We've reached the end of the first season of Carnival Row, and wow, did they save some crazy revelations for the final hour. While the central mysteries may have been solved — Absalom is the father! Piety is the killer! — the show moves into a new direction, one focused on the inequality plaguing The Burgue. While it may not be equipped to handle more serious material with grace (this show is awfully white for being about oppression, y'all), that's where the second season is headed, for better or worse.
Still, those are next season's problems. Let's focus on more pressing things, like incest and Orlando Bloom's hair. We're Alyssa Fikse and Jessica Toomer and we sincerely hope you've enjoyed this wild ride.
Like Father, Like Son
Alyssa: Well, we finally know who’s the daddy. Absalom Breakspear, the Chancellor and all-around dummy, is Philo’s father, but their reunion didn’t exactly get off to a friendly start. Absalom didn’t know that Aisling was pregnant. All he knew was that he worshipped her, they had a summer of love and all that goes with it, and then his scary dad told him to break it off or he would have her killed. So yeah, he never knew about Philo and despite not being the sharpest tool in the shed, I think he would have done right by him had he known.
Jessica: Yeah, we give Absalom a lot of grief for his dim-wittedness but deep down, he’s a good man, as evidenced by how he reacts to Philo’s news. I really felt for Absalom, who clearly loved Aisling, so much so that the news of her death all these years later almost sent him into a murderous rage. It explains so much about his attitude towards the fae folk in the first few episodes. I think, had this relationship survived, he would’ve been even more progressive in his politics and his personal life. Sadly, both Absalom and Philo made the mistake of abandoning the women they love because “Man Knows Best” and Absalom has really paid the price for that decision.
Alyssa: Yeah, this is definitely a “son repeating the sins of the father” situation, even without that fatherly influence in his life. Luckily, Philo has time to rectify his mistake in leaving Vignette. She already forgave him while they were both in prison, but there is the matter of getting her out. Luckily, his dad is the Chancellor and looking to make amends by getting her released! Everything seems to be coming up Philo, down to the realization that Vignette kept the book that bonded them together. Alas, Carnival Row is not that kind of show and this was never going to be resolved that easily.
Jessica: Absalom’s readiness to write his son’s girlfriend a get-out-of-jail-free note and send them off into the sunset immediately signaled doom and gloom for me. And then, when Philo made it back to the brothel with Vignette still MIA, the pessimist in me felt validated. It wasn’t for lack of trying on Absalom’s part — the poor dude was stabbed by that former-footman-turned-cult-member right as he was signing the freedom slip and spouting off about change coming to the Burgue. I hate to see a character’s mile-high hopes squashed by a near-fatal assassination attempt, but that’s Carnival Row, right?
Alyssa: There was a lot of stabbing going around in this episode, including the dark asher claiming its final victim: everyone’s favorite fae witch, Haruspex. Luckily, she had the foresight to ingest some sort of magical liquid that kept her in the in-between between life and death, known as “the gloaming,” so she could share some insight with Philo and Tourmaline over who was killing off everyone and stealing their livers. And it was indeed a doozy.
Incest Is Complicated
Jessica: A doozy, indeed. But before we get to who’s running this murderous game, we need to talk about pairing almost as disgusting as the Dark Asher itself: Sophie and Jonah. Because y’all, they’re related! Who saw this coming? Not I, I assure you.
Alyssa: Yeah, I did not see this incest twist coming AT ALL. After their little carriage rendezvous in the street, Jonah’s driver was just too squicked out, so he snitched to Piety. Piety realized that she had to put an end to it, because surprise! She had an affair with Longerbane, who is Jonah’s true father. I think. The actual mechanics of who is whose parent was a little unclear. But either way, Jonah and Sophie are siblings who should definitely not be getting up in each other’s guts.
Jessica: I think I was so gobsmacked by the news that these two share DNA that I blacked out when Piety explained how. Either she hooked up with Longerbane before marrying Absalom and had Jonah, or she hooked up with Longerbane before marrying Absalom and had Sophie and gave her up (which, why?). Or, darkest of all, Jonah and Sophie are twins and Piety and Longerbane had a Parent Trap situation that has gone horribly wrong. However the math adds up, the sum is the same: Jonah’s boinking his sister and he ain’t happy about it. Weirdly, Sophie already knows of their connection and uses that as more of an excuse for them to join forces — and still bone. Sophie is all kinds of f*cked up, you guys.
Alyssa: Yeah, Sophie is turning out to be the Cersei of Carnival Row, and she is down to clown with Jonah as long as she can create a dynasty that will rule The Burgue. While I respect her for thinking big, girl, this is not the way. Jonah is hesitant, but he’s not as repulsed as he should be. He likes the idea of power even if he has done nothing to earn it, so it’s all too convenient that his father is very badly stabbed and Jonah gets to take over as Chancellor while he convalesces. Or instead he could tell his father to go to hell and that he’s not his real dad anyway. So yeah. Rough day for Jonah, but rougher day for Absalom.
