Amazon Prime’s Carnival Row is due out at the end of August. And despite multiple trailers (including the latest one, which you can watch below), we still don’t get it. What is this show about–and is it going to be great or terrible?
Is Steampunk Still Cool?
Carnival Row stars Orlando Bloom in a snazzy bowler hat and model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne as a faerie. There’s a distinct steampunk flavor to the show that looks interesting–but also like it should have been a movie based on a mid-2000s young adult novel.
Considering that the most recent big-budget steampunk movie–Peter Jackson’s Mortal Engines–was a massive flop, you have to wonder why Amazon was willing to go all-in on this expensive production. They’ve already greenlit a second season before the first one has even dropped–a bold strategy that might not pay off.
What We Know So Far…
So what’s it actually about? The action takes place in a fantasy world that looks a lot like Victorian London, only with more dirigibles and werewolves or whatever. Humans grudgingly live alongside faeries and other creatures, who are refugees from a war between the two species.
Bloom is Rycroft “Philo” Philostrate, a name that already makes me skeptical about how much I’m going to enjoy Carnival Row. He’s a gruff detective investigating a string of murders. Delevingne is Vignette Stonemoss, a faerie refugee with pretty dragonfly wings. The pair were once lovers–and judging by the steamy clips in the trailer below, it doesn’t take long for them to pick up where they left off.
Okay, Now It Makes Sense
The main problem with Carnival Row is that it feels like a recycled jumble of other ideas we’ve already. The title reminds me of the canceled-before-its-time Carnivale from HBO, while the tone and visual palette is very similar to Penny Dreadful. And honestly, if I never see another Jack the Ripper rip-off story, it’ll be too soon.
But in a surprising twist, it turns out that Travis Beacham actually wrote this story almost 20 years ago, when he was still a student. The film script (then called A Killing on Carnival Row) ended up on the Hollywood Black List of the best unproduced ideas. 17 years ago, these ideas would have been fresh and interesting. Now? The times have moved on, and I’m not sure that the public still has an appetite for neo-Victorian dark fantasy.
It’s possible that Carnival Row will prove me wrong. But in this post-Peak TV landscape, I’m not sure how a show like this will survive. Check out the final trailer below and let us know if you’ll be watching it on Amazon Prime!