Warning: This article contains spoilers for Carnival Row season 1.
The season 1 finale of Amazon’s Carnival Row piles twist on top of twist, wrapping up the season’s central mystery while setting the stage for the already-announced second season. Just when things are looking like they’re on the upswing — with the Dark Asher destroyed, Philo (Orlando Bloom) and Vignette (Cara Delevingne) back together, and Piety’s (Indira Varma) sinister plots foiled — everything comes crashing down. New Chancellor Jonah Breakspear (Arty Froushan) institutes even harsher measures against the fae, forcibly confining them to the Carnival Row district and trapping both Philo and Vignette therein. At least Imogen (Tamzin Merchant) and Agreus (David Gyasi) get to set off for parts unknown, in a culmination of their season-long simmering romance.
It’s a lot to take in — and, naturally, leaves viewers with a lot of questions. What will become of the Burgue’s ever-more-oppressed population of mythical creatures? Where are Imogen and Agreus headed on that ship? And what’s up with those zealous, self-flagellating fauns? To provide some answers, EW chatted with showrunners Travis Beacham and Marc Guggenheim about the end of the season and what’s in store for the next one.
Obviously the way season 1 ends has a lot of real-world resonance. Was there ever any doubt that was where things were going to end up?
TRAVIS BEACHAM: I don’t think so. It felt like the next natural step. I think it just always felt like where we were going.
Does this mean that next season is going to be more explicit in its real-world political parallels?
BEACHAM: I wouldn’t say more explicit. We never want to seem like we’re preachy or that we’re beating the drum too hard. And not to do one-to-one, Animal Farm-style analog to the real world. I think ideally, to stay true to our characters and true to our world, our idea is to create a story that feels as if it’s playing in the same sandbox and sort of talking to the real world.
What does it mean for the show now that Philo is with the fae and has embraced his identity?
MARC GUGGENHEIM: Well, it’s probably one of the biggest seismic changes to the show itself that happens at the end of the first season. And it’s something that we’re really going to be dealing with and dramatizing in season 2. And the trick for Philo is, it’s not, unfortunately, as simple as him embracing the fact that he’s fae. To the fae, he’s not really fae. He’s a half-blood. So he basically is a man without a country. You know, he’s not human enough for the humans, but he’s not fae enough for the fae. He kind of exists in this sort of status Twilight Zone. Not to mention the fact that, because of this decision, he has relinquished his badge. So this cloak of authority that he used to have is no longer there. So that’s another thing that he’ll be wrestling with in season 2.
BEACHAM: It’s definitely not a happily-ever-after. In embracing who he is, he’s really embracing an entirely new set of problems.
How will that impact his relationship with Vignette?
GUGGENHEIM: I will say this, I think the relationship with Vignette in season 2 is challenged by a lot of different things. And not just the changes in Philo’s circumstances, but also the changes in Vignette’s circumstances. When we see Vignette again at the start of season 2, she’s the same character, in very, very, very different circumstances than we left her in. And we were intrigued by this notion of these two people who, you know, they fell in love under heightened circumstances, they got back together under heightened circumstances. We wanted to stress-test that relationship. And one of the ways we elected to do that was to kind of put Philo and Vignette on opposite sides of a problem. And that’s a lot of fun.
BEACHAM: And Vignette is a character who’s remarkably self-assured in her identity, and has a lot of pride in who she is. And Philo, necessarily, because he is of mixed heritage, is someone whose identity is constantly up for grabs. And I think that is something that has created tension for them, and will continue, I think, to create tension for them in the future.
And what’s next for Imogen and Agreus as they set off on their journey?
BEACHAM: Oh, this is fun. This is a lot of fun. In writing the end of season 1, it was always important, I think, that somebody got out of the Burgue, that somebody ended up somewhere else. Because there’s all these places that are mentioned but not seen. And so as we’re drawing in on some stories, as we’re putting some characters behind the wall, it felt necessary to look outwards with other stories. With Imogen and Agreus, we’re definitely looking outwards, and just from a purely visual standpoint, they’re going to find themselves in some very different environments in season 2. And they’re going to end up in some places that we’ve heard of and are probably curious about.
On that note, can you talk more about how much more of this world we’re going to explore in season 2?
BEACHAM: We’re going to go to at least two more countries, and two more locations, in addition to the Burgue.
And then in terms of the different levels of society, are we going to explore more of the fae underworld, more of the political sphere?
BEACHAM: With the political sphere, I would say in season 1, the politics of what was going on in Balefire Hall were very sort of like a family drama, between the Breakspears and their son Jonah. I think in season 2, we lean a little bit more into what’s going on politically. And that’s not only to say what’s going on in the ghetto. But I think there’s going to be some sort of geopolitical tensions that are growing, that are sort of unrelated to what’s going on in the ghetto, but will dovetail into Imogen and Agreus’s story, and into what’s going on in Balefire Hall. And just in general in season 2, things get a bit more complex, and we start having a bit more fun with everything. And Marc, the faerie underworld?
GUGGENHEIM: Well, in season 1 we introduce the Black Raven. And actually, when we did additional photography, we really went in to try to make them a substantial group. And they play a very large role in season 2 because when you — well, I was about to spoil something. But, because of the change of circumstances for the fae at the end of season 1, and if you look at history, the treatment of the fae leads to a rise in the power and activities of any criminal organization. And that’s obviously what the Black Raven are. So they loom very largely. And don’t forget that Vignette joined the Black Raven in season 1. So without spoiling too much, it’s very safe to say the Black Raven story line is very much Vignette’s story line.
Will we find out more about that extremist group of fauns that attacks the Breakspears in season 1?
BEACHAM: We find out about a variety of extremists. There’s going to be a variety of different reactions, and some of them quite radical, to what’s going on. And some friends of mine, I know when they saw the first season, said, “This Black Raven thing, it seems to wrap up a bit early.” And I said, “No, no, no, that’s not wrapping up. This is a long game that we’re playing.” So the next season, there are definitely story lines that we tie up at the end of the season, and then there’s other story lines that are kind of on a longer arc.
GUGGENHEIM: Yeah. One of the things that we love to do, because it’s something we love in the shows that we enjoy watching, is planting seeds that pay off in subsequent seasons. And actually, we’re doing that in season 2. There’s things that are being put into season 2 that won’t pay off until season 4. If we’re that fortunate, to get to a season 4. We like to plan for success. At the risk of jinxing us.
Season 1 of Carnival Row is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.