Seriable’s Mark Jones reviews Carnivàle 2.10 Cheyenne, WY
With the end of the second season and the end of the series as a whole in sight, “Cheyenne, WY” offers up a mixed bag excitement, plot development and oddness. An old favourite returns while Scudder finally shows his true colours but not before a startling fact is revealed about a young Brother Justin.
The beginning has to be one of the strangest in the show’s history, opening with a bird’s eye shot of a grey-haired man crawling between the carnival trailers. This man turns out to be Lodz (or at least Ruthie possessed by Lodz) as he returns from beyond the grave to pleasure Lila. Although the overall tone of the episode is, as usual, dark these scenes are more comical than most, especially when Lodz departs from Ruthie’s body leaving her wondering what she’s doing in bed with Lila. While the message he delivers is full of intrigue, telling Lila the truth about his death and promising her she’s going to see him in the flesh again, the nature of his visit does set an odd tone, especially the comical/super-creepy moment when Lila pulls back the bedclothes to reveal a possessed Ruthie who greets her with the line “there’s my buttercup”. Weird as the moment is it’s still great to see Patrick Bauchau back as Lodz beforehand, even if it is a brief appearance, and suggests that his character still has more work to do.
After it pleases Lodz fans the episode soon gets back on track when we get to see what Ben, Jonesy and Libby are up to following Ben’s rescue and healing of Jonesy. There’s a sense of building excitement when Jonesy insists on going with Ben though this is diminished later on when the newly healed carny is impatiently moaning as Ben searches the room which Scudder and Stroud inhabited. On the whole however Jonesy makes a good sidekick and their search is fruitful, finding out where Ben’s nemesis is and sending a message back to Samson, care of “Fritz”, informing him of the fact.
It’s also quite sweet to see how starstruck Libby is with Ben following what she witnessed and how she finds it impossible not to tell her mother everything when Rita Sue mocks Jonesy’s injury. A bond is developed between her and Samson as well when he gets a detailed account of the healing out of her, promising that as soon as they figure out where her husband and Ben are he’ll make sure they’re safe. It’s classic Samson playing the part of a caring father in a similar way to how he used to interact with Sofie and his little nod to Libby after he receives Ben’s message shows he’s as good as his word.
For anyone who has been trying to follow the mythology of the series, which isn’t always easy, Wilfred Smith makes an appearance again to explain a bit more about the transference of boons and it becomes clear that Scudder is also inhabited by a dark presence. It turns out that to avoid potential madness Justin must take Scudder’s life by surprise so he can receive his full boon. The sequence of events leading up to the transferral unfolds in quite an unpredictable way with Smith going to see Scudder to trick some information out of the prophet. There’s some fine tension as Smith enters the shack where Scudder is being held, as we’re not quite sure of what he’s interested in him for at first or why he’s disobeying Justin. Plus from a LOST fan’s perspective it’s hard not to feel a slight twinge of excitement at scenes in wooden shacks lit by old oil lamps, and this is another that generates the same kind of feel as those in Jacob’s cabin. His plan backfires for him when Scudder’s eyes turn black and he frees himself from his constraints. He brutally murders Smith and thinks he’s gotten away safely only to discover Justin had been hiding in the back of the car he stole. Justin doesn’t hesitate and succeeds in taking his boon and while it apparently didn’t have an affect on Ben (despite Ben’s taking of his boon having a profound affect on Justin) it does cause the rain fall, only the second time it has done so in the series. The way everything is set up is fine, there’s plenty of surprises and unexpected twists which is no bad thing, but the execution of Scudder’s madness is let down slightly by the red-tinted slow motion visuals which don’t really look that scary but it’s great up until the point the screen turns red. It may be essential for the story but it’s also a shame that Scudder’s character is cut down at the point he starts to get really interesting, as it was never overtly clear how he evil he was (or at least could be) until the moment Smith tips him over the edge.
The biggest moment in terms of where the show is headed though is the reveal in a conversation between Iris and Sofie. Not only does it imply that Justin is the mysterious man who raped Sofie’s mother it serves as a turning point for Iris when she lays her hand on the new maid and sees a vision of her brother committing the deed. However, while it’s well established that she is herself evil, the vision pushes her changing attitude towards Justin and later at the dinner table he remarks knowingly that there’s no point in her and Norman plotting to kill him. What isn’t clear is exactly why ( a jealous rage? He’s acted against their own unique moral code?) but the main point is that Iris now doubts him, throwing a potential wildcard into the proceedings which always makes things more interesting.
Things end quite well, informing the viewer that we’re now firmly in finale territory. Following the boon taking Ben stops for a drink and spots Scudder’s severed head as he bends down to get some water from a drinking trough. He immediately gets back in the truck and the final shot sees him and Jonesy roll up to the site of Justin’s temple.
Individually none of the most memorable elements of the episode, Lodz’ return, Ben and Jonesy’s road trip, Scudder unleashing his inner beast, are bad but they don’t sit well together, in the context of the episode or the series as a whole. It starts well enough with Jonesy’s sudden burst enthusiasm for helping Ben but it never quite manages to deliver on its promises of being a really spectacular episode, but is peppered with a some similarly exciting and moving, if brief, moments.
7.5/10 Seriable Stars