Amazon's 'Carnival Row' season 1 is more about immigration and challenges of integration than a magical fantasy
'Carnival Row' season 1 portrays a war between the Pact and the fae population in their homeland Tirnanoc, which results in a huge number of fae refugees trying to find a home in Burgue's Carnival Row. Fae consists of a mix of species including faeries, such as Cara Delvigne's character Vignette Stonemoss, the pucks -- who are part human and part goat -- such Mr. Agreus (David Gyasi), kobolds, Mima, centaurs and many more.
One would technically expect magic and mysticism to be an important part of this fantasy world, but the magic stops with just the wings of the faeries, the hooves of the pucks and the presence of centaurs. The show itself doesn't substantiate the past of the fae population much more than a narration of folklore in passing by Vignette to Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom).
Even the conflict between The Pact (consisting of humans) and how The Republic of Burgue's withdrawal from the war ended their support for the Fae is all shown in the form of title cards at the beginning of the first episode. A lot about what caused the fae population to run away from their homeland is alluded to and not substantially shown.
As the episodes unravel, we see more of the conflict between the Fae and the Republic of the Burgue in Carnival Row itself, which influences Vignette and Philo's lives, but this conflict doesn't necessarily center on the uniqueness of Fae. The show is very reflective of migrants and their challenges when it comes to integration.
Tirnanoc is now just a far off memory not just for the fae population that left its homeland, but for us as audiences as well. Philo's investigation of a series of crimes committed by a being called the Dark Asher - a being formed of dead animals and a human's life producing seed (sperm and eggs) -- reveals something more on the lines of a monster going on a spree than a magical being supposedly used by a fae to take out individuals - fae and human.
The show beautifully portrays the challenges faced by migrants with regards to integration. If you were expecting to be mesmerized by magical beings and their magical worlds like you were with say the 'Lord of the Rings' or the 'Harry Potter' series then this show is not for you.
But if you are interested in a show that portrays the lives of immigrants in an interesting setup and that deftly portrays issues persistent in a refugee's life then 'Carnival Row' is for you. In fact, the portrayal of the puck Mr. Agreus' character and the friendship he strikes with Imogen Spurnrose (Tamzin Merchant), a human lady of a noble family in the Burgue, is a reflection of real life, as people warm up to foreigners as time passes.
Not just this, Philo's struggle with being a half-fae, someone who belongs neither here nor there, falling in love with a woman who belongs to a population that is oppressed is yet another interesting portrayal on the show. Since 'Carnival Row' has been renewed for a second season, we could hope the show adds more elements of fantasy, but then again, it would be refreshing to see more of Mr. Agreus and Imogen, navigating the social system of the Burgue together.
All the episodes of 'Carnival Row' season 1 released on Amazon Prime Video August 30.