Sunday, November 13, 2011

this is why freakshows went out of style

I've been soldiering through HBO's "Carnivale" on DVD this week. I got it from the public library, so at least I can say I didn't spend any money on it.

Wit fails me. Really. It's just that dull. Dust and dark and mystery and long poignant silences and cryptic utterances. There's some kind of good vs. evil thing, and some kind of inheritance thing, and a lot of sex and blood--this is HBO, after all. You'd think it would be more entertaining.

But no. It's tedious. And feels deliberately obfusticating. I'm up to episode 11 now. I should at least be able to tell where they're headed by now. What the themes are. Who the good/bad guys are. But no. There's a vague meandering fate vs. free will thing, and some vague commentary on the nature of faith, and some vaguely sinister characters who are supposed to create suspense by not knowing who to trust, but mostly it's just making me tired, because in 10 episodes nothing has really changed or been revealed.

So the plot's going nowhere, and the characters are uninteresting because there's no one to sympathize with, and the actors clearly have no better clue than the audience what's going on because they are all delivering repetitive one-note performances, episode after episode.

I read somewhere that the creator had enough material for one season and the producers made him stretch it to two. It sure feels that way. On top of that, the art direction and music are obviously the B-game of the same crew that did Deadwood, so there's no inspiration there.

I'm watching it because it was recommended to me and because it's the nearest thing I've seen in popular culture to what I've done with Trace. Superficially there are a lot of similar tropes; the old world vs. new world conflict, the holy man with powers he can't control, the young man running from his destiny, the mysterious patron manipulating from behind the curtain. Of course I've got about 10% as many characters and 10x as much plot.

At this point I'm just holding out to see if Brother Justin and his sister Iris actually consummate their creepy relationship. Though I must admit, it's amusing to watch The Kurgan in a priest's collar.

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