REVIEW: Carnival Row – Season 2, Episodes 9 and 10, “Battle Lines” and “Carnival Row”

"What if we don't win?" "We will win Vinnie, or at least die trying."


“Battle Lines” finds Tourmaline realizing the extent of her powers. Leonora asks Vignette to join the New Dawn so the Ravens will follow. Imogen wonders if she should address parliament. Philo asks Tourmaline to cast a spell to draw the sparas out. Millworthy is going to arrest Imogen and Agreus, but they convince him that the New Dawn can be reasoned with. Philo retrieves a sparas tooth for Tourmaline’s spell. Agreus heads to the Row with Kastor’s message, but not before reconciling with Imogen. Once Agreus arrives with the letter, Leonora has him arrested. Philo pleads with Vignette not to go with the Raven, but she stands firm. Imogen receives a package: Agreus’ severed, bloody horn. The Ravens bomb a human bar, and Vignette chickens out. Tourmaline succeeds with her spell, discovering that the sparas is the Pact ambassador.

In “Carnival Row,” Tourmaline sends Darius away. The Pact ambassadors insist on being present for Imogen’s speech to parliament. Philo is assaulted and strung up by human policemen, but Dombey finds him in the nick of time. Imogen picks up the tension between Kastor and the ambassador and warns Millworthy. Agreus escapes. Humans storm the Row and attack the fae until Kaine and Vignette draw them away. Philo warns Millworthy that the ambassador is the sparas, and the sparas attacks parliament. However, Tourmaline connects to the sparas, attracting it to her. Vignette leaves the battle to warn Tourmaline about the sparas, so Phaedra and Leonora shoot at her. Kaine dies in the crossfire. Darius dies fighting the sparas to protect Tourmaline. Agreus corners Leonora, and she kills herself. One of the police shoots Philo, and Dombey kills him in retribution. Philo survives, being offered the role of Chancellor, but he refuses. In Tirnanoc, Vignette and Tourmaline get married.

There’s certainly a lot going on in Carnival Row’s series finale. That doesn’t make it good, however; it’s just a lot. I’m really questioning my memory of season 1 because I don’t recall Vignette and Tourmaline being a couple at all. Evidently, they were involved before Vignette met Philo and fell in love with him, and this explains the weird closeness between the two friends. She really was choosing Tourmaline over Philo until now, as she chooses the New Dawn/Black Raven over everything and everyone else. I don’t like love triangles; they make all three characters unlikable, especially the person who can’t choose. I don’t understand how you can love a person at all if you aren’t sure you love them or another person. This isn’t a technical problem with the show, but it’s definitely a personal issue I have with it. The relationship between the women was poorly explained/shown, unless I really have forgotten a lot about season 1. Does anyone actually like this triangle or the idea of Vignette and Tourmaline? I’d love to hear a different perspective because I just don’t see the appeal. It might help if Vignette was a more likable character, and she doesn’t get any better in these two episodes. I have to admit I was shocked by the sparas reveal; it never even occurred to me that he would be part of the Pact envoy.

Carnival Row Battle Lines

I’m really relieved Agreus and Imogen made up. It’s weird for me to feel this invested in anything regarding this show, but I like these two for some reason. I don’t care for either of Vignette’s pairings, but Imogen and Agreus have more chemistry and are interesting characters in their own right. With that being said, I was frustrated with Imogen when she said, “I knew the Burg’s cruelty,” before she experienced it through Agreus. Girl, I know sexism exists, but you’re rich and have led a charmed life. Are you serious right now? This is just like Sophie comparing her own struggles to Vignette’s – apples to oranges. Yes, we all have problems, but being a woman is not on the same level as being an oppressed group within a prejudiced country/government. This show goes way too heavy-handed with the social messaging. The themes are already baked into the concept of the fairytale creatures being discriminated against; why hammer it in time and again?

Carnival Row Battle Lines

These episodes destroy the remains of Philo, my favorite character on Carnival Row by a mile. The characters are by no means the strength of the show anyway, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but “Battle Lines” and “Carnival Row” set out to deconstruct Philo until there’s nothing left. He’s impatient and selfish with Tourmaline’s power, using her to draw the sparas out, knowing she will likely die as a result. Then, you have the devolution of his relationship with Vignette, who tosses aside everything he’s done for her. Granted, she has done this to him, Tourmaline, and even the Black Raven before. Vignette is a flake and a terrible friend, let alone a lover. I’m not sure what we’re supposed to make of her. Everything she does is framed as heroic, whether it’s rallying the Ravens or going home to marry Tourmaline. What is she supposed to do, according to the show? Why is everything good as long as she does it? I still don’t like her with Tourmaline, and frankly, if this was Carnival Row’s endgame, they should have developed this instead of Vignette/Philo. Philo is the point-of-view character for most of the series, so it’s deeply frustrating to see him lose his job, his girl, and his best friend. Shout out to Darius, by the way, the real hero of these episodes. Romance is far from my main concern with any show, but Carnival Row relied on it heavily in developing its characters and drama. It’s annoying to have it end in such a dissatisfying way after watching for two seasons. I think Vignette’s character is weak, with or without either relationship, regardless. She’s a traitor to every person or organization she ever stood with in this show’s short run.

Carnival Row Battle Lines

Carnival Row’s greatest crime is feeling incredibly rushed in season 2. If I had to guess, I think the show was planned to have more seasons, and Amazon shortened it after season 1 underperformed. I don’t have any evidence to point at here, but nobody I know watches or talks about this show. The character arcs are terribly rushed; for example, Philo’s mental breakdown a few episodes ago came out of nowhere and disappeared into the night. What was that about? Overall, this show is a waste of time salvaged only by gorgeous visuals and a couple of competent performances. The series finale didn’t change my mind, and I doubt it will persuade you.

Carnival Row Season 2, Episodes 9 and 10, "Battle Lines" and "Carnival Row"

Plot - 4
Acting - 7
Progression - 4
Production Design - 8
Drama - 2



Carnival Row is a waste of time salvaged only by gorgeous visuals and a couple of competent performances. The series finale didn't change my mind, and I doubt it will persuade you.

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