I don’t watch a lot of TV. We have BritBox, so I can watch British mysteries, and my husband loves the Great British Baking Show even more than I do, but when I saw the clips for Carnival Row on Prime, it had all of the elements I like in a story. A Victorian feel. A gloomy setting. Supernaturals and Fae. And a scary monster that guts people to take their livers. Yes, the show is dark. And the humans aren’t depicted as much nicer than the monster. The way they treat the supernaturals, for me, was gut-wrenching. (Oops, there’s that word again. Sorry).
And it made me love this series, it was so complex. And in my opinion, and this is JUST my opinion, the plotting was brilliant. I love mysteries, especially puzzles where each little clue becomes important at the end of the story. Carnival Row was like that. We start out following a detective who’s determined to stop a killer from beating Fae women with a hammer, killing most of his victims. I thought, Aha! The story’s big question. Hardly. The other cops who work the area aren’t much concerned about the women’s deaths. What’s one less Fae? Good riddance!
We get a glimpse of Philo’s private life, living in a boarding house. The woman who runs it has fallen for him, and when we see them in an intimate scene, we learn that Philo has scars on his back from the war he fought in. (If nudity and sex bother you, be warned). Being a soldier has shaped him, and he doggedly follows each clue that comes up until he confronts the killer. And then there’s a twist. The killer tells him that the Fae haven’t only brought their strange religions and customs to Carnival Row, they’ve brought a dark monster, and the evil has only begun. Then the killer throws himself off the top of the building, killing himself.
We wonder why Philo cares so much about the Fae when no one else does. And then we learn, through a flashback, that while fighting the war, he was stationed in a Fae bastion, and he fell in love with a woman there. She ends up in Carnival Row, too. And we know the two will meet and the plot’s going to have another twist. We also learn that the scars on Philo’s back are because his mother was Fae. She had his wings cut off when he was a baby so that he could pretend to be human growing up and have a better life, and she placed him in an orphanage so that he wouldn’t be associated with her.
When we return to present day in the story, Philo’s now tracking the dark monster that’s stalking the area. I’ve shared enough spoilers, so I won’t say more except that there are subplots that add more layers to the story, and the twists keep coming, and the story gets more and more complicated. It’s as much a maze as a mystery with each person’s story weaving in and out of each other. The over arcing storyline builds more and more tension with each episode, and the characters were well developed, even minor ones. Predictions seem like one thing and then morph into another. There was even decent social commentary if you chose to notice it.
I write cozy mysteries. Even my Muddy River stories with supernaturals don’t push the envelope too far. But I think I could learn a thing or two by studying the plotting of Carnival Row. Writers can learn a lot from movies that inspire them. How were they put together? What made them better, more compelling than other movies you’ve watched? I was impressed with the writing of this eight episode series.
October is almost upon us with days that get shorter and shorter, (at least, where I live). All Hallow’s Eve will soon arrive with its thinning of the veil. Enjoy the changing of the leaves, the brisk temperatures, and let’s hope that happy writing is in your future!