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The Underrated Fantasy Series Fans Can't Stop Binging On Amazon Prime

Back in 2015, Amazon inked a development deal to bring Guillermo del Toro, Travis Beacham, and Rene Echeverria's Carnival Row to life. It took a few years for the expensive romantic murder-mystery noir-style fantasy series to come to life — and it suffered a few growing pains along the way, including the exit of del Toro — but it debuted in 2019 with an eight-episode first season. However, it soon seemed that the show wasn't destined to take off, as critics didn't seem to love it. Reviews were basically mixed.  

Vanity Fair criticized the look of the show and called the series dense and confusing, saying, "it repeatedly fails to draw the viewer into the narrative." Indiewire said the result was "less than the sum of its otherworldly parts." Yet, while the show receives an disappointing Rotten Tomatoes score of 56 percent, the Audience Score stands at a much higher 87. Clearly, this is a show that touched something in viewers, even if it didn't wow the industry. 

Amazon continues to have faith in Carnival Row, having greenlit the show for a second season before the first one even debuted. Despite Beacham's departure over creative differences and more staff changes, filming for that second season has wrapped after a long interruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, if you're looking for something to binge and the idea of a dark and dirty fantasy world inspired by Game of Thrones and co-created by the team behind Pacific Rim appeals to you, you might consider joining the many fans who've binged this series on Amazon.

Carnival Row distinguishes itself as a totally original fantasy series

Carnival Row focuses on two characters, estranged lovers Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom) and the fae Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne). They live in a Victorian-era England city called the Burgue that's populated by supernatural beings, and must contend with a series of Jack the Ripper-style murders that have rocked the red-light district of Carnival Row. Like Game of Thrones, the series features political allegory and complex subplots, but also carries some influence from other fantasy like Neil Gaiman's work and Philip Reeve's The Mortal Engines series, with an added dash of detective noir. Carnival Row mashes up these touchstones in a fresh way that makes it one of the more original genre series in recent memory.

Worldbuilding has proven to be of major importance in this standalone IP, with a rich backdrop that provides both challenges and opportunities for the writers, who have no source material to draw upon and must come up with Carnival Row's history, religions, cultural identities, and societal influences a way that's accessible to viewers. In fact, SyFy reports that the first two episodes were reshot in order to better show the huge scale of the world and the significance of the struggles faced by its refugees.

"The world is everything on this show," writer Stephanie K. Smith told SyFy. "And I think that's what you'll get a sense of when you watch it. It was important to set that stage right away."

Smith continued, "The characters stem from the world, but everything after that stems from the characters." What's in store for those characters is something you can find out for yourself by catchup with the series in advance of the season 2 premiere on Amazon Prime Video.