“Moments like this are the moments that change everything. If you’re not careful, they’ll pass you by.”
Romantic liaisons and reconnections are at the heart of Carnival Row’s penultimate episode and Philo’s theory about his father’s involvement in the Burgue murders reaches a potentially game-changing revelation.
Jailed on suspicions of murder, Philo discovers that he’s not the only one locked away in a cell cozy with lawbreakers. After her explosive outburst in the Tirnanoc exhibit, Vignette’s also there, catching sight of her former lover soon after his incarceration. After some fisticuffs with a seedier group of human inmates, Philo’s moved to the male Fae pen, allowing him to share the newest details of his life. Through hushed whispers and glances filled with longing and regret, this pair of lovers, ripped away by the world around them, give life to the true power of their love. Through seven episodes, these two have shared but a handful of scenes and yet their relationship has been the beating heart of Carnival Row since the first moments of the show. Vignette’s heartbreak as Philo is taken away is a brutal turn; convinced she will never see him again, her laments go beyond her powerlessness; her tears are tinged with the bitterness of regrets and what should-have-been. “Stay with me” he tells her over and over as Dombrey and the constables rip him away from her, offering a final “I love you” to Vignette before the cowl is draped over his head.
Though Philo and Vignette’s relationship, however charred, is one of love, the same can’t be said for Jonah and Sophie’s carriage-rocking rendezvous. The two’s chemistry goes beyond the carnal moments behind drawn curtains. Sophie’s ambitions are vast, her outlook on the future a concept Jonah has put little thought into. But after Millworthy sets Jonah straight as his new tutor, the Breakspear scion embraces the idea of the future and what it may hold. He may not truly understand Sophie’s designs but her confidence and allure are enough to bring him aboard. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be a more active participant in her designs for sweeping change or a pawn to be moved around the board.
Finally, there is the relationship that, over the last couple episodes, has developed like wildfire. It seems so long ago that Imogen and Agreus first met over tea, a meeting that did not go particularly well. My, how things have changed. After an enjoyable evening at the auction, the pair has crossed an invisible barrier neither realizes. It begins after Imogen admits to her companion how little she truly likes the socialites she once called friends. Her attraction to Agreus is even more pronounced when Ezra proclaims to rework her arrangement with the Puck. Funny enough, Ezra’s actions unwittingly spur Imogen’s next move when she shows up at Agreus’s unannounced. During their conversation, Agreus that reveals he too is a visionary. His visions are those of a city with electric lamps lighting the way and fae able to walk the streets and be judged by their hearts, not their external traits. The intimacy of what the two shares inexorably leads to their physical unification. It could be argued that their consummation comes on rather quick though, with the anticipation built as they undress one another coupled with the chemistry between the actors, their physical romance still finds a way to feel earned, an organic outcome not just a step to drive the narrative forward.
There is something slow and measured about “The World to Come”, an episode where there is very little action but, to use Sophie’s words, plenty of moments. These moments are emotionally rich and exceptional drivers of the individual characters’ arcs. It’s a perfect lead-in to the finale, one where many of these opens threads will be tied off to their natural conclusions while others will carry over to the second season.
Fae, Hope, and Love
- Absalom’s reaction to the news of Aisling’s murder coupled with using his position to be given a private audience with Philo is a big neon sign that says he’s Philo’s dad. And yet, I’m not 100% sold on it, chiefly because he doesn’t seem to have the desire to commit these murders. But that is assuming Philo’s father is behind the Darkasher. It’s unfortunate that Haruspex will only gain knowledge of the creature’s master the instant before her death or she’d be able to clue Piety and others in on that sordid mess.
- Once again the order of Pucks led by Cabal mention this ‘Hidden One’. Their purpose, to make sure “the old ways were never forgotten” seems quite dodgy, especially when Quill is made to murder a human to pass his test. With only one episode left, there’s not enough time to explore this group and their ‘Hidden One’ but based on the purposeful introduction to this arc so late in the game, this will play a major role in season two.
- As much as I fancy the Imogen/Agreus relationship, their jump from hesitant admissions to passionate kisses to home plate was a touch too fast. Had they shared but a few kisses and left the full monty for another day, it would have played a bit better, especially in this Victorian-like setting. But Carnival Row’s world doesn’t always follow the convention of its parallels of the real world (it’s fiction, after all). Still, taking a bit more time with these two would have made their inevitable consummation even more satisfactory.
8.5 out of 10