The last time we did a major check-in with Amazon Prime's Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne-starring alt-Victorian fantasy drama Carnival Row, it was August 2020 and the series had wrapped filming on the first five episodes before COVID began wreaking havoc on dozens of productions. Flash ahead five months, and fans are getting an update on the second season courtesy of series star Tamzin Merchant (Imogen Spurnrose). Balancing filming on the remainder of the season while promoting her debut fantasy novel The Hatmakers, Merchant spoke with EW about the popular streaming series- revealing the five-episode update and saying that "if not for COVID, it would have been out ages ago" but right now she's not sure when it will premiere.
As for what lies ahead for Imogen, things don't sound too promising- well, at least there's some hope in the costume department. "Imogen and Agreus [David Gyasi] get on the ship at the end of season 1, and everything is grand for the first five minutes of season 2 — and then things go very badly wrong for them," Merchant teases. "The thing that I wanted was, I asked the costume department, "Can I please not wear a corset for the whole of the season?" Eventually, it does happen that Imogen is called upon to not wear a corset, which was wonderful."
When the series returns, viewers should expect to see Imogen brought back down to reality and humbled by those she's about to meet. "What I love about Imogen and just really spoke to me about that character is how much on her high horse she is, and then she gets knocked off her high horse. She gets taken down a whole new level by the people she meets in season 2," she explained. "Because we haven't finished the season, I can't really say how that will go. But it's been so fun so far to play the challenges that she's met, and how her aristocratic personality who's deeply in love with Agreus faces the challenges she's dealt."
As for what will make the second season different from its inaugural run, Merchant says it's the influence of the new showrunner and the writing team taking the narrative into some morally gray areas. "Erik Oleson came on board as showrunner, and his team of writers have been creating some really interesting stories about the moral landscape — what happens when you build a wall around the ghetto, as they did at the end of season 1, and what happens and what rises out of that. And to me, that's the show at its best."
Before production was shuttered, Carnival Row was keeping a nice, steady flow of news coming fans' way (even if it wasn't always the most positive). Jay Ali (USA Network's The Purge) is joining the series as Kaine, a Faerie allied with the Black Raven criminal gang alongside Delevingne's Vignette. Erik Oleson (Netflix's Daredevil) agreed to join as executive producer and showrunner, taking over the helm from first season showrunner Marc Guggenheim (who will still consult on the series and remain an executive producer). There was even a "creative differences" moment, with series co-creator Travis Beacham departing the series (co-created with Rene Echevarria) in what was reported as a "mutual decision" (though Beacham remains an executive producer).