Carnivale Finale – Season 2, Episode 12 – “New Canaan” – The Final Battle

Carnivale New Canaan

So ends “Carnivale,” and what a fascinating journey it has been. So, how does the final hold up and bringing all the pieces together? A lot of major threads get pulled together and major arcs brought to an end…while others are left open. It is that even though the show was canceled, you can tell Knauf, the creator wanted to do more. I do hope he can someday so in comics so that it can get the complete wrap up he had in mind.

The finale was written by Daniel Knauf with the original story by Tracy Torme. The episode was directed by Scott Winant.

The episode begins with the carnival being hosted at New Canaan, “For the Children.” As Samson visits with his entourage to invite Justin to ride the Ferris-Wheel. This is all part of the plan that he and Jonesy work out with Ben so that Ben can use his healing powers to suck the life from Justin and keep him trapped on the Wheel. Sofie catches Justin without his shirt on and realizes who he and his taken to the room that her mother was held in as Justin arrives at the carnival and the story unfolds from there.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Carnival in New Canaan – This is brilliant. We got to see some of this when Justin and Iris look out the window and Iris knows she has Justin trapped in obligation and when her and Samson are negotiating in the episode before. This carries over as the Ferris-Wheel traps Justin as Ben seeps his life to heal the injured members of New Canaan. It is fantastic and the magic of the carnival and religion are really well done here…the red sky just adds the effect of it all and the darkness that comes later.

Jonesy – Jonesy is changed and is truly a good guy looking out for others. We see him keep the Ferris-Wheel going after the healing start and is only stopped after Stroud punches him and Justin uses his power to stop the Wheel. Sadly he doesn’t survive the episode as darkness has inhabited Sofie and after he rescues her she shoots him in cold blood. His loss actually means something, season 1 I cared nothing for this character.

Samson – Samson is great as the manipulator and puts everything into play so that Ben won’t have to risk his life like past Avatars like Jesus did. From making certain Justin will come by holding back tickets after Iris’s fear of heights comes out, to his pep talk with Ben, “The hardest part is living.” I think Ben gets that because he goes along with the carnival’s plan and embraces their love of him for healing Jonesy. Samson is there through it all and ends with making Ben Management by putting him on Management’s bed. As they leave New Canaan you see him ready for the next adventure. He also gives Rita Sue the money from New Canaan to pay off the debts they owe because Samson looks out for family. I loved the scene and it showed that through it all he was looking out for Rita, Stumpy and Libby.

Pastor Justin Crowe – Crowe goes full bad in this and we see the darkness Avatar in him made manifest when he lashes out at being used to heal others. This leads to him killing members of his congregation, his adopted father Norman and injuring Ben before he is killed. He is a good threat and when he’s in the cornfield (the dream Ben had from season 1) you get the tension and fear as this is someone who has killed and in this state…lives for killing. Surprisingly even here he doesn’t kill Iris though, showing something remains of his humanity. His death is left ambiguous though as we see Sofie performing a healing on him as the carnival leaves and the plants die the same way the plants died when Ben first healed the little girl’s legs.

Rita Sue, Libby and Stumpy – We see sadness and resolution here as they tell her to believe Jonesy will come back even as they know he’s dead. It is a sad scene since you see that they have always cared about him. Their debts are paid off now but they lost a new member of their family. In a way New Canaan is Babylon.

Ben Hawkins – Finds that he is family in the carnival and they do what they can to support him to take Justin down. We see how this has changed him too as he puts beating Justin as the priority over finding Sofie. He’s thinking more like Management and wants to do what he can to win no matter what, how he is different though is he listens to Samson. He doesn’t have to risk his life to win because the carnival is hear to help. The moment between them is priceless and you get why they make him Management at the end and carry him off like a savior. His arc is complete and he’s become the leader and no longer the man alone.

