Well this is a shame. Despite being one of the most interesting shows on Amazon Prime, Carnival Row has confirmed that it will only have two seasons. So what better way to celebrate the shows awesome, but brief, existence than by ranking the best episodes? Also, it’s worth watching for a great Orlando Bloom performance outside of Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean. Also, SPOILER warning is in effect. So, before I get into the list properly, here is some history about the show.
Carnival Row first debuted on Amazon Prime in August 2019 and as mentioned above has just two seasons. The show follows a dystopian steampunk world and a series of gruesome murders and disappearances of the Faerie within their occupied city. Tasked with investigating these cases is human detective Rycroft ‘Philo’ Philostrate (Bloom) all while relations between the Faerie and the occupying and invading empire of man deteriorate.
Alongside Philo is Faerie, Vignette (Delevingne) who naturally holds a secret which could change Philo’s world. Also while Philo is investigating the disappearances, life in Carnival Row is getting dangerous as both Man and the Faeries lay claim to the row in an uneasy peace. It’s not hard to work out what the subtext is here… Anyway, the show was praised for its look, performances (especially from Bloom) and feel. Also a quick aside, I know the show is yet to air it’s last two episodes hence why those two won’t feature. Now enough with the history let’s get into the best episodes of Carnival Row.
10: Fight or Flight (S2, E1)
Now a quick warning this list is going to be very season 1 heavy. So with that out of the way, kicking off the list of the best Carnival Row episodes is Fight or Flight. So what makes this episode so good? Well, firstly it sees Vignette and her raven getting into trouble when it steals medicine. Also, with Philo now no longer a detective, he receives an unexpected call for help. Also there’s subplots for Tourmaline when he suffers a curse, Jonah and Sophie are once again after power and Imogen and Argus are sailing for freedom. So a solid reintroduction to the series here.
9: The World to Come (S1, E7)
I mean you can’t say Carnival Row doesn’t have some menacing episode titles. Case in point, The World to Come. So what makes this episode so good? Well, firstly Philo’s been thrown in jail where you’ll never guess who helps him out? That’s right, it’s Vignette. Oh also this episode pays off the set up of Kingdoms of the Moon because it’s essentially the whole reason Philo has been put in jail. Elsewhere in the subplots, Ezra disapproves of Imogen’s lifestyle while Sophie is cutting a deal with Jonah. So while the subplots are necessary but boring, the A plot makes this worthy of a place in the best Carnival Row episodes.
8: New Dawn (S2, E3)
Now what a shock. A fantasy TV show with a new dawn episode somewhere in the runtime. Anyway, this episode has a number of high points. These include Philo trying to challenge Jonah’s hereditary right to the chancellorship which I’m sure you can imagine goes down very well. Also, just as Philo begins to challenge Vignette steps in. Also, speaking of Jonah, he and Sophie are considering a new military alliance as well as Imogen and Argus getting captured by a revolutionary society. So again this episode keeps the series ticking nicely along.
7: Aisling (S1, E2)
Unfortunately there’s no appearance from the great Irish comedian, Aisling Bea. Sorry there the rubbish segue but Aisling is a solid episode of Carnival Row. So what makes it so good? Well, Philo is investigating a mysterious fae’s murder because as the first episode established this is a very mysterious plot. Also, Tourmaline has put Vignette into contact with a new group of potentially interesting faeries. Oh, Imogen also tries to exercise her power to have Agreus removed from the neighbourhood while Jonah disappears. Another all round good episode.
6: The Gloaming (S1, E8)
Well it was inevitable the Series 1 finale was going to show up on this list so what makes it so good? Well, the fact it’s the finale and that tensions are higher than ever on the Two. All this means Philo is trying to confront the darkness incarnate and the evil forces who are controlling it. Also, Vignette finally sees the true nature of the Burgue, so there’s another series long plot line wrapped up, while Imogen finally has to make a choice from which there’s no going back. Oh and also Breakspear’s choices finally catch up to him but naturally that falls slightly short next to the climax of the A plot.
5: Kingdoms of the Moon (S1, E3)
Bringing up the halfway point on the list of the best Carnival Row episodes is Kingdoms of the Moon. Now what makes this episode so good? Well because it explores Philo’s past in the war where he was a mercenary assigned to protect faerish mimasery from the invading armies of man. Oh also this is where he encounters Vignette for the first time which further fleshes out both characters’ backstories. And another great thing is this episode first hints at something not quite being right with Philo’s past which will probably be explained in a later episode entry. An underrated episode for sure.
4: Some Dark God Wakes (S1, E1)
Well it only seems fair to finally mention the first episode of Carnival Row: Some Dark God Wakes. Now this episode not only sets the tone and location for the series but it also has a number of other highlights. These include Philo discovering the case of a mysterious figure who has a grudge against the Fae. Naturally this brings him into contact with Vignette who is looking for a fresh start within the row. There’s also the setting up of the tension in the Parliament as well as Imogen receiving a new neighbour. Anyway, this is a great series opener which quickly brings the audience up to speed with all the key characters and locations within the world of Carnival Row.
3: Unaccompanied Fae (S1, E6)
Kicking off the top three best Carnival Row episodes is Unaccompanied Fae. Now what makes this episode so good? Well firstly Philo begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together. I mean you’d expect him to because he is a detective after all. Also, Vignette finally seems to have found a home which is so unexpected nobody saw it coming. Well unless you read the book but that’s not the point. Meanwhile, Jonah’s sneaking off to see somebody he shouldn’t while Imogen takes another costly risk. So again some very solid writing and a good episode all round.
2: An Unkindness of Ravens (S2, E4)
Narrowly missing out on the top spot in the best Carnival Row episodes is An Unkindness of Ravens. Now surprisingly Imogen somehow doesn’t comprehend that New Dawn aren’t exactly the friendliest group in the world. Also, on point with the title the Black Ravens desire for revenge knows no bounds. So, once again Philo and Vignette’s relationship is pushed to breaking point which isn’t really that much of a shock given how the series seems to be suggesting it goes. Also props to the episode for correctly using the collective noun for a group of ravens…
1: The Joining of Unlike Things (S1, E4)
And the best episode of Carnival Row is….. The Joining of Unlike Things. Now this may seem like a weird choice but here’s why. Firstly it continues with Philo getting dragged further and further into the investigation with him now investigating his childhood headmaster’s death. Obviously this adds a lot more emotion to his investigation because of that established emotional connection. Oh and remember the aforementioned Black Ravens from above? Well Vignette is trying to ingratiate herself into the Ravens. Hopefully they wouldn’t be too unkind to her… There’s also another emotional high of Imogen trying to help her brother and a very minor support of Breakspear. But overall, this is a very solid episode of Carnival Row and shows off all the shows best qualities.
What are your favourite Carnival Row episodes? Let me know in the comments below!