Carnivale – Season 1, Episode 12 – “The Day That Was The Day” – A Matter of Choice and Destiny

Carnivale The Day that was the Day

“The Day That Was The Day” is the excellent finale to season 1 of “Carnivale.” Characters are forced to make choices that sets up the struggle of things to come and before making the choices they try to get out of making the choices, to skirt destiny. This episode also ties up the character dramas and answers one of the biggest questions about the nature of Scudder and the powers behind Ben and Justin.

“The Day That Was The Day” was directed by Rodrigo Garcia and written by Ronald Moore.

The story picks up where the last episode left off, with Stumpy confronting Rita about the affair, Sofie setting up a situation to get back at Jonesy and Libby for cheating, Ben approaching Lodz on how to bring back Ruthie who then brings him to management and Brother Justin talks to his adoptive father and shows his father his greatest sin leading him to ask him to prevent his destiny.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Sofie Drama – Sofie sets up a situation where she kisses and sleeps with Libby because she’s found feelings for her but she also has feelings for Jonesy so she bring Jonesy to the same place to get back at them both. Libby for knowing about Jonesy cheating with Rita and Jonesy for the act of cheating. Later Sofie’s mother tries to kill them both in a fire and Jonesy rushes into to save her for the final scene. We are left questioning what will come.

Brother Justin and his Adoptive Father and his Role – His adoptive father raised him as a Christian and after talking to Iris began researching into excorcism to help his son since his son’s power scared him so much. Later when they talk Justin transports him to the past to reveal his sin and the sin of his father was saving Justin. This leads to Justin begging to be killed by him, but when he can’t Justin’s eyes go black showing the full embracing of power and his role as the Avatar of destruction, Left Hand of God and Harbinger of the Apocalypse. The final scene after he makes a deal with Dolan to get his word out into the world is him doing an end times sermon.

Samson’s Warning – Samson warns Ben not to trust Management and Lodz and he’s right on both counts. He also cares about the carnival and tells Ben if he’s going to kill someone to help someone, it won’t be one of the Carnies. Samson is human and showed why he is one of my favorite characters in that scene. He was also right about Management since Management betrayed Lodz to make Ben use his power.

The Choice of Ben Hawkins – Ben continues to resist up until the end, he even gives his own life in the graveyard to bring back Ruthie, but Scudder who is a part of Ben (Ben is the Avatar) is not allowed to die. He almost kills a drunk but decides against it. Thinking he’s one and that he is not like Lodz and management he confronts Management only to have management reveal Lodz as the killer of Ruthie leading to Ben killing Lodz, which brings back Ruthie and solidifies Ben as the same as Management.

This was a great end to the series! It ties us back into the fight against the Avatars of Good and Evil, Light and Darkness and we see Ben and Justin becoming their roles in the fight to come. It is powerful but still leaves more open. I’m excited to see where season 2 takes everything, especially in regards to Justin. Lodz deserved to die but I’m still going to miss the bastard, he was a great character.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10. Ronald Moore has once again written gold.

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Carnivale – Season 1, Episode 11 – “Day of the Dead” – Manipulation and Set Up

carnivale-day-of-the-dead-review

 

“Day of the Dead” is the episode that sets everything for the final. We get to see what is at stake as characters are getting lined up into being forced to make difficult choices that will define their characters.

“Day of the Dead” was written by Toni Graphia and directed by John Patterson.

The premise is that Management wants to force Ben into action and does so by asking Lodz to kill Ruthie, since management knows Ben will try to save her. Justin also receives a confession from his sister that she started the fire to jump start his power and discovery and Stumpy goes to Iris to have his cards read. In all cases new revelations occur.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Tarot Reading – This is a great scene and has the drama pay off, I haven’t written about it that much because the mythology to me, is much more interesting and the Dreyfus family, Sofie and Jonesy were never all that appealing to me. This scene is very well executed though as Stumpy discovers what he already knew about Jonesy sleeping with Rita after that day he set them up which comes as a shock to both Sofie who was starting over with Jonesy and Stumpy who trusted him.

Professor Lodz – This guy is a great character and antagonist. His seeking out the venomous snake is perfect and we see why Samson has been warning us about him all this time. He wants power more than anything and will sacrifice any person to get there.

Justin and Iris – This had the creepiest scene, we have Justin lying about being in a mental hospital and Iris confessing she burned down the church with the children for him. He grabs her and kisses her showing just how messed up their relationship is. I guess this wouldn’t be HBO without incest.

Scudder – Hears the confessions of Ben’s sins. It’s a smart scene and very subtlety done.

