TV Review: Carnival Row: “Unaccompanied Fae” (S1, Ep. 6)

As all of you know, I’ve been growing more than a little impatient with Carnival Row and the snail’s pace at which it has, so far, seemed content to move. Thankfully, things have started to heat up in the sixth episode of the season, marking a turning point (or several) in the overall arc of the story.

In the episode, Mr. Agreus and Imogen attend an art auction, at which the Puck thoroughly humiliates some of Imogen’s enemies by outbidding them for a priceless piece of art, Rycroft is eventually arrested and accused of the murders, Vignette is imprisoned for attending a museum exhibit closed to Fae, and Jonah Breakspear and Sophie Longerbane form the beginning of an unusual political partnership.

To my mind, this episode marks the first time in the entire season that we’ve finally begun to feel some forward momentum with any of the storylines. Of course, Rycroft’s is the most significant, as this marks the moment when his own “friends” turn against him, both those in his personal life and those in the police department. It’s a useful reminder–if any were needed–about the brutally and violently xenophobic nature of the Burgue and its inhabitants. One begins to wish that there really were some dark god wakening in the bowels of the city, and that it will eventually rise up and destroy the humans who have already caused so much misery.

It also marks the first time that I began to feel myself become genuinely interested in the Imogen/Agreus storyline. Mostly, I suspect this is because there now feels to be at least a modicum of chemistry between them, both the characters and the actors. Though I’m still struggling to see exactly what the point of this relationship is–i.e,. how it connects to the other stories, if at all–but I will say that this important moment marks one of the few times that I found myself actually caring about what happened between the two of them.

And, of course, there is the poignant scene where Vignette discovers that her beloved library has been dismantled and reassembled in a museum. It’s a moving scene for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it reveals how it feels to be one of the colonized, forced to watch one’s sacred trust debased and rendered into nothing more than a commodity. To me, this might just be one of the most interesting moments of the series in terms of its critique of colonialism. One can hardly blame Vignette for her outburst of rage at the Burgue residents who so casually come in to view this sacred space, and the outrage is only made worse by the fact that she’s arrested.

I’m still a little frustrated by the Jonah/Sophie storyline. I’m honestly not sure why they haven’t made the two of them a more central part of the narrative, since there is a.) obvious chemistry between the characters and the actors; b.) Sophie is an amazing character and c.) it would help to up the political stakes of the story. One gets the sense that their relationship, and its political consequences will come to play a greater role in season 2.

Overall, I thought this was a much stronger episodes than most of its predecessors, and I cannot wait to see what lies in store in the ones to come.