Based on a spec script co-creator Travis Beacham wrote for an unproduced film, ‘Carnival Row’ takes place in a world where humans and mythical creatures exist alongside each other, as do magic and science. The Fae kind has been in the world longer than humans, though they lag behind the latter in scientific advancements. When the story begins, a significant portion of the fae population has been forced to immigrate to the Republic of The Burgue, a human nation, because of a war between The Burgue, and the Pact, the alliance between the countries of Quivira and Cibola.
The plot revolves around Rycroft “Philo” Philostrate (Orlando Bloom), military veteran turned police inspector in The Burgue and secretly half-fae, and Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne), a fae refugee. Philo and Vignette met during the war and fell in love. Circumstances separate them, but when Philo and Vignette meet again, old feelings eventually resurface. Here is everything you might want to know about the timeline of ‘Carnival Row.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.
When Is Carnival Row Set?
We know that ‘Carnival Row’ takes place in a world quite different from ours. As far as the people of the Republic of the Burgue know, there are four continents in the world: Mesogea, Tirnanoc, Ignota, and Obscura. The Burgue, where the narrative mostly takes place, is located on the northern shore of Mesogea, the cradle of humanity. At one point in the first season, we learn it’s the seventh century according to humans. The Burgue was established about 1,200 years before the current events by a nomadic tribe called the Beorn, so it can’t be the epoch of that calendar era. Moreover, that incident is too local to have any significance in a rapidly industrializing world such as the one shown in ‘Carnival Row.’
So, the epoch point is most likely the martyrdom of Hosea, the central figure in the Martyrite Faith, the primary human religion in The Burgue. It’s probably safe to assume that the human nations in the region, including Quivira and Cibola, also follow the Martyrite Faith. The narrative of the show can be split into two time periods: the present and seven years earlier, when the war between the Burgue and the Pact was in full swing in Tirnanoc.
Most of the plot of ‘Carnival Row’ is set in the present, though there are brief flashbacks that take the story back to the past, including the scenes when Philo realizes that his mother, Aisling Querelle, used to visit him at Light of the Martyr Foundling Home when he was sleeping and sing. In the present, the Burgue has lost the war against the Pact, and this has become a terrible point of shame for the people of the country. In the past, the Burgue used to be a kingdom, and then it became one of the most powerful empires in the world. About 150 years earlier, the imperial family was overthrown, and the Burgue became a parliamentary republic, with the Chancellor assuming the duties of the emperor.
When the series begins, the Chancellor is Absalom Breakspear, who is eventually revealed to be Philio’s father. The Burgue has a two-party system, and the Leader of the Opposition is Ritter Longerbane. Following their deaths, their respective children, Jonah Breakspear and Sophie Longerbane, assume these roles. They blame the deaths of Absalom and his wife, Piety, on the fae kind and decide to virtually imprison them inside the eponymous neighborhood. At the start of the second season, the situation has only worsened, and the mythical creatures have begun fighting against the shackles put on them.
Seven Years Earlier
Episode 3 of the first season entirely takes place seven years earlier at the height of the war. Philo, his friend Darius, and several other soldiers arrive at a fae settlement in the mountains located near a telegraph line. It is revealed that they have been ordered to guard the post against the Pact. This is where Philo and Vignette meet for the first time. The latter protects the ancient library of the settlement and directly answers to Mima Roosan, the religious leader and the head of the community. Although Vignette nearly kills Philo when she sees him enter the library, a passionate relationship gradually develops between the two.
This is also when Darius gets bitten by one of the Marroks sent by the Pact and becomes affected by the Wolf’s curse. Meanwhile, the Pact defeats the combined forces of the Republic and Anoun, a major fae kingdom in Tirnanoc. The Pact soldiers eventually reach the mountains. Realizing that he might not survive the war and not wanting her to die alongside him, Philo makes Vignette believe that he has died so she would leave with her people. When Vignette discovers the truth years later, she is initially furious, believing he betrayed her. However, they inevitably find their way back to each other.
Read More: Is Carnival Row’s The Burgue Based on a Real City or a Country?