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 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.