TV Review: Carnival Row: “The Joining of Unlike Things” (S1, Ep. 4)

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

I finally got back into watching Carnival Row last night, so I wanted to share my thoughts on the fourth episode today before I attempt to watch the fifth tonight.

Having established the backstory between Vignette and Rycroft, the story switches back to the present day. Rycroft continues his investigation of the mysterious deaths plaguing the city, and he learns that the deaths might have been caused by an undead amalgam of various Fae creatures. Meanwhile, Vignette must contend with the politics of the Raven and in the process is responsible for the death of another member of the gang. Meanwhile, Imogen plots to attain the financial assistance of Puck Agreus, and Absalom Breakspear finally manages to regain his son.

The episode marked some significant developments in character development and helped to move some parts forward, though not quite enough for my taste. I’m still waiting to see why exactly I should care about Imogen and her impending destitution. Marchant does the most with what she’s been given in the script, but I can honestly say that I find this particular storyline the most tedious to get through. Similarly, while I find the Puck Agreus fascinating as a character, as of yet the show hasn’t developed him enough for me to either understand exactly what his arc is nor why I should.

Now, in terms of both Rycroft and Vignette, things are a little better.

One gets the sense that Vignette’s forced killing of one of the other members of the Raven is going to have significant consequences on her development as a character. Unlike almost everyone else in the Burgue–Fae and human alike–she has managed so far to cling to some vestige of her moral compass. This, however, seems to be changing. Vignette is a bit of a loose canon, devoid of the things that once allowed her to understand her place in the world. And, of course, it’s pretty clear that she still loves Rycroft, and one gets the feeling that he may hold the key to her ultimate salvation.

For me, the highlight of this episode was twofold. One, the advancement of the Chancellor plot, in which the Absalom’s son is finally recovered from his captivity and the son’s realization that his mother was responsible for his kidnapping. The means in which this is revealed–he recognizes the sound of her heels clicking on stone–was, I think, one of the finest scenes the series has yet produced. And, of course, Jared Harris is always a pleasure to watch; I just wish the show would give him a bit more time to stretch his wings and help us to understand what makes him (and his wife Piety) really tick.

The other highlight was Rycroft’s encounter with the creature that is probably responsible for all of the murders, as well as the revelation that it is in all likelihood a golem fashioned of dead Fae. The scene with the haruspex, in which he has to provide his seed in order for her to work the magic to create a similar creature, is both disturbing and oddly sensual. This is one of the few times that we’ve seen the workings of magic in this world, and hopefully this means that we’ll see more in the future.

My major complaint with Carnival Row remains the same as it has from the beginning. While I can see some connections among the various disconnected storylines, the series hasn’t done a great deal so far to bring them together into any kind of coherent whole. For the most part, it can’t quite seem to decide which of them is the most important, and so it’s a little difficult to get emotionally invested in any character other than the primary duo of Rycroft/Vignette.

Overall, this was a satisfying episode, though I am starting to wonder just how much of the many mysteries that it has put into play it is going to satisfactorily solve by the time that the season ends.

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