10 Things That Don’t Make Sense About Carnival Row

The wonderfully immersive world of Carnival Row doesn’t insult its audience. It drops its viewers into its steampunk Victorian fantasy with no prior knowledge of the names or locations being referenced, expecting them to just pick clues up as the narrative progresses. It’s part of the charm of the series, premiering on Amazon Prime with eight episodes that combine Celtic mythology, Victorian propriety, and colonial politics.

Humankind has set about pillaging the natural resources of surrounding mythological kingdoms, the inhabitants of which seek refuge in the capital city of the colonizing power. Combining political intrigue with a good old fashioned mystery, as well as a compelling love story, Carnival Row combines several genres to ambiguous success. However, even as intrigued as viewers are by the plot and the complex characters involved, there are aspects about the series that leave them incredibly perplexed.


In one of the strangest and most extra power moves on the show, Piety Breakspear decides that it would be a good idea to kidnap her own son. This is the son destined for “great things,” according to her snaggle-toothed augur friend, but junior can’t seem to get with the program and spends all his nights partying and putting his father, the Chancellor, in constant political jeopardy.

So, in order to possibly knock some sense into him, she has him kidnapped and held captive in an abandoned bathhouse. It does afford her the opportunity to take out the Chancellor’s rival, who is framed for the boy’s kidnapping, but the mother’s motivations are never really made clear.


For the majority of her time spent on screen, Sophie Longerbane, the daughter of Chancellor Breakspear’s longtime political rival, reminds us how cunning and intelligent she is. She explains that by assuming her father’s place in Parliament after his untimely death, she can throw the entire Burgue into chaos.

Why? Because she has a crush on Jonah Breakspear, the next Chancellor should his father die (which he does). After all Critch are confined to Carnival Row quarantine, who’s going to be answering the doors and waiting on the human beings? Also, why did she send a blackmail note to Piety Breakspear in the first place?



As the leader of the opposition to the Chancellor in what appears to be a two-party system of government, Ritter Longerbane has a responsibility to his political peerage. He also has responsibility to the daughter he’s raising alone.  She’s growing up without a mother, because her mother is the wife of the current Chancellor.

Ritter, for all his need to bring the Chancellor down politically, happens to know about his own little secret; the half-blood son born from his indiscretion with a fairy. Aside from a few little jibes in session, he completely sleeps on this devastating information, continues to resent the mother of his child, and hates on Critch while having technically been with one (or however we’re supposed to take “pharaohic” people).


In the beginning of the series, we learn that humans are basically all represented by the people of the “Burgue,” both the name of its capital city, as well as its country (the Republic of Burgue). They’re part of a colonial power marching on the lands of mythical beings to pillage their resources for themselves.

Eventually, a rival comes to claim the prizes in fae land, and we’re introduced to the Pact. The Pact look a lot like the Burgue, but we’re never expressly told they’re humans, and they also have the ability to wield lycanthropy as a sort of biological weapon via their soldiers.


According to the Haruspex, who divines the future from reading entrails, a Darkasher is a creature that can be made from parts of dead things and brought to life.

Accepting that this is possible, we are also supposed to accept that it cannot be killed as long as the person controlling it still lives. Wouldn’t it be useless chopped into a few pieces? When Piety Breakspear’s Darkasher loses its head, so how does it reattach? Did the fish/rodent Darkasher of Philo’s fuse back together? Does Piety have to pantomime all its actions?


Several different mythical species are presented in the series, many of which are familiar to viewers via fantasy books and other fantasy television shows/movies. It’s not uncommon to see human beings interacting with fauns, centaurs, kobolds, fairies, and so forth, as they all coexist in the Burgue.

For the more humanoid of the species, such as fauns, how does their physiology work? Can they contract diseases found only in animals? Can their internal organs process human food? Do they give birth the same way? How is it they can mate with humans? When they do, do dominant traits (like fairy wings) carry over?


The wings of the fae are some of the most beautifully-imagined aspects of the series, but they’re somewhat problematic in their presentation. In Carnival Row, they’re made to resemble dragonfly wings, with one large set and a slightly smaller set underneath.

The way dragonfly wings work is that they remain soft in the pupae state, but then “inflate” to become rigid for flight. The faery wings are constantly “floppy”, and seem to have an almost leathery appearance and texture, not unlike the webbing in a bat-wing. How are they able to be both durable and incredibly delicate?


When we first see Vignette Stonemoss, she’s the most badass librarian you’ll ever meet. You so much as think about checking a book out of her super secret fae library and she’ll cut you. That being said, Philo is about the only person she’d have to worry about trespassing, given that it’s buried within a mountain and practically inaccessible except for individuals with wings.

This brings us to the question, how did the Burgue possibly get it? When last we saw the Burgue in Vinny’s neck of the woods, the Pact were usurping their position at the holy city and taking over via airships. To prevent anyone from finding and pillaging the library, Vinny basically initiates its self-destruct sequence, which makes it all the stranger when she runs into an entire exhibit of the library in the Burguish museum.


It’s seen as pretty devastating that Philo is revealed to be half-blood: half-human, half-Critch. In this case, his mother was a famous fae chanteuse, and his father was the Chancellor of the city of Burgue. He was born with some pretty feeble-looking wings, which were cut off to give him a better life.

At some point towards the end of the series, we learn that the doctor who clipped Philo’s wings has been rumored to perform all sorts of other procedures to help Critch “pass” for human in the Republic of Burgue. Are there many more half-bloods than we know about? Is Philo really all that special after all? Did he get any other fae genes besides wings?


Furthermore, at every opportunity for him to do more good, he further digs his heels into being a member of the “Critch” society once the jig’s up about who his mother was. While we can acknowledge the narrative imperative, as well as the desire to be validated for who you are, his passing privilege gave him the opportunity to save himself and those he loved many times over.

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About The Author

Kayleena Pierce-Bohen (1349 Articles Published)

Kayleena has been raised on Star Wars and Indiana Jones from the crib. A film buff, she has a Western collection of 250+ titles and counting that she’s particularly proud of. When she isn’t writing for ScreenRant, CBR, or The Gamer, she’s working on her fiction novel, lifting weights, going to synthwave concerts, or cosplaying. With degrees in anthropology and archaeology, she plans to continue pretending to be Lara Croft as long as she can.

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