Carnivale – Season 2, Episode 5 – “Creed, OK” – Haunting Masks

Carnivale Creed, OK

“Creed, OK” is a very haunting episode that also manages to capture a lot of great character moments as well as the arrival of Stroud, Justin’s agent on the scene of the Carnival. It is an overall good episode that brings back dilemma for many of the characters.

The episode was directed by Jeremy Podeswa and written by Tracy Torme.

In the episode Ben traces Scudder’s death mask to the maker’s home in Scudder, OK. It is here a mysterious and haunting episode happens where a mask is made for him upon his face. Stroud threatens Jonesy and Samson and Ruthie comes forward about seeing dead people to Sofie who is in the same boat. At the same time Justin and Dolan receive Iris’s confession of burning down the church.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Mask Maker – This guy is really haunting. He comes off an overly nice but creepy gentleman who says he doesn’t do masks for anyone but children but over the course of talking to Ben begins targeting him and voicing interest. Ben later passes out and is given a sedative to paralyze him as the mask maker makes a mask on his face while wearing a creepy child-like mask. Ben wakes up and the mask maker denies everything but we later see him send a mask of Ben’s face to Pastor Justin after listening to his radio show.

Ben Hawkins – It is great seeing this character active! From his friendship with Samson and Sofie, to his search for Scudder and standing up for people in different situations…Ben has become a great guy! I actually like this character now when I couldn’t stand him in the first season because of how passive he was.

Pastor Justin Crowe – Gets a confession from iris and forces her to face her guilt for what she did. This was powerful showing us that some of the good still lies in this character, even if it only is in the time before he embraced his destiny. I’d like more of this rather than the blatantly evil man we’ve seen the last few episodes.

Sofie and Ruthie – Ruthie feels like a fleshed out character now! It sucks it took her dying to get that. We see it in the moments of shared powerlessness she feels of seeing the dead as she talks to Sofie about seeing Sofie’s mother. They are both haunted by their natures of being changed in certain ways. How this plays out for both remains to be seen, but given the tone of the show it is most likely to end in tragedy.

Sofie and Ben – Sofie and Ben continue to grow as friends and potential lovers leading to the reading of cards and a vision Ben hands leading him to believe Scudder is in Damascus, NE. It’s a scene that leaves them speechless given the graphic vision of a man scarred to the point of lost humanity beyond the visions of the location of “Dog and Wolf howling to the Moon,” and Scudder in a tux.

Samson – Stands up to Stroud’s threats and warns Ben about ruining Sofie’s life because from what he gathers…Ben’s journey is a one way trip. This was powerful showing again how much everyone in the carnival means to him.

Okay: Stroud – The guy just goes around threatening, he is a living weapon and not a compelling one. I didn’t care about this character when he was introduced and I don’t know. He seems to exist only as a plot device for interaction between characters.

This was a great episode that I really enjoyed. The Mask Maker was foreboding and threatening and the reveal of what he does and how much pleasure he takes from it was horrifying. We learn that Scudder is alive from him too which advances the plot. I’m really liking how Sofie and Ben are growing as characters and that this episode at least tried to capture some of the past complexity of Pastor Justin.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great.

Carnivale – Season 2, Episode 1 – “Los Moscos” – A Loss of Conflict for Clarity

carnivale-los-moscos-review6

 

After the moral conflict of Ben and Justin that drove so much of the story, it is kind of sad seeing Justin embrace his new role so thoroughly without any hangups. The internal character conflict was part of what made him so interesting as Tom Clancy did it so well, and the mythology is still confusing. I could have done with at least 2 episodes to explain everything we get told. I’ll get into it more in the assessment.

“Los Moscos” was directed Jeremy Podaswa and written by the show creator, Daniel Knauf.

The premise begins similar to the beginning of last season as Samson gives us the background:

“On the heels of the skirmish Man foolishly called the war to end all wars, the Dark One sought to elude his destiny… live as a mortal. So he fled across the ocean, to an empire called America… but by his mere presence, a cancer corrupted the spirit of the land. People were rendered mute by fools who spoke many words, but said nothing… for whom oppression and cowardice were virtues… and freedom, an obscenity. Into this dark heartland, the Prophet stalked his enemy… until, diminished by his wounds, he turned to the next in the ancient line of light. And so it was that the fate of all mankind came to rest on the trembling shoulders of the most reluctant of saviors.”

The episode than gives us Management confessing to being the Russian soldier in Ben’s dreams and showing him a vision of a nuclear apocalypse. Around this time and implores him to seek Scudder to prevent this. Sofie and Jonesy survive the fire but Sofie’s mother does not, Management asks Samson to hide the fact that Lodz is dead, and if it is found out to take the fall. These are the primary stories that unfold.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Dreams and Visions – Management showing Ben the dream of the End is beautiful, just as Justin’s is at the tree where he meets The Usher (The man with the tree tattooed upon his body). He sees a place to build New Canaan by this twisted tree and Ben finally has a reason to fight and figure out the identity of his enemy Justin. There is also a scene where Justin tears apart his face to reveal Ben underneath. These dream sequences still keep the mystery of the show alive.

