Prime Video’s fantasy series Carnival Row introduces us to a brand new, original world to play in. Untethered to an adapted work or rebooted original, the ambitious series has a lot of world-building ground to cover. To help you explore this strange new world, we’ve assembled this quick primer of some of the major groups and locations you can expect to see in Carnival Row seasons one and two.
The Fae of Carnival Row
In the world of Carnival Row, the Fae are races of beings whose history extends well prior to that of humanity. Their homelands, such as Tirnanoc, were long considered a place of myth and legend. While the Fae races mostly kept to their ancient traditions, human technology grew. Eventually, the humans began to invade and plunder the Fae lands for resources. This ultimately led to a war between human nations. The Fae we encounter on Carnival Row are refugees from that war, living in the human city known as The Burgue, mostly laboring as indentured servants, paying off debts to humans who sponsored their voyages there.
Carnival Row‘s Fae Races
The first season of Carnival Row primarily focuses on two races of the Fae: the “Pix,” full-sized pixies who would pass for humans if it weren’t for their fluttery wings, and the “Pucks,” satyr-like beings with horns and hooves. It’s unclear if either term originates from their own culture or are human slang terms they’ve had to begrudgingly adopt. But the term “Critch” is a collective slur term for all Fae in Carnival Row‘s universe.
We do get glimpses of at least three other Fae races on the show. We meet Carnival Row‘s “Trows,” likely another slang term meaning troll, Kobolds, small, almost gremlin-like spritely creatures, and Centaurs who are, well, centaurs, varying from their more classic look with fur over the more humanoid parts of their body.
The Burgue: Carnival Row‘s Primary Location
The primary setting for Carnival Row is called The Burgue. The Burgue is a sprawling city that resembles Victorian-era London and serves as the capital for a larger nation known as the Republic of the Burgue. This republic is led by a parliamentary-style government that meets in a shouty chamber full of Proctors, with clashes between its Chancellor, Absalom Breakspear (Jared Harris), and the leader of the opposition minority party, Ritter Longerbane (Ronan Vibert). Like London, the city has stark class divides, with living conditions ranging from aristocratic splendor to polluted squalor. The Burgue’s religion vaguely resembles Christianity, with iconography focused on a figure referred to as “The Martyr.”
The Burgue allows Carnival Row‘s Fae are to reside in the town, but heavily polices them and treats them as second-class citizens. Businesses won’t allow Fae to enter unaccompanied. Pix are prohibited from flying. Many working off debts must wear corsets designed to lock their wings down. Their magic is frowned upon and considered sinful by those who worship the Martyr. At the end of season one, all the fae in the Burgue were confined to The Row, setting the stage for conflict to come.
Tensions are high. The fragile peace between the humans and Fae of the city is on the verge of collapsing. An overworked Constabulary is barely keeping order in Carnival Row‘s world.
The policing organization of the Burgue has the name of Constabulary. The precinct tasked with patrolling the area nearest the Fae-inhabited Carnival Row is Constabulary No. 6. Most officers of the constabulary don’t tend to have much concern for the well-being of the Fae unless they can make a quick dollar off of them in the form of bribes, with the exception of Inspector Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom). Murdered Fae aren’t even given the courtesy of an autopsy. The Constabulary won’t risk squandering resources that could be focused on human victims. The Constabulary, however, become very aware of the Fae whenever they commit a crime, of course.
Carnival Row is where most of the Fae residents of the Burgue live. Originally a place of wonder and fascination, ‘The Row’ is now equal parts immigrant quarter and red-light district. Fae merchants hope to avoid bribe shakedowns from the uniformed constables. Street performers try to make some quick coin. Fae sex workers with brightly dyed hair catcall potential customers from the balconies of the Tetterby Hotel, a popular yet scandalous haunt for humans with money to burn seeking winged companions for the evening. The Fae residents of Carnival Row expect the constabulary to turn a blind eye to violence committed against them. Some, like the Black Raven’s underground criminal network, have taken up their own forms of justice.
Other Places in Carnival Row‘s World
Tirnanoc is one of the ancestral homelands of the Fae, long considered a place of myth and legend to the nations of man, and the original home of Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevigne). Seven years prior to the start of Carnival Row, The Burgue withdrew from the Great War. Tirnanoc fell under the harsh control of their rivals, The Pact. Bullets and barbed wire traps fill the air of the once-idyllic land. The Pact violently slaughter the Fae, forcing them to flee to the Burgue.
We don’t know much about the Pact, the chief rivals of the Burgue on Carnival Row, and the apparent victors of the Great War for Fae lands like Tirnanoc. Their soldiers’ uniforms resemble the Russian military uniforms of the same period. A nod to the Crimean War as an inspiration for the Great War over the lands of the Fae, perhaps. The Pact have far less regard for the lives of the Fae than even the Burgue. Or at least the Fae that fought against them in the war. Their tactics are far more brutal as well. The Pact shooting faeries on sight. They line the trees with barbed wire traps to tear them apart if they attempt to fly. They even utilize werewolf-like savage beasts in battle.
We’ve only just scratched the surface of this new world, and who knows how different Carnival Row will look as we enter season two. In a world of faeries, anything could happen. Carnival Row and its world return for more episodes on February 17.
Originally published on August 27, 2019.
Editor’s Note: Carnival Row is a co-production of Amazon Studios and Legendary Television. Nerdist is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks.