Carnival Row Season 2 Premiere Review: Fight for a New Dawn

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The wait is finally over. Carnival Row, starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne, is back.

Carnival Row Season 2 Episode 1 premiered alongside the second hour, and the drama attempted to reach the heights of the first season's epic finale.

But did it succeed?

Philo Fighting - Carnival Row

Sadly, it only partially succeeded, as the characters being separated made for a disjointed premiere.

Whether due to the three-year gap, or just tired storytelling, Carnival Row lost some of its urgency but kept most of its intimacy.

Orlando Bloom as Philo

Some significant losses on the fae side did occur, but none mainly made us feel too much emotion, at least until the end of Carnival Row Season 2 Episode 2.

But more on that later. The premiere hours' highlights match the first season's highlights: incredible world-building, character development, and performances.

Bloom and Delevingne gave 110% to their roles, and it seemed they didn't have a lengthy break. Their chemistry still faltered, but it's gotten better.

The best chemistry still comes from Tamzin Merchant (Imogen) and David Gyasi (Agreus). Their star-crossed lover romance continues its troubles as they flee their home country.

Sadly, they get taken in by another country that starts as hostile towards them. Will these two ever catch a break? We love this couple and want to see them happy for once!

Philo Fighting - Carnival Row Season 2 Episode 1

Life on the Row has become pretty rough. With Season 1 sequestering all the creatures (fae) onto the Row, barbed wire was put up so they couldn't fly and couldn't leave.

People are starved and sick, especially the Pixies, who are dealing with a disease that plagues them when they cannot fly.

The new normal of the Row is shown in all of the previous brilliance, but it's now a depressing, segregated shelter. The fae folk are dying, and the humans couldn't care less.

The world-building continued through abandoned buildings, homeless children, and battered clothes. It matches the perfect world-building previously established on the other end of the emotional spectrum.

The costumes and makeup continued their beautiful run with fantastical creatures that dazzle on screen (the humans look great too).

Agreus Listening to Imogen - Carnival Row Season 2 Episode 2

One of the most significant issues revolves around Agreus and Imogen's storyline. It's good, albeit depressing, but they haven't gotten enough screen time.

Their story provides an important message about love and overcoming adversity. We want the writers to dig deeper; hopefully, with the extra two episodes, they can complete that.

Showrunner Erik Oleson revealed to TV Fanatic that Amazon gave them two extra episodes for season two, so they can rework the story to end it once the 10-episode run ends.

With the ending already fast approaching, the writers aren't holding back any emotional punches. They're not holding back on anything. Multiple unnamed characters have already died at the new Chancellor, Jonah's hands, but also some characters critical to the Black Ravens.

Imogen Pleading - Carnival Row Season 2 Episode 2

Before we get to that, Tourmaline's story proved to be the most interesting of the main characters. She began to see visions similar to those the deceased seer had in Season 1.

She saw a murder as it happened, which got Philo out of the Row and into the human world, trying to investigate it. She also saw the death of one of the Black Ravens.

As Mima revealed later in the second hour, the seer passed her power to Tourmaline when she died. Tourmaline is rightfully terrified of this info, and so are we.

She is one of the best characters on the show, and Karla Crome's incredible performance grounds Tourmaline.

Hopefully, Tourmaline can control her visions and will also be able to control her murderous tendencies when she gets visions.

Arty Froushan as Jonah - Carnival Row Season 2 Episode 2

Sophie continued her seductive-ish deception towards Jonah. It's evident she's just using him, and he's too blind to see. The execution of the five faes that DIDN'T kill his parents was all her idea.

He felt terrible about it, but Sophie once again quelled all his worries by using her never-ending, annoying charm.

Philo and Vignette continued their fight for their love and their lives.

With the sickness plaguing all of the Pixies, Vignette resulted to cutting some barbed wire and robbing cargo trains holding essential medicine.

On the other hand, Philo still has to deal with most of the fae folk hating him for his previous job as an inspector. While we mentioned their chemistry improved so far, so did their performances.

Lenora and Imogen - Carnival Row

Both Cara Delevingne and Orlando Bloom are passionate about this project and this story, as they are both executive producers and stars.

Their characters are the glue that binds the fae and human world together, even if it is a messy bond. And the constant deaths on either side won't help them as the season progresses.

The deceased Black Ravens, including Oona (who got worse by the day with the sickness), will cause significant disruption on the Row, especially with the Pixies.

With the other two dead high-up Black Ravens' heads displayed for the Row, It's unclear who will take revenge and if Vignette will be a part of that revenge.

No matter what happens, it seems the drama is building up in the right direction and will hopefully lead to an explosive and satisfying finale.

Simon McBurney as Runyan Millworthy - Carnival Row Season 2 Episode 1

Granted, the show could go upwards with ten total episodes, and we hope it does.

The show's unique fantasy world is a welcomed change to standard fantasy fair, as the steampunk subgenre often doesn't receive much love.

Hopefully, the noir-esque style cemented in the first season will return quickly to add much-needed intrigue to Carnival Row Season 2.

The final season has a lot of potential to be epic, and we hope that comes true.

Whatever the rest of the season may hold, we are thrilled that this fantasy show has finally returned and that it gets to go out on its terms.

Simon McBurney as Runyan Carnival Row

So Fanatics, what did you think of the two-episode premiere of Carnival Row season 2?

Are you excited to see the rest of the season? What do you want to see from the rest of the season?

Let us know in the comments below! Carnival Row airs on Fridays on Prime Video, with two-episode drops through its conclusion.

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Michael Stack is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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