Ben’s Loss – She dies and Ben is not able to bring her back to life. Seeing Ben actually affected by something is powerful, even if we as an audience were never all that invested in Ruthie. She never got explored the way other characters did.

The Cons: Most of this episode is set up so it doesn’t stand as strong on it’s own as it could. This is the biggest issue I have with it. A lot of set up, not much payoff.

This was a good but not great episode. It is worth watching if only for the Iris and Justin scenes though, and we get to see Scudder again in direct relation to Ben, which is good. This episode also firmly establishes Lodz as a villain and why Samson doesn’t trust him.

Final Score: 8.3 / 10

Carnivale – Season 1, Episode 9 – “Insomnia” – To Resist Power and to Embrace Power

Carnivale Insomnia     I’m beginning to understand better the role Ben might be meant to play for the writers. This episode showed his resistance as action contrasted by how cold Justin Crowe has become in his embracing of his power. He fears becoming Scudder which is understandable.

This episode was directed by Jack Bender and written by William Schmidt.

The episode primarily involves Ben’s resistance of power as he seeks to stay awake so the dreams do not come. Lodz acts as the tempter, telling him to embrace them to learn. Brother Justin’s game at the institution is complete and he’s released and Samson approaches Ben with a Templar Medal that belonged the Scudder. These are the primary stories that unfold.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Professor Lodz – Lodz has great power and a relationship with management that we see in this episode as he enters the trailer a few times and the final scene after he has the same vision Ben does about the Templar’s he compliments Samson for playing his hand well after he had just talked to management.

Samson – Samson is the guide in this episode and makes Ben feel safe enough to open up. He shows him a book with his mother and tells him of how he believes Scudder to be his father. It is finally a moment of connection with Ben beyond Ruthie.

The Carnival – We finally see more of the carnival and action, and it is awesome! From Lodz’s ability to predict the past and events, to Ruthie’s snake dancing…it feels lived in beyond the Ferris Wheel and dancers, which was appreciated.

Ben and Justin – I’m putting them together because we see why the contrast matters. Justin has an insane man beat himself to death for no reason beyond anger, while Ben is resisting and is aware of others, even as he suffers each day trying to stay afloat. This episode was needed to establish the places where they are coming from and how they have changed as people. When Justin is released he has his book and has made all servants to him, Ben is a servant and is the better man.

The Cons: The Rape of Sofia’s Mother – This wasn’t needed to show that her barriers are breaking down and right now serves no purpose beyond shock value. All we know is it is a tattoo man and the further breakdown in Sofie and her mother’s relationship. This could have been done much differently.

This was a good but not great episode. Justin only appears briefly and has turned more antagonistic and the whole deal with Sofie’s mom was cruel for no reason at all. I don’t see this episode as adding anything. It was good, but only just good.

Final Score: 8 / 10

 

Carnivale – Season 1, Episode 8 – “Lonnigan, Texas” – Exploration of Power

Lonnigan Texas Carnivale

Pastor Justin Crowe is my favorite character in the show at this point, after him probably Samson or Lodz as far as how complex and compelling they are. This episode really illustrated why for me in regards to Justin. He’s a character who has crossed through Hell and come out of it changed with a new discovery of his power. This episode is about his using that discovery to find out more about what his power is and means. Can’t say the same for Ben…

The episode was directed by Scott Winant and written by Daniel Knauf.

The premise starts out with after his suicide attempt Justin has been put into an Insane Asylum where after all the treatments, he begins to discover what he is capable of and his place in the world. This is contrasted by Ben who is asked to go into town to pick up someone for an act. There are also the mini-stories of Stumpy trying to hook up Jonesy with his wife and his wife trying to get Sofie into dancing because she’s seeing how it makes her daughter happy. These are the stories that unfold.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Asylum – The asylum scenes are some of the best. From seeing the torture they put Justin through to when he is able to correct the Doctor’s work and put words on the page as well as shaping the minds of the insane around him…from silencing a man who cannot be quite. The scenes are chilling because he’s embraced the supernatural in his nature.

Justin Crowe – God, this character is awesome! I’ve already described some of the events and now he has self awareness of the world and their looking for him and their belief in his mission of helping the poor. If that mission has changed remains to be seen but he found his belief in God and his own power making him the most compelling character on the show.

Mother and Daughter Relationships – This episode had a lot mother and daughter relationships…from Libby and her Mom for the dancers, from Sofie and her Mom for the card readers. In both we learn that Libby’s mom rebelled against her mom which is why she went into dancing and Libby has been protesting against her because she thought she was hustling Sofie. We also see Sofie do one show until someone grabs at her and we realize she’d done for the same reason Libby’s mother Rita Sue. We also see Rita was doing it to make Libby happy and to feel her own whole of her daughter’s murder. Babylon changed things.

