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Thursday, January 13, 2005
Carnies + Twin Peaks = fantastic
...or least this was the case until the second season of Carnivale debuted on Sunday night. The first go round of this HBO drama was like Twin Peaks reborn in the Dustbowl. Much like David Lynch's late-great cult series, Carnivale is filled with weird imagery, weirder characters and a confusing cold war between the forces of good and evil. Many viewers praised the eerie plotlines and grim humor of season one while others were turned off by... the eerie plotlines and grim humor.
Making the show more of an acquired taste was the glacial pacing. Unlike Deadwood, which debuted around the same time in fall of 2003, the plot only inched forward as back stories and relationships were established. Aside from internal strife between the traveling band of troubadours and occasional supernatural shenanigans, nothing ever seemed to happen during the carnival's travels.
With all of that pesky character development out of the way, Carnivale's second season began with a bang, likely in an effort to snag new viewers and silence its detractors. More happens in the moments of the debut than the entirety of last season. The identity of the mysterious "manager" and the connection between Ben Hawkins and Brother Justin are all quickly revealed. The episode includes a devastating arson, a resurrected snake charmer, the fallout from a lesbian love trilogy, the prophetic spirit of dead Russian solider and an a-bomb explosion, all in the first five minutes.
The allure of Carnivale's last season is that it forced everyone to read between the lines. Now with just about all of its mysteries revealed, what's left for the hour-long beyond more carnie soap opera sideplots and the inevitable apocalyptic finale between Justin and Hawkins? If it's cheesy dream sequences straight out of a NIN video, such as the argument between the denomic preacher and a follower, I may tune out altogether. Here's hoping the show slams on the brakes this weekend, returning to steady pace of last season's uber-creepy "Babylon" episodes.