from Amazon Prime:
One episode in, Carnival Row appears to be set in what is essentially an analogue of early 20th century England, a nation known as The Burgue, although judging by everyone’s accents—especially the Fae (more on them below)—it might as well be called The Brogue.
Me: “Apparently faeries are all Irish.”
Wife: “I was just thinking that too.”
Me: “Cassidy should be in this show. He sounds just like them.”
Wife: “Who’s Cassidy?”
Brogue Burgue is currently hosting a large population of refugees from the lands of the Fae, including but not limited to faeries themselves (of which the winged Cara Delevigne, from the trailer still, is one), fauns (hoofed humanoids with ram’s horns), at least one mysterious monster, and other creatures I haven’t noticed or that haven’t shown up yet. These refugees are collectively referred to, pejoratively, as “critches”, with more specific derogatory terms being frequently used for specific species; “Pix” (presumably short for “pixie”) for faeries, “Puck” for fauns, etc. Naturally some of the human residents of The Brogue Burgue are unhappy about having the cast of Shrek wandering their streets; they are forced into a ghetto (that’d be the Carnival Row of the title), subject to police harassment, violence against them tends to go uninvestigated, and speeches are given in ersatz Parliament about them:
The Critch are swarming our city.
They are changing the very fabric of our society.
And not for the better.
They bring vices, wantonness, the scourge of lixer addiction, the worship of strange gods.
– That’s right.
Our streets are safe no more.
Whole boroughs have become off-limits to decent citizens.
(SHOUTS OF AGREEMENT) The people look to their chancellor for relief.
What do they find instead? A majority content to do nothing! (INDISTINCT SHOUTING)
It would seem that good Proctor Longerbane has forgotten why the fae folk were forced to flee their lands in the first place.
– (EXCITED CHATTER)
– Exactly. Exactly.
Because the party he leads chose to let Tirnanoc fall into the hands of the Pact!
(INDISTINCT SHOUTING) Let’s not forget which party dragged us into that misbegotten adventure in empire making.
It was a war we could have won.
It was a war we should have won! (SHOUT OF AGREEMENT)
See how he dodges the issue at hand.
BrogueishmenBurguishmen can’t find honest work because the Critch do their jobs for a pittance!
As noted in that excerpt, the reason these refugees are currently flooding into The
Brogue Burgue is that the realms of the fae were invaded by its forces, as well as the forces of another country, The Pact, which we haven’t really seen yet, but which I’m going to assume for now is an analogue of early 20th century Germany with (judging by their murderous behavior towards non-humans) a healthy dose of Naziism stirred in for extra villainy. Somehow, instead getting handily wiped out by faerie magic*, these opposing forces managed to destroy the realms of the fae, killing most of its occupants and driving the rest into exile in The Brogue Burgue.
At this point, the astute reader may have discerned that Carnival Row is pretty freaking dark, and is probably wondering how I convinced my wife to watch this show at all. Well, the fact is that she has a soft spot for fantastic creatures in general and faeries in particular (see also Pan’s Labyrinth, Stardust, Hellboy II: The Golden Army), so it was actually fairly easy to get her to check out Carnival Row. We just had to make it through the first scene, which features dead and decomposing faeries strung up on barbed wire in a forest, while soldiers of The Pact, scoring headshots with an accuracy reminiscent of any random character from The Walking Dead, gun down fleeing refugees.
Wife: “That’s gross.”
Fortunately, once you get past that, things get considerably less gory, as the viewer is treated to scenes of life in The
Brogue Burgue: upper-crust domesticity with faun and fae servants tending to their twit employers, gatherings of angry, possibly violent anti-faerie demonstrators, brothels specializing in human/faerie hookups, and alligators in the sewers. Or something.
Surprisingly enough, my wife stayed awake for the entire episode, although towards the end she did start asking questions:
Wife: “How long is this show, exactly?”
Still, she made it to the end, if barely; and once it was over, she had some thoughts about what she had just seen:
Wife: “They’re really ripping off that other guy.”
Me (after a moment): “Guillermo del Toro?”
Wife: “No, that other big show? The one that just ended?”
Me (beat): “Game of Thrones?”**
Wife: “Yeah, that. They’re like, what did they have in Game of Thrones? Fantasy creatures? Check. Brothels? Check. A little bit of politics? Check. Somebody who looks like Jon Snow? Check.”
I think she may be on to something there.
* Which is by far the aspect of this show that I have the most trouble believing.
** How soon we forget …