A Review of Carnival Row

Carnival Row – A Steampunk Journal Review by Victoria L. Szulc

In 2019, yet another article came out declaring that Steampunk was dead. By the end of the year, steampunk had yet again influenced fashion and entertainment, including Amazon’s Carnival Row and put the science fiction genre to the forefront of entertainment.

A Couple Quick Words About Carnival Row Before Review

  • It’s not 100% steampunk, but it’s still splendid. Row is filled with Steampunky elements, Victorian clothing, carriages, goggles, clocks, scenery (a city that looks like it could be somewhere in Victorian Europe), a Cthulhu-type monster, mystery, and machines. All of this mixed in with more fantastical elements of pucks, pixies, fae, wolves, and other mysterious creatures.
  • It’s NOT for children. NOPE. The violence is grisly. Body parts glisten with blood and bodily fluids. Speaking of body parts, there’s a lot of nudity. And not just an errant nipple or flash of a butt cheek, there’s a LOT of passionate and graphic sex scenes. Foul language abounds. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone yelled the F bomb. If you’re easily offended, don’t watch. You’ve been warned. If you like your Steampunk entertainment on the dark side, you’ve found the right place.

A Visually Stunning Show

One of the first things I noticed about Carnival Row is the visuals. From the scenery of foreign lands and gritty cities, the elegance of proper cultured folk’s clothing, to the décor and architecture of the sets, the details are striking.

Every time a female character wore a well patterned, puffy sleeved, high Victorian style gown, I swooned. The opulence of drawing rooms, pomp filled palaces, and lush gardens made me harken for a Victorian past. On the flip side, the down trodden Row was appropriately filthy, with its residents covered in dirt and its ladies of the evening wearing next to nothing. Well, many times nothing at all.

A Bit about the Show

Carnival Row is a dark foray into the life of Philo (Orlando Bloom), an investigator employed by the Burgue Constabulary. Despite the disgust and racism of his peers and a haunted past, Philo investigates a Jack the Ripper style killer amongst a complex cast of colorful and devious characters.

As the crimes become increasingly gruesome, Philo deals with more than just the political environment of his police station, he must also peel away the different layers of hierarchy amongst the immigrants of the Row which consist of several different non-human entities including fae and pucks. One of those fae, Vignette (played by Cara Delevingne), has quite the past of her own and in due time, both leads collide headlong into the troubles of Carnival Row and the upper crust society above it.

Did I Like Row? A Resounding Yes

Based on the screenplay by Travis Beacham, Row is superbly written and executed. Kudos to Beacham for being an executive producer along with Orlando Bloom. They have made a stunning masterpiece. I hope that they can keep of the creative pace for the next season. Ten out of ten score for one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while.

Victoria L. Szulc is a multi-media Steampunk/Science Fiction/Fantasy artist/writer working her seventh and eight Steampunk novels and various other projects. Her latest
“A Dream of Emerald Skies” is available on Amazon worldwide. In 2019, Victoria made St. Louis Magazine’s A-List in the People’s Choice Author category and won a Stephen Memorial Award for her illustrations in “Cecilia’s Tail” by Debbie Manber Kupfer. You can follow her works at mysteampunkproject.wordpress.com


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