REVIEW: Carnival Row – Season 2, Episodes 5 and 6, “Reckoning” and “Original Sins”


In “Reckoning,” Vignette stands trial in a human court, surrounded by jeers and insults, as Philo recruits Kaine to rescue her. Winetrout informs the Chancellor of Sophie’s machinations. The Pactish ambassador continues to question Millworthy’s intentions. Tourmaline taps into her dark powers to help Vignette. Philo sends his imprisoned love a message: be ready tomorrow. Jonah accepts Sophie’s prior proposal of marriage. However, as usual, she uses it to personal advantage, suggesting they wait until after the next election. Sophie is arrested under the pretense of quarantine. Tourmaline warns Philo that Vignette may be executed overnight, and they’ll have to get to her sooner. Sophie arrives at Bleakness Keep, the same prison housing Vignette. The two chat about the ways men keep their people down. Jonah has Millworthy arrested for conspiring against him. At Bleakness, Jonah presents Sophie with the opportunity to save her life by signing a confession. She tears it up and tosses it away. Vignette backtalks the Chancellor, so he tells the guards to kill her and Sophie. Philo uses Kaine as a prisoner, a pretext to enter Bleakness. Sophie is executed, and Vignette is strapped down next. However, a mysterious creature swoops in before she can be killed and starts eating people. When Philo and Kaine enter, Vignette is already gone, and they see the beast fly off.

Carnival Row Reckoning

“Original Sins” opens with Agreus and Imogen debating the value of the New Dawn. Imogen finally comes to her senses, telling Agreus they should run. At work that day, Agreus speaks with Leonora. She shows him Ezra and asks if he can be reasoned with. She then puts Agreus in charge of Ezra’s life. Imogen tells Agreus they can’t take him with them, but he argues that she’d never forgive herself for condemning her brother. Agreus asks Ezra to go with them and behave himself for Imogen’s sake. Philo is being tortured in the Keep when Dombey arrives and orders he be let down for the night. Vignette hides out in Tourmaline’s place. Millworthy is offered the role of interim Chancellor, but he declines until the ambassador tells him the fae are at risk. Darius and Vignette spar over Philo and Tourmaline. Kaine and another Raven come for Vignette, but she tells them she’s done with the cause. With this, Tourmaline agrees to run away with Vignette. Sargeant Dombey offers Philo the opportunity to leave prison and help find the sparas.

After merely reading the synopsis for “Reckoning,” I honestly assumed Dombey would be the one to help Philo. I’m not sure why Kaine is described as an “unlikely ally;” I know he doesn’t like Philo initially, but of course, he would save Vignette. I assume Dombey’s actions at the end of “Original Sins” are repayment for saving his life. Philo has wholly dropped the notion of revealing his parentage; that hasn’t been addressed since the premiere. So he would no doubt love to work with the police on the case now. Of course, Philo seems to be losing his mind in “Original Sins,” experiencing a crisis of identity. At first, I thought he saw his face on Dombey’s body as some kind of symbolism about being what he hates or his own enemy or something. But as it goes on, it becomes apparent that Philo is hallucinating a second version of him independent of Dombey or anyone else. This is more like Gollum or Homelander debating with their own internal demons. I didn’t care for this at all. I like Philo as the voice of reason against Vignette’s fiery passion. I understand why he would feel conflicted; much of the struggle in season 1 involved being a police officer, the face of his own people’s oppression. But this is overblown, and it comes awfully late. There are only four episodes left; will Philo act this way for the rest of the show?

Carnival Row Reckoning

This is a nitpick and a problem with film and TV in general, but why is Vignette perfectly styled when she’s in jail? Being treated roughly and kept in a cage overnight didn’t smudge her makeup or muss her hair? They prioritize the female characters being beautiful over showing their real struggles. This isn’t a technical complaint, and she looks great. It’s just odd. Another odd little detail was Tourmaline mispronouncing guillotine. Again, not a major gripe; it was just weird.

I’m genuinely surprised they killed off Jonah and Sophie. I won’t miss them, especially Jonah. He was just a lost puppy who always wanted to do Sophie’s bidding (and bedding). But now, the show doesn’t have a significant villain aside from the sparas and prejudice. I suspect the fae will reach some agreement with the sparas, and I’m not interested in some vague construct. Besides, they could have done a better job of exploring the interspecies conflict. Almost all humans are entirely evil and racist, while the fae are innocents just trying to survive. It’s all very generic and lacks honesty. Speaking of that, I had to stifle a laugh when Sophie compared the Burg’s treatment of the fae to men’s treatment of women. Girl, you’re a professional politician. How can you liken your “plight” to people who are imprisoned for no reason? As the audience, we know that she has a very personal stake in the well-being of the fae. But that should make her less of a self-proclaimed victim, one would think. She knows what they go through, but she has to wear a dress and get married someday. How sad.

Carnival Row Reckoning

Vignette is extremely unlikeable in these episodes, especially towards Darius. Her argument with Sophie is already ludicrous, but she treats Darius like trash. I don’t understand her comment about enjoying Tourmaline’s cooking “among other things.” Were these two a couple before Vignette met Philo or something? I don’t like all the intimacy between Vignette and Tourmaline. I have a lot of female friends, and we never rub noses and foreheads. I find it very strange to be so touchy with a platonic friend. Does Vignette even love Philo, or would she rather run off with Tourmaline? I don’t know at this point. She doesn’t seem interested in saving him at all, even though he ended up there trying to rescue her. Another reason Vignette is becoming increasingly unsympathetic is that she’s not loyal. She’s a complete flake. And it’s not just to Philo; most of the conversation with Tourmaline concerns how Vignette has let her down repeatedly. I hate people like this in real life, and I struggle to understand why we should root for Vignette. Her friends and lover can’t rely on her, and she switches from championing the Raven cause to abandoning it on a dime.

The sparas attack on the Keep is filmed really well. It’s tense and frenetic, conveying the energy this show usually lacks. I don’t like the design of the sparas, though. I’m unfamiliar with this creature, so I’m unsure if it exists in folklore like pixies and fauns. But it looks dumb. Speaking of the sparas, what are the chances it would attack this place while so many major characters are present? And what interesting timing, intervening after Sophie is killed but before Vignette can be.

Carnival Row Reckoning

I don’t know why Imogen changed her mind about the New Dawn so quickly. It was clever, talking (and having sex) loudly so the people would think they’re happy. But Imogen went from wanting to stay and be accepted to yearning for escape rather quickly. And again, it’s a major coincidence for her brother to show up just as they plot their voyage to freedom. Why does the New Dawn force people to stay, anyway? It seems easier to let them go if that’s what they want.

“Reckoning” and “Original Sins” are a chore to slog through. We’re now in the second half of the show’s second and final season, and the story and characters are falling apart. Why introduce a significant threat like the sparas this late in the game? I don’t know the endgame here, but it’s not looking good.

Carnival Row Season 2, Episodes 5 and 6, "Reckoning" and "Original Sins"

Plot - 3
Acting - 7
Progression - 3
Production Design - 5
Drama - 3



"Reckoning" and "Original Sins" are a chore to slog through. We're now in the second half of the show's second and final season, and the story and characters are falling apart.

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