'Carnivale' Remains A Maddening Mystery
by Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (January
HBO's "Carnivale" (9 p.m. Sunday)
is one weird show. In its first season, I initially
found its complex plots intriguing, but as the
season wore on, the show became convoluted,
confusing and tiresome.
In part this was due
to having two-headed leadership behind the scenes
in the form of the show's creator, Daniel Knauf,
and veteran show runner, Ron Moore.
Moore has left to run
the new "Battlestar Galactica," which
should allow one vision -- Knauf's -- to prevail
on "Carnivale." And that should mean
the series, which begins its second season Sunday,
The first two episodes
of the new season are less obtuse than some
first-season episodes, but they still haven't
drawn me into the series the way the first four
episodes of season one did.
Sunday's season premiere
picks up where the cliffhanger left off, revealing
the fates of several characters. Set in the
Great Depression-era dust bowl, the series follows
two primary opposing characters who have yet
to meet. Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl) is an 18-year-old
fugitive who works for the traveling carnival
and has the power to heal by touch. His opposite,
the evil Brother Justin (Clancy Brown), is a
Methodist minister with a radio show.
The Carnival's mostly
unseen Management (voice of Linda Hunt) orders
Ben to track down his father, Hank Scudder (John
Savage); Justin has the same goal and aims to
accomplish it with the help of an "apostle,"
a prison inmate named Varlyn Stroud (John Carroll
Swissvale native William
Schmidt, now a co-executive producer on "Carnivale,"
wrote the Jan. 16 episode that finds Justin
getting some body work done.
The new season of "Carnivale"
continues to showcase the series' potential,
but it still doesn't live up to the show's enormous
promise. It's a cryptic series full of mysteries
and that should suck viewers in. But I've yet
to feel the full effects of its gravitational
pull, which is disappointing because, as they
said so often on "The X-Files," I
want to believe.