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

 

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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 9 – “Lincoln Highway” – The Good in People

Carnivale Lincoln Highway

“Lincoln Highway,” is one of my favorite episodes and the best episode thus far in season 2. It keeps to the style of 2 but gets into a lot of the morality and mythology we had interwoven so deeply in season 1. This is an episode I won’t forget anytime soon either as it defined what makes good television on a lot of levels.

The episode was directed by Rodrigo Garcia and written by William Schmidt.

The major things that unfold in this episode are the discovery that Stroud is with Scudder in Cheyenne, Jonesy and Libby being kidnapped while Jonesy gets tarred and feathered and left to die for the death of the man’s wife in last episode and Norman’s attempt to kill Justin.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Tone – This episode is great at having the theme of decision pervading it. From Ben deciding to save Scudder or save Jonesy, from Libby choosing to trust Ben or not, Sofie learning to forgive and Justin choosing to forgive or let the mob kill Norman when Norman attempts to kill him. These are huge moments that are given the respect and power they deserve.

Sofie – Sofie is Justin’s maid and through her eyes we see that not all of Justin’s humanity is gone. From holding Norman after Norman tried to kill him, to his letting her go and not seeking selfishness with her. It is through Justin we see her process of forgiving her mother, Jonesy and Ben.

Pastor Justin Crowe – So glad we got to see the complex man again this episode! From his forcing Norman to break a tooth when Norman mocked him for Sofie being able to leave him speechless, to his forgiving of Norman and teaching Sofie how to forgive too. If it’s real than there is more to this character again that meets the eye and I want to see more of that. We see even in all the selfishness and power, there is still some good there.

Iris and Norman – Iris praises Norman for trying to kill Justin and we see that she wants him dead too. She wants them to do it together when the time is right since the darkness if Justin for them is too much (Iris kills the other maid for her saying she’ll joke about seeing the devil in him). They are both powerless so want to do what they can ┬áto get that back and no stopping Justin is the only way.

Libby and Jonesy – We see more of their relationship, from the good and the bad. From her smoking outside enjoying the sun and Jonesy asking her to put on more clothes to her staying with him through the desert heat after he’s been tarred and feathered. We see that though they have conflict they are committed to each other.

Jonesy and Ben – Ben heals Jonesy, including his leg and unlike everyone else who has been terrified Jonesy is grateful. He laughs and runs and is like a child again. It’s a beautiful scene and we see him finally fully respecting Ben. This was one of my favorite scenes in the episode.

Ben – Ben sees Scudder trapped by Stroud and knows where they are but on the way stops and chooses to save Jonesy. The payoff is worth it. We see them grow together and Ben better understand the good he can do in his role. This episode captured his humanity really well.

This was a solid episode that I could not find anything wrong with. I’d highly recommend it, if only for the character moments. We see what characters’ core intentions are and the reasons they do what they do, and that says a lot for what makes the show so great.

Final Score: 10 / 10. A favorite.

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 7 – “Damascus, NE” – Scudder’s Reveal

Carnivale Damascus NE

We finally meet Scudder! This was an interesting episode if only for the fact that this guy receives character development. I wouldn’t call it great though, there was a lot of potential this episode had and most of it was squandered.

“Damascus, NE” was written by John J. McLaughlin based on the story by William Schmidt and directed by Alan Taylor.

The story involves Ben’s arrival in Damascus, his meeting with Scudder and the events that come out of it both when they return to the carnival, and prior when facing off against Stroud. It is here it is revealed that Management is connected to another major character as the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Damascus – For a richer looking farmtown this place is pretty threatening. This is done by people speaking cryptically, Stroud hunting Ben and how making everything seem fine is more important than dealing with the problems. No wonder Scudder made this place his home, that is him in a nutshell.

Scudder – I wish we had gotten more time with this guy and Management hadn’t killed him. We see him connect with Ben his son, after Ben heals his face that he destroyed with acid in order to forget and reject the world he’d left behind. We learn he left to protect his wife and Ben from Lodz and others from pulling them into the conflict and we see that he is a good guy even if he refuses to fight. For these reasons his death is sad and I wish we’d gotten more of his relationship to Lodz and Management.

Ben – Ben is super active in this episode and ends up saving his father from Stroud when he heals the wounds and uses the energy from Stroud to do so. We see him hold his father accountable for leaving him and his mother and we see him kill Management for killing Scudder in the end.

Management – Management is a great threatening force in this and when he attacks in his mask and we see who was behind the curtain (the person who lost all their limbs in Ben’s visions of World War 1) we realize just how messed up this character is from his experiences. He kills Scudder when Scudder says Justin is his son and that his son is alive and the enemy and we realize just how connected everything is.

The Cons: Time – This episode would have been a two-parter on another show and it was needed here. There isn’t enough time to explore Scudder or Management as characters and they are taken out so quickly that nothing really registers. Justin appears briefly and throws up when Stroud does but besides that he isn’t worth mentioning because of the time issue. We also get a little time with Samson but not enough to mean anything. This is a major point against the episode so will be taking off more points because of it.

This episode is crucial and has some great moments but was not great as a whole. Not enough time with Management or Scudder and everything feels rushed. In this end this takes away from what could have been one of the best episodes in the series.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

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 4 – “Old Cherry Blossom Road” – The Sins of the Family

Carnivale Old Cherry Blossom Road

Scudder has a messed up family and backstory, which in turn means Ben does too. ┬áThis story primarily focuses on the family that Scudder came from as the folks who kidnapped Ben turn out be related and the Crone is his grandmother. I’ll get into why they’re messed beyond their kidnapping of him in the assessment. We also continue to see the darkness in Justin.

“Old Cherry Blossom Road” was directed by Steve Shill and written by Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin.

The episode begins with the main abused and assaulted by Justin and Justin telling Iris they need a new made. Around this time Dolan also comes to Justin with evidence that Iris started the fire but Justin refuse to believe it. Ben is with his racist Ku Klux Clan family and is given words by the Crone his grandmother and where he needs to go next, and Jonesy and Sofie continue to explore her new role.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Haunting Family and Past – Scudder and Ben have a horrifying family. From the Crone sewing the lips of one of her grandson’s shut, to her murdering Scudder’s other relatives at his birth, to her glorification of her KKK ancestors and her near attempt at murdering Ben before giving him a Trench Knife and telling he’ll need it where “The Wolf and Dog howl at the moon.”

Jonesy and Sofie – Jonesy wants Sofie to be accepted and peace on his team so he has her build a giant hole. This ends up proving herself to him and to his men that she is in this and doesn’t want to do anything else. She’s given up the cards.

Ben – Ben is trying everything he can to find the answer. He ends up finding Scudder’s death mask when he’s with his family but learns from Management Scudder is still alive. He feels pretty lost in this episode and his trusting of his insane and racist Grandma the Crone took a lot of guts on his part. At this point he is looking for answers which Sofie can’t give since she doesn’t want to do the Cards anymore.

Death Imagery – Ruthie keeps seeing Lodz and sees Apollonia as well. You get the idea that she more awareness of the veil which is why she keeps walking so close to death and seeing those who have died. I hope this gets explained more.

The Cons: Justin – Sexually assaults his maid and discards her, continues manipulating Iris so Dolan will capture her while at the same time using Dolan. Not to mention his use of a criminal as his apostle who murders in his name. Stroud finds out about Samson and Ben and is following Ben to find Scudder.

This was a good but not great episode. Scudder’s family isn’t complex…they’re just racist Klan folks who persecute anyone who isn’t them. The best moments of the episode were Ben’s discoveries.

Final Score: 7.8 / 10