Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Carnivale S1 Ep2: After The Ball Is Over

"Mighty endeavors are inspiring. 
... In desperate times, the good Lord looks over the flock and chooses one man to inspire the multitudes, one man to accomplish the impossible, one man to offer hope where there was only hopelessness.
And who are we to judge the wisdom of the almighty?
He chooses his servants to fit his plan. And when he chooses his servant from among the flock and gifts them with talents, it is a grave sin to bury them in the earth.

Diving deeper into the mesmerizing world of Carnivale (2003-2005) proved to be a truly hypnotic experience. The use of the score's music to images that are stained in antigue, sepia-toned and rustic browns truly emphasized the mysterious surrounding the world of Carnivale.

Meanwhile, the use of audio effects, sound bites and other aural candy merely serves to explore the ghosts and desolation of a by gone world and era that once was. Carnivale is truly an audio and visual experience that is unafraid to take scenes and explore characters slowly within them slowing things down and inviting the viewer inside to join this uncanny world that is the dazzling universe of the carnival.

Scenes that lure us in to explore production design, costumes, character and other emotional subtleties are punctuated by sometimes startling and disturbing moments that explode on screen. I am absolutely overcome by the beautiful world fearlessly explored for Carnivale.

As Ben Hawkins explores each new Carnie trailer he touches upon intangible ghosts of the past and brushes against the mysteries of this mythology. It's as if he opens a box filled with stories, and lifetimes of experiences, like the wrinkles on an elder's face.  We are riveted by each new discovery and equally drawn to its magic.

Carnivale, Season One, Episode 2, After The Ball Is Over, co-written by Ronald D. Moore who was also busy creating the Battlestar Galactica (2003) mini-series for SyFy, overflows with a kind of retro nostalgic magic allure and a mix of big themes combines with intimate character studies. The retro vibe is enhanced with a recurring role by none other than the late Ralph Waite of The Waltons (1972-1981).

Take the opening credits to the series which cuts between archival depression era footage and the images of tarot cards. It seamlessly weaves the past into Carnivale's fantastical presentation. The series is complemented in each exquisitely shot frame by Emmy award-winning cinematography. Carnivale was hardly heralded as the next big thing but it spares no expense on putting every ounce of its intended vision and revision of the past into each gloriously and spectacularly framed image.

The second episode ends on a slightly disturbing even twisted note concerning Brother Justin, or rather ends as the folks refer to things, culturally speaking, on a queer note. Carnivale is a truly staggering effort on the same production scale as Deadwood (2004-2006). Each and every performance is perfect beginning with Nick Stahl, Michael J. Anderson, Adrienne Barbeau and the incredibly talented but always underrated Clea Duvall (Virtuality). And the list goes on.

Yet, as much as I love this series, I could see it lacking the required appeal to the masses for sustainability and that's indeed unfortunate and a true reflection of our culture today, our patience and what entertains us. The carnival is over now. The atmosphere of the carnival once brought people together and, while the carnival still exists today, it has changed dramatically and support for it has diminished. That same apathy seemed to plague Carnivale upon arrival.

After The Ball Is Over represents thoughtful, beautiful television excellence. For further enlightenment, I urge the more discerning viewers to seek out this series. Like any carnival this is one worth celebrating.

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