Jonesy and Sofie – After what Sofie did Jonesy can’t trust her and that is well established, which is good. He saves her life, but knows it can’t go anywhere. It’s one of the best moments of drama in the episode.

Samson – Samson has to pretend to care about trying to find Lodz after Sofie goes missing and we see just how unattached he was to the guy in the end and maybe is a little happy he’s gone even though he’s against the killing of Carnies. He’s the most human element on the show still.

Okay: Pastor Justin Crowe – Guys embraced being the engine of destruction, which is sad. There isn’t the moral conflict anymore and he’s cruel and threatening to nearly everyone unless they serve his interests. I understand him turning Iris in though, that seems to be what little good in him still remains and that he might feel regret at becoming a monster. He is also approached by a man who was hearing his Gospel and gives him “The Gospel of Matthias” a book that belonged to Scudder. Justin learns he must kill Scudder to fully become inhuman and his full role.

Ben – Ben is still pretty passive but goes to the Templars again and learned Scudder dropped by at one point 12 years ago and that his Chaplain Kerrigan lost his mind and painted the tattooed man in the mural. We learn he’s been missing for quite a while though making the search that much more difficult.

The Cons: Clarity in place of subtlety – With the introduction spelled out by Samson in clear but still vague terms, as well as the dreams…we see the End, we learn about Scudder needing to be found or killed and the battle to come between Justin and Ben. This isn’t bad but it’s presentation isn’t good. It could have been done much more interestingly in visuals rather than having characters tell us all this, since it is still pretty confusing.

This was a decent start to the season and a recommend so far. It does make me worry a little on how the rest of the season will go though. The supernatural is best left in the foreground not completely seen…not so upfront. It turns the show from surrealistic magic to outright fantasy.

Final Score: 8 / 10. Still a good show.

 

Carnivale – Season 1, Episode 10 – “Hot and Bothered” – The Power in Relationships

carnivale-hot-bothered5

This was a much needed episode, it answered questions in regards to the outside of how the Templar order appears to be, gave us a symbol of things to come and showed us how power has corrupted Pastor Justin Crowe. There are some minor subplots too, but the main narrative has always been what pulled in the most about this show.

“Hot and Bothered,” was directed by Jeremy Podeswa and written by Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin.

The premise in this one is that Lodz has taken the place of Samson in being in management’s good graces, largely because of his willingness to use Ben to discover the larger picture, Samson does the same but they miss a key clue and find themselves being followed by one of the order. Brother Justin also returns and shakes his congregation with his actions and new found beliefs. From here the episode unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Pastor Justin Crowe’s Return – From his haunting meeting with his sister and Dolan, to his owning his congregation again when he calls on them to make the world reborn in fire and blood as he recognizes each of their sins. His mentor and foster father is lost throughout it as he baptizes Justin and blood appears in the shape of cross and the congregations calls out to be baptized too. He’s changed things.

Samson and Ben – This is one of the major arcs of this episode and it is fascinating. We see them find the Templar order but the leader hiding information from them about Scudder. We also see them connect as people and learn that management bought out the company prior, so Samson, Scudder and Lodz go back before that time. Samson also calls Scudder an eel and we can see how hard he’s taking being out of management’s good graces when he calls Sofie out for not doing her job with the card reading. The clue they miss is on the wall a tattooed man in a cornfield.

What Lodz Learns – Lodz finds out that Scudder believes Ben to be his and that they are approaching him. Management is happy with this and we hear the voice of management for the first time as it speaks silkily and mysteriously. Lodz is now his agent in regards to Ben and Scudder.

Okay: Jonesy and Sofie – These two are reestablishing a romantic relationship. Sofie tells Jonesy about the vision of the past of her rape her mother showed her and we see him being there for her in her desperation. It is largely one sided though, Jonesy is not open about his own struggles and pains. So okay, but not great.

Stumpy’s Story – Stumpy hooks up with a woman in the border bar and when she pursues him they sleep together and he brings her back as one of the dancers. Okay cause it causes drama I guess but I’ve never liked Stumpy and this is nothing compared to the myth narrative arc.

This episode was an upgrade from the last so gets a recommend. Hearing managements voice and seeing it’s relationship to Lodz was wonderful. It gave us an idea of what Samson was dealing with as we see his human side. He isn’t ends justify the means completely and that makes him the better person. We see the power in relationships as the head pastor baptizing Justin legitimized his vision and Management having a relationship with Lodz put Samson on the defensive and without a place. Power dynamics were a big part of this episode.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10. One of the better episodes.