There’s been such an incredible sense of dread since the show started about the whispered name of “Babylon”. It seems to be the Voldemort of the Carnivale universe (he who must not be named). Discovering why really shifts the notion of good and evil all over again. This episode’s particularly large twist was quite heavily foreshadowed (in retrospect) but it was small moments that make the episode worth watching all the way through.
I mentioned small moments that made the episode worth watching. It’s often difficult to distinguish whether an episode with a big reveal or twist is a good episode or a bad episode that uses a twist to knock you off your feet. There were episodes of Lost that felt like the longest 39 minutes ever before a 1 minute reveal that knocked your socks off. This episode works on a different dynamic. There’s no doubt the show has been building towards something in Babylon being very wrong and so the twist is hardly a left field thing. But what’s important in an episode (and indeed a show) like this one is that we care about the characters and we buy that the loss of Dora Mae is really affecting these people.
The episode does this perfectly by small moments like Rita Sue having to wash her daughter’s blood out of a basin. This works on a visceral and emotional level. The red of blood is such a wonderful cinematic tool and combined with the mundane task as cleaning it reasserts Rita Sue’s lack of traditional maternal instincts and reminds her of what could have been avoided.
The music of Carnivale plays such a vital part in this show and this episode is no different. There is a haunting quality and richness that is often absent from TV scores. In particular there is the moment where Samson sees the ghost of Dora Mae naked in the window of one of the mining shacks staring hauntedly outwards before an arm slips around her neck and drags her back into the house. The music doesn’t rise or take over the scene, instead it switches to an ‘old timey’ song and the incredibly disturbing nature of what we’ve just scene and the implications are allowed to simmer.
Goes to show… ghost stories can still be terrifying.
Previous Episode: Babylon
Next Episode: The River