The Cons: Sofie – Sofie being possessed by darkness is never explained…as is her role as the Omega. Why did she bring back or try to bring back Justin at the end after knowing he raped her mother? Why didn’t she rejoin the carnival? What did her mother’s ghost haunting her mean?

Professor Lodz – He tells us Sofie is the Omega and he tells Lila next time he’ll be seen in the flesh in a past episode but that never goes anywhere. What’s Lodz’s deal? What was his motivation? What was his connection to Scudder and Management?

The mythology wasn’t fully explained and Lodz and Sofie were never used to their full potential (or Lila or Ruthie for that matter) but this episode does a solid. Nearly everyone plays a role to help Ben take down Justin and it is beautifully executed. Barring the questions and plot holes (which are a problem I have with the series, not just this episode). This episode was great and one of my favorites. I’ll do a look back at the show later with how I think it worked and didn’t…but until then, this is a great finale and well worth watching.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

 

Carnivale – Season 2, Episode 10 – “Cheyenne, WY” – Usher Ascended

Carnivale Cheyenne, WY

“Cheyenne, WY” picks up where the last episode left off with the quest for Scudder and a very changed Jonesy. I’ll go into more of what I mean in the assessment but the change is good and it helps stimulate the action and drive the story forward, as a lot happens in this episode.

The episode was written by Tracy Torme and directed by Todd Shields.

This episode follows Ben and Jonesy to Cheyenne and from there to where Scudder’s been taken, Libby is dealing with her mom getting on her case on Jonesy leaving and drama unfolds at the Crowe residence as the pieces are put into play for Justin’s ascension.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Jonesy – Jonesy is a great support to Ben in this episode, even as he doesn’t fully understand everything that is going on. We see him being able to negotiate, like with the manager of the hotel that Scudder was being kept at and follows Ben all the way to New Canaan before heading back. He’s become active, has purpose and it is great to see.

Libby – Stands up to her Mom and continues to establish herself as a strong character. It gives some great moments especially since her dad now sympathizes with her and Jonesy’s relationship.

Ben – Ben is driven and again, it is great to see. His relationship with Jonesy gets explored more too and Ben is forced to not do it alone, which is great to see. This eventually leads them both to New Canaan when he recognizes Justin in the paper for the attempted assassination.

Sofie – Sofie’s relationship with Justin is getting complex, we see her pretty much figure out that he is her father and the one who raped her mother but she still is drawn to him. I don’t get it but it makes for an interesting dilemma given how drawn to him she is and feels as if she has purpose.

Justin and Co. – Justin’s got a lot of character’s he interacts with, and this gives him a moment to shine. We see his dark side come out in different ways from his comrodery with Stroud to his threatening of Smith and the black eyed monster when he kills Scudder and ascends.

Iris – Iris stands up to Stroud when he attempts to rape her and is always plotting with Norman to take out Justin. She has also become really active and has become a moral beacon for Sofie in a manner of speaking.

The Cons: Too Fast – The episode was way too quick. At one Scudder kills Smith and breaks out of his straight jacket that Justin is holding him in but it all goes so quickly since after he becomes a monster Justin quickly kills him while he’s making his escape. Also a lot of the moments in the house go a bit quick, it’s why for me Sofie’s intentions aren’t wholly known because we don’t get enough time on why she’s so attached to Justin.

This was a good episode but I wouldn’t call it great. There are some great visual images like the picture above but it isn’t consistent and since a lot is being covered a very fast amount of time, we don’t get enough time with the characters to really get their relationships. For that reason it isn’t a favorite and why I wouldn’t call it great. Another episode that could have been two…Still should check it out though, if you like the series. It is essential.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

Carnivale – Season 2, Episode 8 – “Outskirts of Damascus, NE” – Management’s Legacy

Carnivale Outskirts of Damascus NE

“Outskirts of Damascus, NE” had a lot of good ideas, but they were not fully executed. The good news is this is made up at least partially by some great character moments…largely with Samson and Ben. For this reason alone, it was still a good episode.

