Carnival Row‘s first season ended in August 2019, so it’s understandable if you don’t remember everything that happened. Don’t worry if you don’t have time for a rewatch before the second and final season debuts at Prime Video on February 17, either. We have you covered with everything you need to remember about Carnival Row before the fantasy series returns for season two.
A Guide to the World of Carnival Row
If you need a refresher course on the races, history, and major locations of Carnival Row, make sure to read our season one primer. It covers the different types of Fae, politics of the Burgue and beyond, and the mistreatment of Critch (a slur for Fae) by different human regimes.
Importantly, Carnival Row season one’s flashback third episode showed detailed for us the recent history and ramifications of Fae interaction with humans in Carnival Row‘s world. The Fae had their own homelands, most notably Tirnanoc, but mankind eventually came to claim the Fae’s treasures. Humans also fought each other for those prizes. The Burgue and its Fae allies fought the Pact and their own Fae associates for Tirnanoc. Seven years prior to Carnival Row season one, the Pact forced the Burgue to retreat from Tirnanoc. But not before the Burgue learned the Pact used potions to transform their own soldiers into werewolves.
To escape the Pact, Fae accepted deals of safe passage in exchange for indentured servitude in the Burgue. But while Fae refugees are/were welcomed thanks to a supportive-but-razor thin majority in Parliament, they are second-class citizens in Carnival Row‘s main world. Their status in the city was far better decades earlier, when humans could more easily befriend the Fae. Many humans in the Burgue now hate the Fae and don’t want them allowed in at all.
Important Groups in the Burgue
When it comes to whose who in the Burgue, here’s what you need to remember from the first season of Carnival Row. The “Pix” Vignette joined the vigilante, underground pixie group known as the Black Raven. It’s run by Dahlia, a no-nonsense leader quick to violence, especially against potential leakers and double-crossers. The group steals, runs gambling rings, and does whatever it must to survive in a hostile world. Many of their fellow Fae fear them, and the Black Raven mistrust all humans, especially the police.
The Burgue is also home to a religious sect of Pucks (fauns) who worship the Hidden One. We saw them in action as they recruited Quill, a disillusioned Puck the Chancellor fired from his guard job in Carnival Row‘s first season. The group makes its presence known by marching through the Row whipping themselves in the Hidden One’s name. They also had Quill murder a human who abused one of them during a march. Quill also stabbed the Chancellor and was ultimately blamed for his death (even though the Chancellor survived the attack before his wife killed him).
Finally, Choppers are a group of anti-Fae humans known for their bald/shaved heads and big mutton chops. Some members of the Burgue’s police force, the Constabulary, are also Choppers.
Carnival Row Season One’s Investigation of the Darkasher
Season one’s main plot line featured Orlando Bloom’s Philo investigating a string of horrific murders. The Chancellor’s wife, Piety, had created a Darkasher using powerful magic. (A magic beyond even powerful Fae witches.) In the world of Carnival Row, a Darkasher consists of body parts from dead creatures. It obeys its creator (who sometimes can even see through its eyes) and lives as long as its creator does.
Piety, responding to a forged blackmail letter, had her Darkasher kill anyone who knew anything about the identity of her husband’s secret child with a Pixie singer. She could use their livers to read their memories. Piety did all this because she feared a prophecy that said the Chancellor’s son would go on to even greater success and fame than his. She wanted to eliminate his other child because she doesn’t know if their son Jonah is actually the Chancellor’s. She had an affair with his chief rival, and Jonah Breakspear might actually be a Longerbane. (Chancellor Breakspear didn’t believe in the prophecy at all, while it was Piety’s main reason for marrying him.)
The investigation is how Philo learned both of his parents’ identities on Carnival Row (his father had no idea Philo even existed). Yes, Absalom Breakspear is Philo’s father, making Philo the prophecied child, and Philo’s mother was a fae singer called Aisling. It was also how his police colleagues learned he was a half-blood, after he confessed his true identity and the nature of the case to his lover, Portia.
