What is Amazon’s New Show ‘Carnival Row’ About?

Hop on Amazon’s streaming platform right now and you’re likely to see an ad for Carnival Row, an upcoming show with fairies and other mythological creatures. A teaser trailer was released in June, but new footage was shared during this year’s Comic-Con event in San Diego. Starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne, the fantasy series explores the themes of politics, love, and magic.

Carnival Row is being heavily promoted as part of the Amazon Originals roster, and an interactive display at Comic-Con was described as “magical,” allowing attendees to experience the show as one of its many characters. But what exactly will Amazon be offering viewers with Carnival Row?

Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevigne in 'Carnival Row'
Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevigne in ‘Carnival Row’ | Amazon Prime Video

Immigration, harassment, and mystery make for high stakes

Does it sound like too much? The show is described as an urban fantasy set in a Victorian-era English society where humans and creatures are struggling to get along. According to Variety, Bloom plays Philo, a human who gets entangled with Delevingne’s fairy character, Vignette.

At first, all the beings got along, but politics soon led to war and displacement. Racism, classism, and other forms of division become the way of the world where humans, fauns, fae, and others mistreat each other. Eventually, this leads to murder. A synopsis for the show reads:

Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean) and Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad) star in Carnival Row, a series set in a Victorian fantasy world filled with mythological immigrant creatures whose exotic homelands were invaded by the empires of man. This growing population struggles to coexist with humans — forbidden to live, love, or fly with freedom. But even in darkness, hope lives, as a human detective, Rycroft Philostrate (Bloom), and a refugee faerie named Vignette Stonemoss (Delevingne) rekindle a dangerous affair despite an increasingly intolerant society. Vignette harbors a secret that endangers Philo’s world during his most important case yet: a string of gruesome murders threatening the uneasy peace of the Row.”

How ‘Carnival Row’ is different or similar to other fantasy shows

Other series that have dealt with premise of human-fae-creature friction include Grimm and Lost Girl, and in both of those shows, there was an underground world kept hidden from humans. The difference with Carnival Row is that everyone is aware of each other’s existence, but it’s not embraced by all.

Perhaps this was also seen in Netflix’s Bright, the feature film about human, elves, fairies and the like coexisting while wrestling with their differences. Tamzin Merchant, who also stars in Carnival Row, told MTV that the series explores what happens to these fairy tale creatures when the story ends and they’re driven from their homelands.

Showrunners Mark Guggenheim and Travis Beacham stated that the period drama paints a new picture of fantasy with tension set in the Industrial age, while Bloom added that the characters are depicted with realness and empathy. He says those qualities allow the show to “address some really big issues.” Calling it a timely series that’s relevant to where society is today, Guggenheim shared with SyFy Wire:

“We find ourselves in the situation that we find ourselves in because we, at some point, stopped talking to each other. My hope is that shows like this can somehow get people talking again.”

Carnival Row’s eight-episode first season will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, August 30.