The episode was written by Daniel Knauf, the show’s creator and directed by Tim Hunter.

The premise picks up where the last episode ended with Management granting Ben his powers and from that we learned he’d set it all up in the first place to grant Ben the knowledge and power he would need to take on the Usher, Justin. Management it turns out was a bigger deal to Samson than we knew as their friendship is revealed and Ben must deal with Samson before they can move forward. Jonesy and Libby also get married and that is dealt with in the episode too.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Samson – Samson is one of my favorite characters who is still living and in this episode shows more of why. We see him mourn the loss of his friend and how even if he didn’t trust Management there was still so much history there between them. This leads to it taking a while for him to see that Ben isn’t management and can’t lie. This leads to them forming a new partnership to save Scudder and stop the Usher.

Ben – From one of my least favorite characters last season to one of my favorite this season…Ben Hawkins is worth caring about finally. We see his making sense of his new powers and trying figure out his role and try and save Scudder. We also see him bring back the memory vault so Samson can say good-bye to Management. For this reason he starts out things solidly with Samson and we see them as partners, which Samson and Ben have never really had before. We see his embracing of his role as Avatar in a clear way that wins Samson over too when a mother begs for her life to be given for her dead child’s and Ben grants her wish to bring her child back.

Jonesy and Libby – Jonesy and Libby marry and we see the conflict with Libby’s parents because of Jonesy sleeping with her Mom, though surprisingly Stumpy is okay with it, it’s Rita who has most of the baggage. This comes to a head when Libby says she will dance until her father’s debts are paid off, but no more than dance. It’s a great character moment that showed her being active to Jonesy’s passiveness through the episode. We also have a death at the Ferris-Wheel which is powerful as the mob blames Jonesy because Stumpy shared a drink with him.

Sofie – Sofie is Justin’s maid! A sign of things to come I think.

The Cons: The Tone – I didn’t know what to make of this episodes tone. At times it’s supernatural at times it’s real but it’s hard to get to invested in invents because it doesn’t have a feel that flows through it. For this reason I have to dock it down some points.

This was a good but not great episode, which is a shame since the showrunner and creator was the one wrote it. It still does what it needs to do, so it isn’t bad. It just isn’t great. I would recommend it though if only for the moments with Ben and Samson. The silence of Samson morning management and Ben lost in his new role. These moments helped define it and made it “Carnivale.”

Final Score: 8 / 10

Carnivale – Season 2, Episode 6 – “Road to Damascus” – When the Masks are Off

Carnivale Road to Damascus

“The Road to Damascus” is a decision episode. Big events happen that change things and show us the truth of characters and character relationships. We see past relationships too in regards to Samson and the complex relationships between different carnivals.

The episode was written by Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin and directed by Tucker Gates.

We meet folks from the Daily Brothers Show who had their tents burned down by Stroud though they believe it was the owners for the insurance money, Pastor Justin Crowe holds a confessional for the guilty party of the church burning, Ben needs to make a choice to move forward, Sofie has to decide to leave and the Dreyfus family arc finally goes somewhere. These are the stories that unfold.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Pastor Justin Crowe – Justin stands by his sister even after all that happened but only after she had come clean in her guilt and confessed. He helped her grow and it showed he hadn’t completely lost his humanity given he saw Dolan as tool from the beginning.

Dolan – Dolan takes the fall for Iris, and it’s implied Justin’s powers made him do it. He tries to hold her accountable but there is nothing he can do. He was a great character though and even though he was sleezy at times his good heart came through. I wonder if this will be the last we see of him.

Sofie – We see Sofie’s joy in her relationship with Ben and when she dances in the rain, which happens after her and Ben have sex. Sadly Samson’s prediction comes true, at least for now as Ben leaves to find Scudder and try and beat Stroud to him. The last we see of her is her leaving the carnival behind and watching it leave.