The Knights Templar – The one noteworthy thing that happens to Ben is another Carnie owner Phineas who has a ring that is tied to it that sparks a flashback leading to Ben to still the ring. This leads to us seeing Phineas and Samson have a relationship even though their rivals and that their is a Carnie honor code. What all this means remains to be played out. Is Phineas part of the order? What does the order mean in the mythology of the being darkness and being of light? How does it tie to Scudder?

Jonesy and Rita – Jonesy has a sweet moment with Rita where she treats him with kindness and tenderness when he sleeps with her and he does too. This is contrasted by her husband who cares nothing for her. This is a big part on why she tells Sofie, “I wish I had someone who cared half as much for me, as he (Jonesy) cares for you.”

The Cons: The Drive – I get this is the depression and it’s supposed to be bleak and depressing but Ben being lied to by folks and us seeing he escaped for a chain gang and is wanted feels unneeded right now. Ben has got to start acting like Justin and finding answers or else we have no reason to care about him.

Another great episode that is worth a watch, but with problems like before. It was slightly better than the “The River” though, mostly because the side character stories are really good and having more time with Justin is gold.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

Carnivale – Season 1, Episode 7 – “The River” – Discovery of Power

Carnivale The River

“The River” is the episode where other characters become aware of Ben’s power and Justin Crowe discovers his own as we get his backstory and the reason behind why he lived with his sister. It’s a great episode in regards to how it explores the magic and some of the characters.

The episode was written by Toni Graphia and directed by Alison Maclean.

The episode begins with Ben learning of Ruthie’s connection to Scudder when Lila and Lodz attempt to manipulate him to action. This leads to him fighting and injuring her son Gabriel. Elsewhere Justin Crowe contemplates suicide on a bridge and has a flashback in the river as we get their backstory from Dolan interviewing Iris as a version of their past takes place when Justin sees himself following through with a suicide. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Crowe’s Vision of the Past – Crowe has a vision of jumping into the river and washing up and meeting himself and his sister Iris when they were children. It is there his younger self kills him as he killed the man who tried to hurt them and he realizes his power. After he chooses not to jump and gives his sister a call that she has known about it all along.

Dolan – Dolan’s radio program is fascinating, as well as how we learn from his kindness and openness with Iris and that her and Justin were Russian immigrants who died in a train crash and could only count on each other. It’s a brutal story but reveals why they are so isolated from everyone and their bond. Dolan’s openness is a nice contrast to this.

Iris – Iris telling their story and speaking Russian are some of the more powerful parts of the episode. She calls Justin by his name he had before he was Justin and we see her shock when she realizes Justin knows the truth.

Ben – Still resisting his power (come on now, we want answers!) but he heals Ruthie’s son after they fight and respects Ruthie’s space since her relationship with Scudder was none of his business. Lodz and Lila still have power over Ben and the ability to get under his skin.

Professor Lodz – Lodz cruelty comes out in this episode as we see him beat Lila when she reveals the healing of Dustin to him and he realizes he missed it. It was here that my distrust of him grew much more. How much does he want to help Ben or just help himself?

The Cons: Lag – There are certain moments where the story lags or feels choppy. For this reason I can’t rate it as highly as the episodes that came prior.

Justin is the most compelling part of the narrative at this point. He is finding things out and being active in the search to understand himself, versus Ben who is doing everything to resist that discovery. The carnival is great and I’m curious when they are going to meet  Justin and what will come out of it given the shared dreams between characters. The episode lags in some places but the Justin part of the story is very strong.

Final Score: 9 / 10.

Carnivale – Season 1, Episode 5 – “Babylon” – The Evil of Humanity

carnivale-babylon-31     “Babylon” is one of the most powerful episodes of any show I have ever seen. We see character exploration of the major sort and see how desperation can make people evil and bad and left wondering if that evil was there all along in some places, just waiting for someone to blame.

“Babylon” was written by Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin and directed by Tim Hunter.

The story involves the carnival finally arriving in the ghost town of Babylon, Texas…where there used to be mine but there isn’t anymore. Here Sophie talks to one of the dancers Libby who lets her know she isn’t pregnant from her one night stand the day before. To deal with the turmoil everyone is feeling Samson treats them to a night on the town but things go south when the carnival starts up and they find just how unwelcome they are.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Babyon – A ghost town with a dead mine…this place is haunting and foreboding the entire time here. It’s like something bad is just waiting to happen as Pastor Crowe reads a prayer for the children as a voice over and it tells of Babylon and how wretched it is.  Major areas are a movie theatre with one silent film and a nearly empty bar. The place is dead but there are people hidden.

