Carnivale: Two Seasons of Goodness and Then A Blight from HBO
Back in 2005 a show came to HBO that I got in drips and drabs over time while I was a “Travelling Man” for IBM. Since I did not have HBO at home and still don’t I had to finally catch this whole show on DVD. I have just finished watching both seasons of the show and I felt compelled to write a review. The show was Carnivale.
Carnivale takes place in 1934, the depths of the depression in the blighted land of the dust bowl. From the start, it is an incredibly well shot and designed show that really places you in the setting of depression dust bowl life even better than the Dorthea Lange picture of the migrant worker. You literally feel the dust and parching heat of the place and time by just looking at the scenery and of course, the players. Never a more dusty troupe will you ever see.
The basis of the show is the epic battle between good and evil that takes place on the earthly plane after the war in Heaven came to an end. Evidently, every generation has the chance of being led by evil or good according to the deal that was struck between Satan and God. A savior and a devil are born with each generation and they may, or may not, fulfill their destiny to do battle and decide the fate of man.. For that generation at least.. Until the Omega.
In this generation you have Ben Hawkins, a boy who has been shunned by his insane mother and in the start of the show, we find has escaped the chain gang to be with her and try to help her. She refuses his help, which could heal her by the laying of hands upon her, and dies. Ben, moves on to escape the law with the local Carnivale and begins the journey of discovery of what he is as well as hasten the epic battle to come.
Fantastic cinematography, set design, costume design, and general historical accuracy down to the language of the time and place! This will be darkly wonderful and dry for you to watch. You will feel like you are literally sitting next to that migrant worker as well as give you a taste of 1930’s carny life.
The Acting was well done and the writing of the characters well defined if not a little cryptic at times.. But that cryptic nature makes you want to know more, so you make a point of watching the next episode. There was not one episode that left me thinking.. Meh, maybe I will not see it next week when it was on tv.. The only problem I had was.. I didn’t have HBO except in hotel rooms!
The story was well defined and had you wondering at every turn just where it was going to go. You had hints and visions of possible futures but you really were left with your imagination as opposed to too many foreshadowing scenes that gave everything away. The interplay of the plot lines both historical and present really kept you going too. All in all, a story that was originally a book that was turned into a series that kept most of its content. This was one of the reasons for its downfall though. The series was just too costly to continue according to HBO and thus, in the end I have a gripe about the ending…
As mentioned above, the cost of the show and the sudden decision to pull it from HBO left it in the lurch. Much of this due to the story lines and arc of the show being presented in book/chapter format. By killing it in the second season, the writers were left to tie up some loose ends hastily and end it with as much finality as they could and still serve the story…
Which, really did not happen.
At the end, the story was forced enough that the last three episodes felt like you were being rushed out of your seat at a busy restaurant by a harried wait staff. You got to eat, but you got heartburn for it really. The story suddenly shifted into high gear with a feel akin to a speed walking version of “The Stand” and the new “Canaan” took the place of Las Vegas.
Additionally, I found that the plot device used to foil the evil one was a bit of a kluge, however, had it been part of the larger arc later discovered through the writers pitch document, then it would not have made it seem too forced. But, because this show was given the axe, the story line and end falls flat. I think though, that I need to find out if the writers etc, knew that this was the end when they had it in the can or, did they think season 3 was coming still? If so, then the pace was just, the pace and my perception of it different because it was “the end” according to HBO.
All in all, the ending left quite the opening for continuation should someone pick up the mantle. However, since its 2010 and Hollywood would rather make crappy re-makes than original works, I hold out little hope of redemption through the arc being finished out.
- Carnivale was a fantastic show that got the usual short shrift from the studios.
- HBO screwed the pooch.
- Clancy Brown is America’s scariest actor
- This show leaves you wanting to Google a LOT of things
- It includes Templars, Renne Les Chateau, and other mythos and that is ALWAYS cool
- See it all on DVD.. I promise you you will not regret anything but its ending
- Once you have seen the series read the “Pitch Document” it will give you more to work with
“Ok children.. Let’s shake some dust”