Ben – Ben is embracing his destiny and actually forming a life. We see his joy and connection with Sofie over their horrible childhood and parents and her and him happy as they share a moment together in which after it rains. We also see Samson acting as a mentor and it’s after he talks to Samson that he goes ahead to try and beat Stroud to Scudder.

Samson – Samson had a relationship with the woman in charge of the other carnival. They were married for 9 years as he tells Ben but they work something out where she gets a cut of profits and he keeps her husband on board. We see him caring for the other carnies and his glimpsing of the big picture.

Okay: Ruthie/Lodz and Lila – One of the last scene is of Ruthie possessed by Lodz asking Lila where the boy is, just as she’s moving on. I would have preferred a spirit of Lodz given how great the actor is and I worry this will destroy what little development Ruthie’s received.

Dreyfus Drama – Stumpy’s a liar and no one is surprised. He blames Jonesy for destroying his family when Stumpy did that and feels powerless as Jonesy has slept with his wife and is building a relationship with Libby his daughter. I hate Stumpy. Rita’s okay and Libby is awesome.

This episode had a lot happen and made things move forward in a big way. What remains to be seen is if the new elements will go anywhere. Does Ruthie exist as a character? What is Justin’s big plan? Will Ben reach Scudder before Stroud? What will become of Sofie? These are the biggest questions beyond the mythology that I hope we get answers to before the end.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Another solidly great episode.

Carnivale – Season 2, Episode 3 – “Ingram, TX” – Fruits of Corruption

carnivale-ingram-tx4

This was a really dark episode where some of the best moments were those with Ben and Sofie. This is surprising given how depressing most of their situations are, but we see how they are handling destiny and who they are at the core versus many of the monsters around them and in the world.

“Ingram, TX” was written by John J. McLaughlin and directed by John Patterson.

In this episode the carnival has been in Ingram, Texas for a week now as Ben continues searching for the next clue to finding Scudder. This leads him out of camp again where he finds himself captured in an abandoned area where The Crone is. Sofie is working as a laborer but the cards keep calling her back and Stumpy is working his wife to long stretches of the day and is oblivious to those around him. Norman, Justin’s adoptive father is also taken in in his trapped mental state by Justin and Iris. These are the stories that unfold.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Tone – The tone is dark and mysterious with a feeling of threatening pervading the whole episode. From the empty Crone’s home, to an old man offering his down syndrome daughter to sleep with, to Justin forcing his maid to give him a blow job in front his his adoptive father and the cards that Ben destroyed coming back to haunt Sofie. This is a powerful episode in tone and imagery.

Samson – Jonesy attempts to have Samson kick Sofie off to keep his men happy but Samson reminds him Jonesy is in charge of labor so that’s his thing, he’s not going to get involved. It was great seeing him stay out of peoples personal stuff.

Sofie – Sofie and Ben are becoming friends and they have some good moments together. From Ben destroying the Tarot Cards and keeping one that doesn’t burn that Sofie doesn’t know and when she wakes him up and they talk because she smells smoke. Her main dilemma is her facing of destiny as her Mother most likely is using the cards to bring her back into reading others’ fortunes.

Ben – Ben seeks the crone this episode after helping Sofie with healing. It is here an old man tries to prostitute his daughter but Ben holds him accountable and he promises never to do it again. He is later captured by a group at the Crones home who torture him until they see Scudder’s medal and when they learn that it’s his they say “She’s” been waiting for him.

The Cons: Justin – Justin went too dark after seeing glimmers of idealism be it fake or not it went too far having his maid give him a blow job and his sexually molesting her. I hated his character after this episode. He seems evil for the sake of evil, which just isn’t good when you have a character who started out so morally complex.

Stumpy – Stumpy is prostituting his wife non-stop and all about money. It implies gambling issues but this is getting out of hand. I never liked the character and he isn’t making himself likable in his blatant using of others.

This was a good but not great episode. I would have liked to meet the Crone and know if Sofie’s mom was communicating with her. The Crone’s home is haunting though, and the episode does keep the dark forbidding done consistently through the episode.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10