In the world of Carnival Row, Amazon Prime Video’s latest entry into the fantasy epic genre, the darkness is rising. You probably didn’t notice it before if you’re human, so it’s presence now feels new. But in actuality, the darkness has always been around, and has been pretty active for a long time. If you aren’t human, you’ve always known this, since for many years humans have been busy colonizing nonhuman lands, exterminating nonhuman sentient species, and exploiting whoever’s left alive.
We aren’t given much backstory on the whole extermination and exploitation thing, and since Carnival Row is an original story rather than being based on a more detailed original source, such as a book series, we’re left to fill in a lot of blanks. The metaphors are pretty on the nose, so on the surface that’s not hard to do.
When you stop to think about it, even by the end of the season, the entirely fictional geographical and political worlds of Carnival Row are left exceedingly vague for a show that’s supposedly about political issues which affect refugees. For example, we’re never shown a map, despite shipping routes and battle strategies being discussed repeatedly, providing ample opportunities for the characters to casually flash one.
And I never did figure out who the Pact were, the enemy who drive Vignette, our heroine, from her homeland. I just mentally inserted “Evil Empire” whenever I heard their name. In the long term, their sole purpose was to create refugees, so they didn’t matter enough for me to bother with learning anything more. After that, in a twist of fate, the Burgue, who were supposed to be the refugees’ friends, become the “Evil Empire”.