Philo and Vignette’s Past and Future
The mother of Rycroft Philostrate had his weak wings shorn as a baby so he could pass as human and have a better life. Until he told Portia the only other person he even revealed his secret to was a fae named Vignette. Vignette and Philo met and fell in love seven years prior to Carnival Row‘s first season. He was a Burgue soldier, and she a guardian of a very old and sacred Fae library.
They bonded over a story about a human traveler who fell in love with a Fae woman and had a half-blood child. Their relationship ended after months together when the Pact pushed the Burgue out of Tirnanoc.
She wanted them to run away together, but Philo feared he would get her killed. Vignette’s friend and former romantic partner Tourmaline had warned him about the danger of their relationship. So before he left he had Vignette told he was dead. She then spent seven years working as a courier who got Fae on ships to the Burgue. She only went when Tirnanoc got too dangerous. In the Burgue, she learned from Tourmaline, working at a brothel on the Row, Philo was alive.
Though Vignette initially wanted him dead for what he’d done before saying she to never see him again, the two kept running into one another. He even saved her life from a member of the Black Raven she was sent to kill. She then saved him from the Darkasher when she killed Piety, who had kidnapped Vignette to draw Phil out.
Before the season ended, the reunited couple was planning to leave the Burgue entirely for a new life. However, before they departed, new Chancellor Jonah Breakspear ordered all Fae confined to the Row. No Fae could enter or leave the city. Vignette was forced inside the Row, but not Philo since he still passed for human. He still elected to join her inside there, fully claiming his Fae blood and everything that comes with it.
The Powerful Union of Jonah Breakspear and Sophie Longerbane
Carnival Row‘s Jonah Breakspear and Sophie Longerbane might be half-siblings, which she knew before they started having an affair. After a life stuck in her powerful dad’s house, she didn’t care. She learned of Chancellor Breakspear’s affair with a Pix decades earlier and sent a fake blackmail letter from Philo’s mom to Pie. Sophie wanted to create chaos. That’s what she got, as Piety killed both of their fathers, elevating each child to their dead father’s lofty political position in Parliament.
Sophie sees a future with her and Jonah in complete control of the Burgue. To strengthen their position she even proposed a marriage. Jonah seemed ready to accept it after uniting with Sophie for a new anti-Fae coalition government against a “common enemy.” (Sophie doesn’t actually hate the Fae. Her anti-refugee stance is simply one of political expediency.) They used the “assassination” of his father by Quill the Puck as cover for their actions. Together they forced all Fae to The Row in season one’s final sequence. That included Fae born in the Burgue, not just refugees and indentured servants.
The Relationship of Imogen Spurnrose and the Puck Agreus
The relationship between human socialite Imogen Spurnrose and the wealthy Puck Agreus Astrayon developed from distaste to romance by season’s end. The pair ultimately fled the Burgue together, but Imogen’s brother Ezra is determined to track them down.
Other Carnival Row Characters to Remember
The former soldier and friend of Philo, remains a prisoner in the Burgue. A werewolf bit him in Tirnanoc, turning him into one of the Fae. If not for Philo who visited him constantly, the Burgue would have executed Darius long ago.
A member of the Choppers who despised Philo even before learning of the detective’s secret Fae heritage.
Berwick worked closely with Philo but was ultimately more loyal to the Constabulary. However, when Dombey planned on having Philo killed by staging a fake suicide, Berwick warned his old colleague.
The performer, and old dear friend of Philo’s pixie mother, returned to the Burgue after many years away. He was about to leave the city after the deportation of his kobold acting troupe. Instead, he stayed to work as one of Jonah Breakspear’s tutor. His refusal to back down to the childish Jonah led to Jonah hiring Millworthy as a trusted advisor after Jonah became Chancellor. He wanted an honest man who would tell him the truth.
The Thin Line Between the Living and the Dead
A Fae witch (a prophetess known as Haruspex) managed to linger in a state between alive and dead following her murder by the Darkasher. From that state, she communicated with Philo. The world of Carnival Row is a world of powerful magic with abilities that go far beyond the issue of the Fae and humans.
What will that mean for our many questions ahead of Carnival Row season two? Our long wait to find out will soon be over.
Editor’s Note: Carnival Row is a co-production of Amazon Studios and Legendary Television. Nerdist is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks.