Carnival Row Shows Us the Damage a Reveal Can Do

A main in Victorian getup stands next to a woman with fairy wings

One of the most common ways storytellers sabotage their stories is by working toward a clever reveal instead of giving their stories a solid foundation. Even when this problem is pointed out in a manuscript, it’s difficult to get writers to change it. They want their story to be flashy, and there’s nothing flashy about a story that just works.

Thankfully, Amazon has unintentionally given us a great example of this issue in the show Carnival Row. One tidbit viewers often repeat about Carnival Row is that the show starts rough but gets better. In particular, it picks up around the third episode. Why? Because episode three had an important reveal about the main character. This might make the reveal sound good, but it’s just the opposite. If the writers hadn’t chosen to use a reveal, the show would have started off much stronger.

Spoiler Notice: I will spoil the episode three reveal. However, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy episodes one through three more with it spoiled.

Philo Begins as a Bland Main Character

Orlando Bloom in a Bowler Hat and Victorian suit

The first episode of Carnival Row opens with excessive deaths, pointless sex scenes, shots that are too dark to see, and lots of swearing. This is a show that wants to be Game of Thrones, but only in ways that would’ve appealed to a 19-year-old Stephen King.* The gritty setting for this would-be Game of Thrones is other-world Victorian England. Called the Burge, this Not-England is filled with refugees from the fae lands: faeries, fauns, and centaurs, among others. These fae are terribly oppressed, mostly because everyone has agreed to ignore how valuable flying is in a low-tech society.

In this world of overwhelming oppression, only one protagonist is positioned to make a difference: Rycroft Philostrate (Philo). Played by Orlando Bloom, he’s a human police inspector and the one cop in the city who wants to investigate the murders of the city’s fae. But while he does have Orlando Bloom going for him, Philo isn’t quite up to the task of being the most central character.

For one thing, as a privileged character in a story about oppression, he comes off as a white savior. Watching the victimized fae talk about how he’s “one of the good ones” makes it feel like other characters are suffering just so he can play the hero and save them. And since the story is clearly an analogy for real-world issues, it’s hard not to notice that when it comes to real-world oppression, Philo has every privilege box checked.

What’s more, because he’s a human helping the fae, everyone around him has more compelling problems than he does. He’s not indentured to people who want to abuse him or running from a serial killer the police refuse to hunt down. Because of this, he can’t attract the same level of sympathy from viewers, and his scenes rarely have the urgency they should. This is almost certainly why the show opens with the character Vignette instead: her life and well-being are actually at risk. In turn, this creates a bait-and-switch where Vignette seems like a central character and then turns into a mere love interest.

Philo also doesn’t like talking about himself or his feelings, which only makes him feel more stiff and boring. He has a lover who wants to be closer to him, but when she tries to get to know him better, he shuts down and gives her excuses like “later, maybe.” It looks like he’s stringing her along rather than making it clear what he does and doesn’t want from their relationship. Instead of building attachment to the main character, this only makes him less likable.

Altogether, Philo’s not terrible, but he doesn’t have the emotional pull the story needs him to have. He’s the only thing holding the fractured plot of the show together, and many of the other characters are downright despicable. While Vignette seems sympathetic in the beginning, she quickly comes down with a case of feisty woman syndrome – in which writers make a love interest “not like other girls” by making her hyper-aggressive.

The writers try to use the romance between Philo and Vignette to give Philo emotional depth. In several scenes, he talks about his past with other characters, and we’re meant to assume he’s thinking about her. But we’ve barely seen them on screen together, so this isn’t effective. Honesty, the only thing that matches Carnival Row’s determination to include lots of romance arcs is how bad the show is at romance arcs. Maybe that’s what happens when you put in romance just to include sex scenes.

A Reveal Changes That

Philo and Vignette site next to each other outside

Then, in episode three, we learn the truth about Philo: he’s a closeted half-faerie. He was born with wings, but they were surgically removed when he was a baby so that he could pass as human. Not only can he still feel his phantom wings, but he experiences the urge to fly. This touching context dramatically changes how Philo is perceived.

In the show’s universe, he’s no longer a privileged character with no stake in the big conflict of the series. He has privileges that come with pretending to be fully human, but secrecy has its own consequences. Both his life in the closet and the way he’s been non-consensually altered to fit in with society are their own powerful analogies for real-world oppression.*

To be clear, this doesn’t fix the fact that Philo has no real-world marginalized traits. As much as I like Philo, there’s no getting around the hypocrisy of a show that says it’s about social justice while constantly pandering to the most privileged minority group: straight white men. Still, putting Philo on the marginalized side of the show’s fantasy analogy is a distinct improvement.

And as a closeted fae, Philo is not only an emotionally compelling character but an interesting one. When he argues with his boss about investigating crimes against fae, we know that he’s secretly struggling for his own dignity in an unjust system. When he seems standoffish with his lover, we know that he’s actually interested in a romance, but he’s afraid to come out to her. Now their scenes show a man who’s caught in an emotional dilemma rather than one who’s being selfish.

Even Philo’s romance with Vignette is a little more engaging, because now we know what it means for him to be in a romance with a faerie. He’s spent his entire life pretending to be human, cut off from his heritage, and unable to start a family because he won’t confide in his partner. Being with a faerie gives him the opportunity to accept and learn about himself, but at the risk of losing the privileges he gets from being in the closet.

As a deeper and more sympathetic character, Philo is now capable of being the linchpin of Carnival Row.

Carnival Row Could Have Started This Way

Philo sits on the best next to his lover, Portia

The first three episodes fumble in the dark for a means of making the show emotionally compelling when they could have just sold viewers on the hero’s story. Given that, it’s worth taking a closer look at how those episodes would have been different if viewers had been treated to essential information from the beginning.

Most of Philo’s scenes in the first two episodes are interpersonal ones. He stops a couple cops from bullying a fae, interviews a fae who was attacked, and has antagonistic encounters with a bigoted sergeant who could be a murderer. If he fails these interpersonal encounters, a serial killer will hurt another fae, but Philo will still be around to catch the murderer. There are also several scenes with his lover. The only stakes for those ones are whether their relationship will work out, and since the relationship comes off as an excuse for breast shots, that doesn’t mean much. However, with knowledge that Philo is in the closet, all of these scenes have another source of tension: whether Philo’s secret will be discovered.

There’s already hints of this if you know the reveal – the sergeant asks Philo why he cares so much about the fae, and Philo’s lover tries to get him to tell her exactly how he got his wing scars. However, these lines were merely foreshadowing. With an audience in the know, the writers could have turned this tension up another notch or two. They could also have used it to give Philo more interesting conflicts. In the second episode, he wants an autopsy on a fae, but his boss doesn’t think it’s important. Should he press his case more, risking that his boss might starting wondering about him? Watching him risk outing himself to protect the fae would make him feel even more selfless.

Whereas Philo’s interactions with humans could have had higher tension, his interactions with the fae could have been more powerful. Let’s take the scene where he questions a fae about her attacker, and she doesn’t trust him because she thinks he’s a human cop. Instead of being fed tiresome assurances that he’s a good human, we could watch Philo overcome the hurt he feels at being seen as an outsider and then struggle with his desire to tell her the truth.

This yearning to connect especially matters to episode three, which covers his backstory with Vignette in her homeland. During an inspection of a faerie religious compound, he discovers a secret library and pokes a bit at the books. Without knowledge of who he is, this comes off as nosy and intrusive. With that knowledge, the writers could have played up the hunger he has to understand his heritage. When Vignette catches him in the library and he swears to keep it secret, it would feel more authentic. Then instead of having a romance where he tolerates a hostile faerie spying on him and asks her on a mission because she’s there, we could see more eagerness to befriend her and learn about faeries. If he were a regular human soldier that could feel inappropriate, but knowing he identifies with the faeries changes that. On his end, the love story would be more believable and compelling.

Of course, none of this explains why Vignette suddenly goes from aggressive to in love, but one change can’t fix everything.

The End Does Not Justify the Beginning

The first season of Carnival Row has only eight episodes, and this reveal is delivered around the end of episode three. That means viewers spend the first third of the season without the information they needed to sympathize with the lead character. There’s no getting around this. Storytellers can declare how their main character is haunted by their secret past as much they want, but the audience won’t feel it with that character until they know exactly why. And the curiosity invoked by withholding information isn’t as engaging as the sympathy that’s missing.

I’m not saying that treasured “click together” moment of a big reveal isn’t fun. But stories are an experience, and every stage in that experience matters. Having an explanation down the line doesn’t erase the harm of leaving your audience to feel confused or bored until they get answers. And of course, if an audience doesn’t like the beginning, they may never get to the fun part.

Nonetheless, this bad trade-off is all over our popular stories. Storytellers are happy to shoot themselves in the foot as long as they think it’s clever.

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  1. LeeEsq

    I’m rather annoyed with the humans being oppressive/racist towards x fantasy creature to show real world white racism towards x non-white group. It’s overdone, not subtle, and never comes outright. For one thing it allows film makers to cast white actors rather than real actual non-whites in a story about the evils of racism. Adding magic to an anti-racism story seems to really trivialize what happens in real life.

    While I’m at it, and this is kind of related, the entire Vietnam became the 51st state because Dr. Manhattan thing in the Watchman universe, whether it be the original graphic novel, the movie, or the new TV series has never been adequately dealt with by any version of their Watchman. While we don’t have census information from the Watchman universe, if Vietnam became a state than Asian-Americans are suddenly the largest minority group and Buddhists the second largest religious group in the United States. The state of Vietnam would have the largest House delegation and they would all be Asian. The cultural, social, and political changes of Asian-Americans now being the largest minority group in the United States would be humungous. Watchman TV ostensibly takes place in 2019, so using real world demographics you get a population of over 100 million Asian-Americans if Vietnam becomes the 51st state.

    Yet, every iteration of the Watchman ignores this because they all have their story they want to tell and they ignore this. Since Watchman TV is about America’s racial history, this seems to be a particularly bad offense. Radical changing American demographics by having Vietnam as a state is going to change the existing politics regarding racism towards African-Americans immensely. It may change them in ways that help or harm African-Americans but the debates regarding the legacy of slavery are going to be really different if Asian-Americans become the biggest minority group overnight.

    • SunlessNick

      For one thing it allows film makers to cast white actors rather than real actual non-whites in a story about the evils of racism.

      I don’t know if Carnival Row does this, but Hollywood also loves casting black people as the racists in a fantastic racism plot.

      • Kieran

        Damn. Well now you’ve just inspired me to subvert this trope with a fantastic racism plot where the Black character is not only NOT racist, but she’s one of the few people who actually ‘gets’ it and actively supports the fantasy creature.

        Or maybe that would be just as bad.

    • Jason Duncan

      Also, regardless of sapience, fantasy “creatures” aren’t human. It is a pale shadow of racism to treat things that literally aren’t human as though they aren’t human. Dehumanizing others is a core aspect of real racism, and that is impossible if they are not human.

  2. Cay Reet

    It’s always a difficult thing to do, if you decide to withhold important information from the reader until a certain point in the story. In some, it’s necessary, such as in crime/mystery stories. There, information will come out bit by bit as the investigator investigates.

    In this case, either stronger foreshadowing (which makes you go ‘hold on, could he be not fully human…?’) or an earlier reveal (end of first or beginning of second episode) would have been much better. With a full 22 episode TV season, third episode might have been okay, because it was still early, but with only 8 episodes, third is rather late.

    Also, can we please stop it with the idea that regular humans could oppress anything or anyone with powers far greater than theirs? The other way around, the fae invading the human realm and oppressing the humans, that I could realistically (as far as any fantasy setting is realistic) see. The fae coming into the human realm around now or in the near future and not really catching on to technology, that I could see, too (albeit no oppression). But outright oppression of a magical race or several, that’s just so unrealistic.

    • Rose Embolism

      Granted I only watched two episodes of the series, but honestly, I saw nothing on the part of the fae people that would allow them to dominate humans. Some could do slow flight, others are strong. Nothing seemed to give them resistance to bullets. Looking at the synopsis, the only “indestructable monster” seems to be neither mass-producable or unstoppable.

      A good comparison would be with the Bouletcorp “War of the Worlds” comic which gives a horrifying idea of what would happen if faery met the modern world.

      And in general, I would say that no, simply having powers isn’t an “I win” card; the scale of the powers is going to matter much more than numbers. I mean take the orginal X-Men: enhanced physical prowness, moderate telekinesis, wings, ice creation, and fire vision. Nothing in there would keep them alive in the face of a properly prepared sniper team.

      “But what about Professor X and Magneto?” I hear you say. Which proves my point; the scale of power, not numbers is most important. A single Saiyan would dominate the world. A city’s worth of Orkins? Not so much.

      Fundamentally, a big part of the problem is that writers tend to treat magic as superpowers; easy to use, powerful, with little to no drawbacks. Personally, I blame Dungeons and Dragons.

      • Cay Reet

        The question still remains ‘what do humans gain from oppressing the fae?’ Slaves? Probably not. They would gain more from including the fae into society. Slow flight is still more useful than no flight. A centaur can work a coach more efficiently than a regular horse, because the centaur doesn’t need a coachman to lead them. A faun might make a much better shepherd than a human. There’s quite some useful things which the fae could do for the humans – making them an asset, not something to lock away and never talk about.
        That’s my problem with ‘let’s oppress people who can do something useful which we can’t.’ It’s not just about the different power levels – although in many of the cases where mages or others with special power are oppressed that’s a main problem – it’s also about not making use of something useful. Humans are too good at seeing the use in something new. There’s no way no single human looked at the fae in this setting and thought ‘wait, they can fly, why not ask them to do jobs which require a human to climb a ladder?’ (Such as cleaning windows, lighting street lamps, or making repairs on roofs.) There’s no way no delivery company (those did already exist in the Victorian era) looked at centaurs and thought ‘wait, I’d save the money for a coachman, if I hired one of those to pull the cart.’

        • Bubbles

          Wait, if they didn’t like the fae already, why wouldn’t the humans make the fae slaves if they could? I mean, the issue is, why does the prevalence of slavery in history not falsify the idea that those with useful skills can *never* be oppressed by those who don’t have them, even if the latter are capable of overcoming the former in combat?

          • Cay Reet

            If they could, they would perhaps make the fae slaves. They don’t do that, though, do they? They just treat them as something sub-human. That works with real-life groups, because they don’t offer skills which other humans don’t have. You can enslave someone who has the same basic skill sets you do and make them work. As soon as you have skill sets which humans don’t have, it gets difficult, because the slave is no longer that easy to replace. Every human slave who is of a certain health can be made to work, for instance, on a plantation. On the other hand, only a small group of humans is extremely good at writing music and there’s never been an enslavement of composers as a group.

            The number of fae with wings is much smaller than the number of all fae. The number of centaurs is much smaller than the number of all fae. And fae as a such are not around in an abundance, neither can they just be ‘imported’ from somewhere else (unlike the regular groups of humans who were enslaved in the past). They probably (can’t say that for sure) have a longer time until the reproduce and they may reproduce much less often than humans, meaning new slaves are not as easily available. You can’t simply take away what gives them their extra skills, because that makes them unusable. You can’t injure a centaur’s leg so they can’t run away and still expect them to perfectly manoeuvre carts around. You can’t cut off a fairy’s wings and expect for them to still clean the windows on the first or second floor without a ladder.

            Paying them for their work is much more manageable and much more sustainable than enslaving them. Until they unionize, you can pay and treat them badly, but that is not enslavement, because they’re still free to leave your company and work for someone else.

            As about oppressing people who have skills which are uncommon – how many groups can you name who have been oppressed for having uncommon skills? Groups defined by those skills, not just a person of ethnicity X who happens to be a great musician or a great athlete, but a case where musicians, athletes, or someone similar have been oppressed?

          • Dinwar

            “As about oppressing people who have skills which are uncommon…”

            Off the top of my head: Sailors in wartime. The “press gang” was, despite officials stating otherwise, a way to enslave sailors during war. They were kidnapped off ships and out of ports, put on ships, and forced to fight and die. There’s also the officers vs. foremast jacks–for a long time you had to “pass as a gentleman”, meaning you had to be upper-class, to be an officer, regardless of ability.

            Merchants and bankers were also oppressed throughout history and across cultures. Social norms were very much against them, and bankers in particular had to face tremendous opposition from the government, including the risk of being murdered by some official looking to avoid paying their debt. This often happens when the warrior class realizes that bankers have skills that are useful to society, while being able to kill a lion with a bone spear isn’t. This gets a bit complicated in Europe, because Jews were often bankers, but it also crops up in the Middle East, in Africa, and in the Americas.

            Rome basically looked down on ANYONE skilled in a trade. REAL men bought and sold such people, after all; they didn’t get their hands dirty doing the work, heavens no!

            The reality is that, among humans, social order is demonstrably more important for almost every society than practical ability. And if you have a society where humans consider themselves the upper crust, and which has social norms encouraging mistreatment of lower classes, “Carnival Row” is a natural consequence. We forget this, but the ideals of equality and practicality that the United States has are WEIRD for humans. Throughout most of history, and in most cultures, class/caste was a much more important consideration.

          • Cay Reet

            I wish people would stop claiming that most Jews were bankers in the middle ages, because they weren’t. Most Jews were doing the same stuff as their Christian neighbours, minus observing certain holidays and minus eating certain foods. Those Jew who were seriously oppressed were not the bankers, but the regular ones, because it was much easier to claim those had committed a crime and killing them for it. Lawyers were already a thing in some parts of Europe in the middle ages and bankers were rich. Traders could just leave a place where they were treated badly and settle somewhere else – they were basically the only people in the middle ages who were used to moving more than about 10 km from their place of birth. With the laws of most medieval cities making you a citizen after you’d lived there for a certain time, obtaining citizenship and thus protection somewhere else was a lot easier than it sometimes is today.

            Everyone is pressed into service during war (to some degree even women who are forced to take up the work of the men back home). Sailors being shanghaied, as it was called, only works because they find themselves on a ship and thus completely at the officers’ mercy. That might border on slavery (although I doubt they were ‘sold’ between ships and I’m pretty sure they were still paid, if badly), but is not oppression.

            The Romans were a people which would not have survived without the ‘lure’ of citizenship through soldiering. Because everyone who served in the Roman armies for a certain amount of time could obtain citizenship and through that wealth. So, yes, a lot of Roman citizens started out as soldiers, but they became traders and craftsmen afterwards. Slaves were more expensive when they had skills, too, so the skills were worth something. Roman slaves, too, had a chance of being freed by their masters, which would help them obtain a citizenship, so we’re not necessarily talking about endless servitude over endless generations here. The Romans needed the influx of other people to actually keep the society alive.

            Social order tends to push people on top whose skills are useful or revered at a certain time. At war time, the soldier is on top. In peace, the craftsman or merchant is much more important. In a society like ours, entertainment takes a top spot, because we neither have to worry that much about war nor about the trades.

          • Dinwar

            “I wish people would stop claiming that most Jews were bankers in the middle ages, because they weren’t.”

            I get that. I was merely stating that the issues became complicated as religious differences were involved, at least as perceived by the population. The Templars are another example of bankers being prosecuted.

            “Traders could just leave a place where they were treated badly and settle somewhere else…”

            That’s simply not true. While this happened on occasion, there were STRONG legal and social pressures preventing this.

            Also, I find the argument “If you don’t like it you can just leave, therefore you’re not oppressed” to be disingenuous. By that logic, Jim Crow wasn’t oppression. I mean, folks could just leave the South, right? The Nazis actually asked other nations to take Jews before the instituted the ghettos and concentration camps; by your logic they weren’t oppressing those folks, since they had a chance to leave. See the flaw?

            “Everyone is pressed into service during war.”

            Irrelevant. You asked for a group that was oppressed due to its skills. “Enslaved, shipped to foreign lands, shot at, likely killed, without consent” qualifies firmly in the “oppressed” category.

            “The Romans were a people which would not have survived without the ‘lure’ of citizenship through soldiering.”

            That’s an odd view of Rome. They survived for 500+ years without the “lure of citizenship through soldiering”. And you don’t address my point. Further, Roman soldiers became skilled craftsmen DURING their service most of the time. The Roman army was very different from today’s; the entire thing was a Corpse of Engineers, for example. I have seen no evidence that former soldiers became craftsmen of any kind after their term of service; most tried to be farm owners, as I understand it. A plot of land was a common way to convince people to sign up. Note that I said “farm owner” not “farmer”. They were called farmers, but when you read about what they do they were administrators directing skilled workers, not doing the work themselves.

            And again, you’re saying “Oppression isn’t oppression if you have a way out”. Look into Roman legal procedures before you make that argument. To give one example: Torture wasn’t merely encouraged, it was LEGALLY REQUIRED for a slave giving evidence.

            “Social order tends to push people on top whose skills are useful or revered at a certain time.”

            No. It doesn’t. Quite frequently it puts incompetent people in positions of extreme power because they have the right connections. The examples from history are too numerous to count. Meritocratic social ordering is the exception, not the rule.

          • Cay Reet

            I give you that the Templars, an order of warrior monks, were destroyed because they were bankers – more precisely because the French king had a lot of debts with them. That only worked, however, because he had the Pope under control, otherwise he would never have had that reach. Plus, it didn’t work everywhere: In Germany, the Tempars merged with a local order and escaped persecution. Portugal ignored the order, because the ruler there was part of the order. Scotland ignored the order, because ruler Robert Bruce was excommunicated and not forced to obey the Pope himself (plus he needed warriors…). Which meant quite some English Templars fled to Scotland when the persecution began.

            Jewish bankers were mostly prosecuted for being Jews, not for being bankers. Therefore, they were not oppressed for being bankers, they were oppressed for being Jews (meaning because of ethnicity/religion).

            Traders often lived in the free cities in Europe, where the local ruler had little control and thus little chance of taking money or other possessions off the locals. And, yes, if anyone was able to move away from a place where they were treated badly, it was traders, because they actually had options (such as relatives or good friends in other places). And, no, it wasn’t a solution for everyone, but it was a solution in some cases. I’m also not aware of many traders being oppressed, at least in Europe. If you could give me a few other places where traders were oppressed for being traders (not for ethnicity or religion), I’d love to learn more.

            I’d be careful about saying ‘the Nazis didn’t oppress the Jews, because they had options.’ As soon as they were regulating where Jews could live (ghettos) and even locking them up (concentration camps), there was no more option available. There’s a difference between saying ‘some people who are oppressed have options’ and ‘whoever once had an option can never be oppressed.’ Oppression is a severe cut into the personal freedom of a person and quite some people have options while others do not (often for being part of another group, such as the poor – most wealthy Jews in Germany emigrated before the borders were closed in 1939 and I’m sure wealthy black people left the South during the Jim Crowe era). It didn’t start out as oppression and it went beyond that. I said the traders had options, because the very group they belonged to had options others didn’t have (by having connections further away, beyond the area where oppression happened). I never said ‘everyone who is oppressed has the option to move away.’

            Shanghaied sailors fall more into the ‘slavery’ category than into ‘oppression,’ simply because it’s not all sailors, but those who were kidnapped and pressed into service. If sailors had been oppressed, every single sailor would have been oppressed. Also, sailors are in a very weak position, because once they’re on a ship, they’re out of options.

            Rome was a city state. It thrived through constant war, but once an area had been obtained, it was not held through force and oppression. It was held by showing the local populace the advantages of life in Rome, such as available technology (bath houses etc.) and the wares which would come in from faraway places (because the Romans traded fully within the empire). People who had a citizenship would profit from all those things Rome offered, but to obtain citizenship, one had either to marry a Roman man (the entryway for women) or one had to serve in the military (the entryway for men). Otherwise, the Roman army wouldn’t have been big enough to conquer anything after a relatively short time. They relied on Syrians, Germans, Gauls, Britons, and all the other ‘conquered’ people to fill up the lines of their army. And, yes, the Roman army was a place where people could specialize. This option still exists in various armies today.

            Revered in society and ruling the country also is not the same. We revere the entertainers and the athletes, but in most cases (the current American president is an exception) they do not rule the country. A high standing in society doesn’t mean ruling a country, it means getting most the most privileges. In a warrior society, warriors have most privileges. In a science-based society, scientists have most privileges. In a society based around entertainment (as ours), entertainers of any kind have most privileges. Generally speaking, those with most privileges also have the biggest chance to get most of the money – but money itself always leads to privileges.

  3. GeniusLemur

    The webcomic A Miracle of Science had the same problem early on: our main character is a white male cop who’s emotionally repressed and all about the job and has no social life and wears a trench coat and carries a huge gun, etc. etc. etc. Boy, never seen THAT one before!
    And then, when the reveal comes (spoilers: in MoS, the protagonist has to keep himself carefully under control because he’s a recovering mad scientist (no, really)), it doesn’t work: you already gave me the 80’s cop cliche for however many chapters it’s been, I’ve either quit or accepted that we’ve got a protagonist who’s like that because that’s the way hacks write cops, and it’s too late to say “but this time it’s because of this.”

  4. dunsany

    So I’d never heard of this show.. but after reading your first paragraph of show description, I immediately guessed that Philo was going to be outed as fae. So my problem with this reveal: totally predictable and weak.

  5. Yora

    This reminds me of Sanderson’s cautionary tale how he had an idea to write a book that is deliberately generic and cliched but then has the amazing twist that it really is a complete subversion of that. People who liked the beginning won’t enjoy the twist, people who would have liked the twist would not have kept reading past the beginning.
    It sounds clever at first, but won’t appeal to any audience.

  6. Carolina

    I’ve watch the first episode and abandoned the show. Maybe if I had this information I could like more the show and watched the all season.

  7. Rose Embolism

    Personally I’d say the problem isnt so much the reveal, as that Carnival Row is overall badly written. Character reveals have worked very well in, for example, Raising Dion and Russian Doll. The problem was Carnival Row had incredibly cliche and obvious plotting, and didnt give us a compeling reason to care about Scruffyface McWhiteguy, or any of the other characters.

    I mean this is just general writing advice. Get the audience invested in the story from the beginning.

    • Michael

      I second that. Vignette, as Chris said, is a better candidate as the main character (or perhaps another of the Fae).

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