Amazon’s Carnival Row
Season 1, Episode 3: “Kingdoms of the Moon”
Directed by Anna Foerster
Written by Travis Beacham
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Aisling” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Joining of Unlike Things” – click here
In the Kingdom of Anoun, among the Tirnanese highlands, we see the earlier days of Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom) and Darius (Ariyon Bakare), when they were fighting as soldiers of the Burgue. They were headed for a nearby keep. Philo and Darius went inside to meet Mima Roosan (Badria Timimi), letting her know they were allies. They had to use that land as a defence post. It was “a holy place,” and Roosan told them to act accordingly. We hear more about fae who worked alongside the Pact, which made some military men wary, being amongst all those magical beings.
Philo went searching around the keep. He found old fae writings kept safe there. This is when he first met a “sworn steward” of the library, Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne). She was willing to cut his throat if need be— ironic, given their knifey reunion in the city. He promised he was an ally.
From that moment on, he couldn’t escape her watchful eye. She became useful to him when she aided soldiers in running line across a ravine. After the work was done, she and Philo chatted. He told her of a book he’d been reading for years, Kingdoms of the Moon, likely based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories about John Carter of Mars. It was about a “rogue inventor” in a “scientific romance” adventure taking him to the Moon where he falls in love with a princess— a fiction of two people from different worlds coming together.
In the forest, three Pact soldiers stripped naked, then injected themselves with a “wolf‘s curse.” Across the forest, Vignette and the Burgue soldiers heard howling, even though she said there were no wolves in that area. There were shots on the other side of the ravine. Men and horses were slaughtered brutally. Philo found a horrifying wolf that almost tore his head off. He blew one away, attacked by another. He was saved by Vignette. The only soldier left was Darius, spattered with blood.
Vignette and Philo related re: the book. She loved it after the initial “colonialist fantasy” became a much better, more complex story in the end. Lots of good meta-fictional stuff happening here. She took him down to the library. “You only think in two dimensions,” she said, showing him exactly how massive the place was, housing “holy texts, maps, scientific research,” and more. She showed him a story from long ago, about a fae queen who fell in love with a man and had a “half–blood” son.
There’s a great bit here about fiction + the “constant retellings” of stories, and how a tale can cross the world then make its way back to where it started, altered by those who tell it. All to say, there’s a great benefit to the multiculturalism in our world, as we all add bits and pieces to the overall story, and, in turn, discover the similarities we share.
After all this Philo fell into Vignette’s arms. After they were done, Vignette explained the fae braids. One part signifies her surname. Another is given away to a significant other a fairy loves. Philo showed off his scars, and she had her own to share.
Soundtrack note: “Fuel to Fire” by Agnes Obel plays during their lovemaking scene
“It’s like the wolf was what you were all along,
underneath it all,
and the bite was just permission to stop pretending.”
Ah, the truth about Darius is finally understood. He’d been touched by the curse. He stumbled into the forest as the full moon rose in the sky and his body transformed into that of a wolf. Philo watched from afar. Then, off went the wolf into the dark. No wonder they’ve locked poor Darius up in the current timeline, keeping him in a cell to prevent the curse from taking victims. We see him wake next to a butchered elk by a lake, where Philo found him. They each had secrets, and a desire to protect the other.
At the keep, a bunch of wounded fae arrived. Tourmaline (Karla Crome) was among them. They’d been attacked. Many fae died, shot out of the air by the Pact. Tourmaline saw the Burgue as “imperialist shites” just like the Pact. We also see she and Vignette had an intimate relationship previously. She didn’t like hearing about her former lover’s new flame with the Burguish soldier. This all got Vignette wondering what might happen after the Great War and they’d have to go back to two different worlds.
Another secret revealed: those scars on Philo are from wings. He couldn’t remember having any, believing he had them as a child and they were removed. He’s existed in a half world his whole life, where he didn’t quite fit with the magical beings, neither did he fit with the Burgue— not human enough for the humans, not fairy enough for the fae.
Before Tourmaline left again, she told Philo the Burgue would lose the war. She told him Vignette loved him: “She‘ll die for you.” This is what would lead the soldier towards his decision to let his fae lover believe he died, convincing himself this was best for her, to prevent her from dying to try helping him.
And the war was getting worse.
Pact airships were headed for Anoun. Philo urged Vignette to leave, when she only wanted them to go together. She gave him the braid from her hair, and they exchanged I love yous before she headed off to help her people— the last time they’d see each other for seven years. Guns and explosives fired off from the ships, while fae flyers fought back with Molotov cocktails. Philo found himself in the midst of absolute chaotic destruction. He made the Mima go tell Vignette he’d been killed, devastating her.
In their current day, Philo goes to see Vignette. They face what’s gone on with honesty. He tries to tell her what he did was to save her. He calls himself “a broken thing.” She only wanted what they had, but now all that’s lost.
A beautiful, devastating episode. Great to see the full scope of the relationship between Vignette and Philo, before the series gets too deep underway. Now, there’s a sense of the history of their love, as well as some of the war history, too. Once again the world-building is really impressive. Not a ton of exposition dropped in our laps. Instead, we’re gradually getting to see everything, and all the little bits and pieces about the fae (etc) are coming out in fun ways.
“The Joining of Unlike Things” is next.