Jessica: And it only gets worse when Piety comes to play nursemaid. After Jonah quite gracelessly reveals his true parentage to a devastated Absalom, the man still tries to mend the situation with his wife and estranged son. He confronts Piety about the affair more gently than she deserves, offers to cover up her indiscretions, and still, Piety is not satisfied. She needs to know the identity of the son Absalom fathered with Aisling to protect Jonah’s prophesized reign and she needs to know because DUN DUN DUN… she’s the one controlling the Dark Asher. Did we call it, or did we call it, Alyssa?
Alyssa: Word to the wise: never trust vague prophecies about you and your children’s future or it will literally drive you mad. Piety was so consumed by the promise of her husband’s son that she didn’t even consider that maybe it wasn’t about Jonah. She and Sophie have that in common: they are so driven by their desire for a legacy that they are willing to kill or f*ck anyone that gets in their way. So, she smothers Absalom after getting news of his other son and kidnaps Vignette as a way to draw Philo to her and her monster pet. Yikes.
Jessica: She’s a real piece of work this one, but she’s dangerous, something Philo quickly discovers when he goes underground to rescue Vignette and stumbles upon Piety’s butcher shop. It’s hard to picture her cutting up horses and octopus in haute couture, but an evil, conniving murderess has to do what she has to do to see her son’s destiny fulfilled. It’s unlucky for Piety that Philo has a knack for surviving un-survivable situations and Vignette can worm her way out of some rope. Philo looks to be losing the fight against the Dark Asher before Vignette springs up behind Piety and stabs her straight through the face. Honestly, it’s what she deserved.
A New World
Alyssa: Even if Piety is out of the way, The Burgue is still a powder keg and in no place more so than the Spurnrose household. After Imogen got it good from Agreus, she’s all in on making their relationship work. Unfortunately, Agreus is having second thoughts. His human butler Fergus lets him know that their relationship would never be legitimized, and while Agreus assures him that he is “well acquainted with danger” (hot), he begins to worry and ices Imogen out. All the while, Imogen has to deal with her awful brother. It’s a mess, and I’m rooting for these two.
Jessica: Again, a man trying to shield a woman from unpleasantness by telling her she’s a bad lay is never cool, romance writers, and yet, in this case, it had to be done. Why? Because we got an angry hookup in the pantry that ended with our two lovers being held at gunpoint by an irrationally angry Ezra. The dude might’ve been shaking like a leaf as Imogen got dressed and he ordered Agreus to face the wall — presumably to make the murder easier on his delicate sensibilities — but for a minute there I was worried one or both of our lovers would end up dead. Thank the fae the writers didn’t take Hoof Man and Fancy B*tch down the Romeo and Juliet route and shout out to Imogen who knows a good dicking when she gets one and is willing to shoot her brother to hold onto it. Sadly, Ezra’s still alive which will probably be a problem next season but for now, Hoof Man and Fancy B*tch are sailing into the sunset to destinations unknown and probably having kinky ship sex. I stan.
Alyssa: I’m certainly glad that they got out when they did because our other star-crossed lovers were not so lucky. Philo and Vignette decided that they would have a better shot at romantic success if they got the hell out of The Burgue (smart), but alas, it was not meant to be. With Jonah and Sophie in control, they’re able to exploit the public uneasiness following the murders and the faun cult to close the borders and round up the fae. It’s all uncomfortably familiar and devastating, and it forces Philo to finally choose a side and to choose Vignette and his own fae nature.
Jessica: The barbed wire and forced corralling of innocent beings was rough to watch, but I squealed like a schoolgirl when Philo crossed that barrier and chose right (for once). I’m excited to see the damage Vignette and Philo can do when they work on the same side, for a noble cause. I hope they get to face off against Jonah and Sophie more directly next season. Two couples, opposite sides of the coin. It’s the juicy drama I thrive off of.
Alyssa: Yep. Everyone’s coupled off now. Let them fight. Overall, I really enjoyed this show. It’s the perfect kind of soapy melodrama that doesn’t make me feel like I’m losing brain cells, no matter how over the top it gets. Plus, I am always, always, always going to be a sucker for some doomed lovers, and boy does Carnival Row have those in spades. Looking ahead to next season (I am so glad that we’re getting another season), I’m hoping for more of the focus to be on Vignette. This season was very Philo-heavy, and I think that his psyche has been relatively well mined. Now that they will be operating outside of the law, let’s see Vignette stretch her revolutionary wings again and take the lead.
Jessica: Right? As hot as Orlando Bloom is, I tuned into this show for fae sh*t, so I want more of that. Like, I know Philo’s half fae, but I want to see bad b*tches flying around, f*cking sh*t up. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Of a FANTASY show. I also selfishly want to see more of Hoof Man and Fancy B*tch. I know the ship as literally sailed, but they’ve got to be pulled back to the Burgue somehow, right?
Alyssa: Oh yeah, give me all the lovers on the run. Ezra will be hunting them every step of the way, so here’s hoping he gets a harpoon in the gut or something soon enough. But yes, more fae. More Tourmaline in particular. Maybe Tourmaline can team up with Darius and form a “we’re more interesting than our white friends; please stop relegating us to supporting roles” squad.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors', and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.