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 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

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.

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 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.

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