Amazon’s Carnival Row
Season 1, Episode 2: “Aisling”
Directed by Thor Freudenthal
Written by René Echevarria
* For a recap & review of the Season 1 premiere, “Some Dark God Wakes” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Kingdoms of the Moon” – click here
Flyers are forbidden in the Burgue, so it’s easily seen when Vignette (Cara Delevingne) is flying across the rooftops back to the Spurnrose house, after her tragic visit to see Philo (Orlando Bloom). They’re both unhappy, despite her wish to leave him behind.
Philo hears of yet another “dead Pix.” Near the sewer is Aisling Querelle, who was attacked by the beast. She was gutted and blood leads back into the sewer.
Philo and Constable Berwick (Waj Ali) go to the woman’s apartment, finding an odd little creature running around— Fike, a Kobold. They likewise find a friend of hers, Runyan Millworthy (Simon McBurney), hiding in the closet. Runyan tells them Aisling was a singer once, later becoming “a recluse.” He hadn’t seen her in years, only just having arrived in the Burgue after being away a long while.
Imogen (Tamzin Merchant) has been up in arms about the faun— like Afissa (Tracey Wilkinson)— who’s moved in across the way, Agreus Astrayon (David Gyasi). She’s angry about his “puffed up” way. Not something the bourgeois likes to see. She and Ezra (Andrew Gower) ask their solicitor, Wigsby (Roy McCrerey), what can be done, and they see they’re powerless.
At the park, Imogen is left without a parasol. She sends Vignette to go get it when the downpour starts. She winds up under the parasol of Agreus, who knows her already. They have quite the talk. He knows lots about the woman, like the addiction she clearly has to that liquid she keeps in her tiny flask— the stuff she sent Vignette down to Carnival Row to fetch.
Oh, my. Scandalous!
Unsurprisingly, Philo’s not getting help looking into Aisling’s murder. Nobody cares about another murdered Pix. They’d rather keep blaming all the violence in a marginalised community on the marginalised themselves. This doesn’t stop the Inspector, determined to continue investigating, with or without official help. He goes to a faun— a doctor who’s forced to work mainly as a butcher, due to his status— who’ll perform “an autopsy on a Critch.” This gives Philo insight into the killing, particularly that the liver’s missing.
In Bleakness Keep, Philo visits a man called Darius (Ariyon Bakare) at his cell. They talk of the latest killing. From the sounds of it, these two men fought together in the Great War. They sing an old battle hymn together from their time fighting for the Burgue. Philo visits Darius each day. We continue to see honour in the copper / soldier.
But he’s also left behind hurt in his wake. Poor Vignette waited seven years just to come across him in the city. Now she’s working for Ezra, being called a “Critch cunt” and nearly sexually assaulted before escaping into the night. He blames it on her attempting to steal, which makes Imogen determined to go to the police.
Vignette goes to stay with Tourmaline (Karla Crome), through whom we see more of the immigrant experience re: the Fae. Like contemporary immigrants, they must often give up their occupations from home— she, a poet laureate in Tirnanoc, like the doctor from another land earlier— and resort to any work available to them. She tells Vignette about a group from the homeland, the Black Raven. Might be a better fit than survival sex work at the hotel. Fits with her previous work fighting the Pact.
Jonah (Arty Froushan) has been kidnapped. His father Absalom (Jared Harris) and mother Piety (Indira Varma) aren’t surprised where he was when he was taken. The Chancellor won’t have his family fucked with, so Piety brings a haruspex, Aioffe (Alice Krige), who’s advised her family for generations. “Critch magic is a sin against the martyr,” her husband claims— even he’s bound by Judeo-Christian values. She insists it’s the only way to get Jonah home safely. The witch sees whoever took Jonah is someone attempting to drive the Chancellor from his “seat of power.” The Breakspears are sure it’s Ritter Longerbane.
It’s actually mom herself. And she’s manipulating Absalom at every turn.
Vignette is taken to see Dahlia (Chloe Pirrie) and the Black Raven. She’s schooled about the world they exist in now. She calls humans “leggers” and explains how they’re envious of magical creatures. She kills one of her own, a traitor, in front of Vignette. A scary, but necessary way to explain the stakes. Vignette is willing to fight for her “own kind.” First, she must accomplish a feat for Dahlia.
“This city doesn’t care who you were”
At the station, Philo gets wind of Imogen’s report on Vignette. He takes it upon himself to visit the Spurnrose house. He wants to settle the 50 guilders debt. Ezra is willing to let it go for the money, given he’s squandered the family fortune, whereas Imogen is a spite-filled racist who’d rather hunt Vignette down. The Inspector pays the debt, then questions Ezra. He knows Vignette wouldn’t have stolen, and susses out what really went on, taking back his money.
A woman called Mima Sawsaan (Mina Andala) goes to see Aisling’s corpse. She tells Philo “a great evil… neither man nor Fae” killed her. The Inspector is reluctant to wholly believe it, whereas Mima tries to tell him to keep an open mind. There was a time when the Fae and other magical creatures were believed fiction, too.
Vignette is tasked by the Black Raven to grab a flag right out of the police station. She has Tourmaline cause a distraction, allowing time to fly up and cut the flag down. Coppers notice. She’s quick to make a run for it, nearly getting shot. She runs into Philo, threatening to tell others about their prior relationship unless he lets her out of there.
And so she goes out the window.
Carnival Row is already so much fun, in a dark, grim way. There’s a lot to love, and the characters do a great job of hauling us right into the action, the drama, and the chills. It’s going to be a wild ride to see where things go, from the larger thematic implications of the show’s whole premise, to all the various plots among the characters.
“Kingdoms of the Moon” is next.