Top 5 Best Episodes of "Carnivàle"
Continuing my series of "Lists only 12 other people care about", this is a ranking of the best episodes of HBO's underseen, before-its-time historical-horror-fantasy "Carnivàle". Imagine "LOST" in the Great Depression, or "Game of Thrones" in the Dust Bowl. Only 24 episodes total, it didn't get the long run it deserved, but I'll rank 'em anyway.
- •"Lincoln Highway" (2.10)Not the showiest or most important episode, but one of the most cathartic. In a dark, occasionally depressing show, the pure elation of Jonesy's healing by Ben is one of the most profoundly moving scenes the show's ever done.
- •"Tipton" (1.03)If there ever was a version of Carmivàle that was more "town of the week" based, then "Tipton" is the best example of what could have been (but thankfully wasn't). It's also the show's best illustration of Dust Bowl-era America, and features the most memorable piece of music composed for the show by Jeff Beal, the haunting "The Carnivàle Convoy" that play's over the opening funereal montage.
- •"Babylon" (1.05)Carnivàle at its creepiest and most horrifying. The show build-up to the eventual violence is an impressive feat of suspense as the Carnivàle characters explore the fucked up town of Babylon. Cut off from the show's main Good vs. Evil mythology, the episode's free to explore other supernatural corners of the world and does so in a way that only it can: through homicidal, ghostly coal miners.
- •"New Canaan, CA" (2.12)The show's season finale, unintentionally its series finale too. Despite the inherent lack of true closure, the episode does feel like a climax to the series we've been watching thanks to the long-awaited confrontation between Ben and Brother Justin. It's a thrilling episode punctuated by the series' biggest (and sadly, final) twist: Sophie's unveiling as the powerful Omega. It's the end of Carnivàle, but luckily, it ends on a hell of a high note.
- •"Pick A Number" (1.07)The second part of the Babylon two-parter picks up with Dora Mae's death and goes further and darker, showing off the Carnies' vengeful "carnival justice" and uncovering the secrets of Babylon. It's an acting showcase for Michael J. Anderson and a supremely creepy episode in its own right, managing to one-up "Babylon" even without the presence of the ghostly miners. This is Carnivàle at the peak of its powers: horrifying, character-driven, and constantly revealing new layers of its mythic world.