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Second Season Of 'Carnivale' Could Be Quite A Ride
by Terry Morrow, Scripps Howard News Service (January 5, 2005)

"Carnivale" is now boiling.

The HBO supernatural drama spent most of its freshman season merely brimming, almost a little too slowly. Season Two, which begins 9 p.m. Sunday, stirs up the storyline, which has promised eerie dramatics from the beginning but has failed to fully deliver up until this point.

The show, set in the Dust Bowl era, has split its attention between two forces -- a wayward but kindhearted drifter who takes up with a carnival, and a small-town minister in California with dirty secrets. The two have yet to meet, and their actions are seemingly unrelated.

We're told the two represent the continual struggle between good and bad.

With the new season, their destinies appear to be folding into one another.

Brother Justin (Clancy Brown) -- who is emerging as one of cable TV's best and strongest villains -- is taking his fire-and- brimstone message to the radio waves. His demonic visions intensify and his evil grows.

Meanwhile, kindly carnival worker Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl) has a meeting with the traveling company's shadowy "Management," who instructs him to seek out his father and do something about him.

Both Hawkins and Brother Justin are commanded to find a man named Scudder. If they do not, the world will come to a swift and fiery end.

This new development gives "Carnivale" a stronger purpose. "Carnivale" has always been one of television's smartest shows, but it's usually too timid in proving it.

"Carnivale" is coming into its own. Not since the prime days of "The X-Files," which went on three seasons too long, has television had this kind of intrigue and chills.

"Carnivale," more gruesome and darker, has the makings of this winter's most addictive returning series.

The mystery is deepening, and the first two episodes of the new season move quicker with a bent toward action, at least more than most of the episodes of last season.

In other words, "Carnivale" is finally doing something, and it's well worth the wait.

The story is as scary as anything showing now in theaters. Here is a bit of payoff for fans who have been patient enough.