Seriable’s Mark Jones reviews Carnivàle 2.05 — “Creed, OK”

Things pick up again for Carnivàle with the episode ‘Creed, OK’ delivering some of the series’ finest creepy moments yet and it’s mostly thanks to one man named Evander Geddes. He’s not the only reason to like this episode though as Ruthie confides in Sofie about seeing ghosts and it appears Brother Justin is going to make his sister confess to her misdeeds.

The star attraction of ‘Creed, OK’ is by far and away the character Evander Geddes with Dakin Matthews perfectly cast as the creepy mask maker. An actor with a considerable list of credits on imdb, chances are viewers will be familiar with one of his less disturbing personae, but it’s the combination of his genteel nature with a slightly homo-erotic/lonely old man vibe and what he gets up to in his workshop that really leaves an indelible imprint on the mind. When Ben first arrives at his home the old man seems like a gracious and pleasant host, a likeable character, but from the moment he starts caressing Ben’s face and it becomes apparent he poisoned the boy’s hot cider, it’s quite clear Evander Geddes is not the friendly old man he appears to be.

After falling asleep on Geddes’ couch, Ben awakes to find himself strapped to a table in a room surrounded by shelves full of death masks. This alone is enough to create a strange atmosphere, but it’s when we see the old man approach wearing a strange little mask of his own that things really start to feel weird. Especially when Ben asks him what he’s doing and, turning around, he answers “something magical”, revealing his disturbing headwear. After being temporarily paralysed and having his face covered in Plaster of Genoa he wakes up on the couch as if nothing had happened. Assuming he dreamt the strange scenario he leaves Geddes’ house with no new information on Scudder’s whereabouts and not realising that his own mask is soon to be smashed by a shocked Brother Justin.

Everything about these scenes is perfect from the acting to the way it’s shot to the writing. Geddes’ mannerisms, his constrained anger when Ben breaks the mask and the dialogue as he explains his work, such as the odd turns of phrase like “close to womb time”, are all spot on. It’s vastly superior in many ways to the meeting with the crone in the episode before which lacked the same tension and ambience with Geddes coming across as a much scarier character than Ben’s granny.

After his visit to Geddes’ and he’s back at the carnival, Sofie finally reads Ben’s cards, and this time she’s offering to do it, not being asked. It follows a revelation earlier on, after her conversation with Ruthie about seeing the dead, that Apollonia still remains around Sofie in ghost form. As well as offering some validation to the Ruthie seeing ghosts thread it explains much more about Sofie’s character. There’s a perfect moment after Sofie finishes the reading where Apollonia appears, telling her daughter that’s it’s always been Sofie who was reading the cards and not her. It delivers because it comes out of nowhere and has shock value but also because it starts to reveal the nature of Sofie’s powers. Before when she was paired up with Apollonia it seemed like she was more of a receiver with little ability herself, but this changes her character in as drastic a way as when Ben discovered he could heal the sick, or Justin discovered his own dark powers. While it’s not made clear yet what the revelation will lead to there are definitely plenty of intriguing possibilities.

There’s also the matter of the reading itself in which a clue is revealed to Ben about where to go next and there’s the strangely endearing, if brief, shot of the couple embracing in the wake of a nuclear explosion, as well as some other strange images which raise further questions. The deliverance of the clue breaks the pattern of previous episodes where Ben would receive guidance following information obtained from his previous destination. His trip into town was of course not wasted though, at least in terms of plot development, and the strange vision is much more interesting than him simply being given an address or the name of a person.

Brother Justin and Iris get some more meaty scenes this time around, including one on the porch where they discuss what’s going to happen now that Dolan has found out she burned down the orphanage. Iris insists that he asks her to make a confession instead of him beating around the bush, which she eventually does as Tommy Dolan dictates. Some of the ambiguity surrounding Justin and whether he might still have some good left in him return when he displays what appear to be morals in his desire for his sister to take the blame for the crime, but there are hints, and clues from earlier episodes, that he could be up to something.

In addition to all the key things which happen, there’s plenty of entertaining background carnival colour, including Stumpy placing a bet on a boxing match based on some non-politically correct ideas of why a “jazzbo” wouldn’t win against a white guy and a seemingly perfect father who leaves his kids on the Ferris wheel for a half hour just so he can pay a visit to Rita Sue’s tent. Samson’s meeting with Varlyn Stroud is also worthy of mention, it not only shows Samson at his sharp and street-wise best but is the point where Stroud becomes really likeable as a villain.

The episode concludes with a succession of important developments culminating with Brother Justin placing his face in the mask that has been sent to him. It appears the mask has magical properties as it allows Justin to see through Ben’s eyes, and if the dropping of the conveniently close by mirror is anything to go by, control him too, but such is his shock when he looks at Ben’s reflection that he drops the mask. Geddes’ masks may be magical but they sure aren’t tough and as in the last installment the mask smashes. Of course Scudder’s mask didn’t bleed, and boy does the mask bleed, but it does add another level of weirdness to the scene. As season two approaches its mid-point, the revelation to Justin of Ben and his whereabouts puts them on a more immediate collision path promising an exciting downwards slope to the season’s conclusion.

A successful episode by any standards it progresses the story nicely and not quite so formulaically as before with a few weird touches that would make David Lynch jealous (though to be fair Twin Peaks already features a creepy death mask in the episode “Slaves and Masters“). Definitely a high point for season 2 “Creed, OK” is one of those great episodes that is memorable for all the right reasons and promises more excitement to come.

9/10 Seriable Stars

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