Libby – Carlo Gallo is great and though we only get to know her in this episode (she’s had a lot of sexual experiences but has always had self respect) and she helps Sofie find herself and make peace with her night before. Sadly her reward is one of her fellow dancers getting killed and labeled a harlot.

Sofie – Sofie is growing and we find her stand up for herself to Jonesy as she connects with Libby. What affect Libby’s death will have on her remains to be seen, but her mother hated their friendship.

Jonesy – Jonesy is falling apart. He turns the Wheel on full speed and lets no one on or off and gets drunk. He tries to pursue Sofie but because he isn’t open or friendly to anyone he gets nothing back. It ends with him being cast from the carnival but returns with the body of Libby.

Professor Lodz – With his lover Lila the bearded woman, he goes out to the mine where Ben has been placed to guide or guard him. What he is doing is unknown at this point, but he believes he has to be there and foresees that Ben will be there. His relationship with Lila is wonderful and he continues to be the mysterious mentor.

Samson – Samson is back in the good as he treats the crew to drinks and does all he can to protect them from Babylon when he realizes it isn’t safe. It is here you realize just how overwhelmed he is by it all and trying to make the best choices for the carnival.

Ben – Finds Scudder in the mine and finds the words AVATAR carved into the wood. He chases Scudder who tells him that he may know who he is but he doesn’t know the bigger questions related to meaning. Scudder retreats when Ben asks what they are. His time is short but important in this episode.

This was a powerful and perfect “Carnivale” episode. From showing the evil of humanity as desperate men targeted an innocent who only treated them with kindness and labeled her a harlot. This being done side by side with Crowe’s prayer for the children was made all the more powerful.

Final Score: 10 / 10. Perfect episode.

Carnivale – Season 1, Episode 2 – “After the Ball is Over” – Hidden Demons

After the Ball is Over

“After the Ball is Over” goes into more behind the mysterious Carnival and also the growing power of Pastor Crowe as well as the demons he himself seems to be wrestling with. It’s a powerful story that reveals a lot about the surrounding and core characters.

The episode was written by Daniel Knauff and Ronald Moore and directed by Jeremy Podeswa.

The story begins with Ben being asked to clean out a mysterious carriage, which he finds out later never existed. It is there he finds a picture of his mother which leads to greater events unfolding in the Carnival. At the same time Pastor Crowe has set his eyes on making the Dancing and Prostitution house the new home for his growing parish and takes action that reveals the owner’s sins to them both. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Opening Vision/Dream – All the Shepherds are at a cafe and Crowe and Hawkins sit next to one another. The manager says something cryptic to them causing them to wake up. The dream establishes them, possibly her and the other person their as people of power which leads more to be discovered later. It was very Ronald Moore and reminded me of the Opera House Visions in “Battlestar Galactica.”

Pastor Justin Crowe – Crowe has the owner come to him and shows him how he used the front of the dancing and prostitution to molest boys. They face this truth together which leads the owner to giving the place to Crowe for his church and killing himself right after. We later see Crowe whipping himself in penance for leading to a man’s suicide…as we see his guilt at forcing the man to confront his evil did to him.

Ben Hawkins – Ben is the investigator this episode. When Samson says he doesn’t know the woman he later meets Ruthie after helping her get what she needs for her act. She tells him that the women fell in love with a crazy man named Scudder who is the man haunting his dreams. The blind seer says that Scudder is still alive and he finds out later both Scudder and his mother were involved with the Carnival.

Professor Lodz – Has a conversation with Samson about how he used to be in good graces with Management but how everything changed after Missouri. We see that he loved Apollonia but that she hates him. He sees the danger in Hawkins which Management seems to be aware of but going along with, for what purpose remains to be seen. He is a fascinating character who we see glimpse Hawkin’s dreams in the Pilot episode. Patrick Bauchau does a great job.

The Apollonia Scene – She awakens this episode and goes to Ben Hawkins. She is there to warn him but collapses and everyone awakes thinking he is the one who tried to steal her until Samson says that things are changing, and not for the better.

Samson – Samson has an idea that things are going bad, but for now is watching to see just how badly they unfold. He’s a practical guy so I wonder what action he’ll take in the end in regards to Ben Hawkins and the characters like Lodz who hate and fear him.

This was a solidly great episode and a must see. We learn more about Ben’s mysterious past, learn more about the Carnival, see Justin Crowe’s power in action again and also the demons he holds within. Demons were the theme as Scudder represents that in Ben’s dream and in how he is feared for his actions he did in the Carnival. More on what those actions were I expect to be revealed later.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10