This February will see the debut of the second and final season of Carnival Row on Prime Video. The series has had a long and rocky road to the small screen, from its origins as a highly sought-after screenplay to a number of behind the scenes creative changes. And as if that wasn’t enough, the COVID-19 pandemic kneecapped the second season’s production, leading to a major delay in between seasons. Honestly, it’s a miracle that Carnival Row still exists.
The Show Started Life As A Feature Film Screenplay
Carnival Row didn’t originally start out as a prestige show for a streaming service. In fact, it was actually meant to be a feature film. Series co-creator Travis Beacham initially conceived the world of Carnival Row in his spec screenplay A Killing on Carnival Row in 2005. The script, which centered on detective Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom) and his investigation of a series of grisly murders in a fantasy-inspired Victorian setting, immediately earned a place on the Black List. This was a major deal because the Black List is often heralded as the number one place to find movies to develop; films including Juno and Slumdog Millionaire have landed on the list and even gone on to win critical praise as well as awards.
And while Beacham’s original script does feature elements that would make it into the final version of Carnival Row, the end result is far different. For starters, Philo isn’t in a relationship with Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) but rather with her friend Tourmaline Larou (Karla Crome). Simultaneously, the elements featuring the culture clash between Fae and humanity were rather downplayed. And Beacham took the chance to put in more fantasy creatures, including werewolves and lizard men rather appropriately titled “Komodos.”
The Dawn of Guillermo del Toro
Eventually, Amazon would snap up A Killing on Carnival Row for development as a series. The streamer was backed by none other than Guillermo del Toro himself, who even had a history with Beacham. Del Toro had turned Beacham’s spec script Pacific Rim into a unique blockbuster experience, and the mixing of historical elements with fantasy was right up his alley. He was even slated to co-write and executive produce the series, as well as direct the first episode.
However, del Toro’s film schedule eventually got in the way, and he departed Carnival Row. It joined a long list of projects he was attached to that never got off the ground, but the series still marched forward with Beacham and Rene Echeverria acting as showrunners. Del Toro’s departure was only the start of the series’ creative shakeups.
A Revolving Door Of Creatives
Paul McGuigan (Sherlock, Victor Frankenstein) was tapped to helm the series in del Toro’s absence. However, he was soon replaced by Jon Amiel (The Tudors, Hemlock Grove)…who was then replaced by Thor Freudenthal. Freudenthal’s involvement was more than likely due to his connection with Marc Guggenheim, who boarded the series as an executive producer; Freudenthal had directed Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and episodes of Arrow, which Guggenheim writing for both projects. Amiel would eventually direct the last two episodes of the first season.
Despite the creative turmoil, the series eventually filmed its first season and made its debut in 2019. Production on Season 2 began in early 2020, but soon halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And as if that wasn’t an issue, Beacham eventually departed the series, with Erik Oleson boarding as showrunner in his place. Even with all the creative overhaul it encountered, Carnival Row‘s existence proves that even creative differences aren’t enough to kill a good idea.
Carnival Row Season 2 premieres on Prime Video on February 17.