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Carnivale – Season One – Episode Three: “Tipton” Review

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Written by : published Friday 22nd July 2011

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Watch Carnivale at:http://www.thetvking.com/tvshows/6755/carnivle/


Carnivale rolls into Tipton, Missouri this week but Samson and the gang’s arrival in town isn’t appreciated by the local sheriff. Elsewhere, Brother Justin is making progress with Chin’s, but a complication with the building threatens to ruin the preacher’s plans for his new church.


Tipton was another solid chapter in Carnivale’s already intriguing story, with events focusing primarily on Ben’s (Nick Stahl) ability to heal the sick. Despite Brother Justin’s (Clancy Brown) troubles at Chin’s receiving minimal screen time this week, we did get to see his supernatural powers in action again. If there’s anything to be learned from Carnivale, avoiding the anger of a demented priest might be at the top of the list.


In terms of storyline, Tipton was a fairly straightforward episode, which worked well for Carnivale. The hidden mysteries squirming beneath the show’s surface were complemented nicely by the simple, concise plot and the script was sharp and witty. The dialogue was very good, as always; in particular the exchanges between Samson (Michael J. Anderson) and Sheriff Donovan as they tried to verbally one-up each other.


Despite being on first name terms with the local sheriff, Samson is told that the carnival isn’t welcome in Tipton, Sheriff Donovan explaining that the people there are extremely poor and he won’t allow Samson and his crew to con them out of the little money they do have.


Insulted, Samson tells his workers to pack up and prepare to leave.


Meanwhile, in town on a food run, Ben is spotted by the little girl he healed in Milfay and is overwhelmed by people begging him to heal them. Jonesy (Tim DeKay) rescues Hawkins from the mob and takes him back to Samson. After hearing about the strange events in town, the cunning dwarf has an idea that will still enable the carnival to make some money.


Armed with a wily speech praising God and Jesus Christ, Samson convinces the local church that he is preaching the Lord’s word, town to town, with his travelling revival, not running a carnival as Sheriff Donovan had first assumed. Ben is renamed ‘Benjamin St. John’ and made the star of the new show, his healing abilities the main attraction. Snake charmer Ruthie (Adrienne Barbeau) is picked out of the crowd and ‘healed’.


The bewildered townsfolk buy the con and the revival, much to the displeasure of Sheriff Donovan, is a huge hit.


Stage-shy Ben getting ready to go up in front of the crowd was a highlight this week, providing the episode with some very funny comic moments. And more mystery. Dressed in Henry Scudder's (John Savage) suit, the carnies can't help but remark on Ben's uncanny likeness to the elusive Scudder. Scudder is one of Carnivale’s biggest mysteries, and is perhaps the key to unlocking the show’s darkest secrets. 


While in Tipton, Ben’s own quest for answers leads him to a sick old woman in a huge, dilapidated house. She says she’s been waiting for Ben, and informs him that she knew Scudder years ago. She knows Ben has ‘the gift’, but warns him that in order to heal the sick he must sacrifice the life-force of some other living thing. This explains why the cornfields surrounding Ben were dying as he healed the little girl in Milfay.


Elsewhere, Brother Justin runs into an unexpected obstacle.


With his new church almost complete, local councillor Val Templeton, the nephew of the previous owner, informs the preacher that the building is scheduled to be knocked down within weeks. Justin’s anger is so great that he causes Templeton to choke, almost killing him. It seems that with each passing episode, Justin’s powers grow stronger and stronger. He is becoming a very dangerous threat to those around him.


Although anticipation is growing each week for Ben and Justin to finally meet, the writers will probably save that scenario for a much later episode, slowly and excruciatingly building tension until they feel the time is right. But it’s becoming clearer now that Justin is a much darker creature than Ben.


Despite being an awkward pain in the arse, Ben hasn’t displayed any signs of viciousness so far. A scene worth noting would be the one in which he had the chance to steal Ruthie’s jewellery but didn’t. Justin, on the other hand, has manipulated, threatened and telepathically choked someone half to death just to get what he wants. It is gradually becoming clear where these two fit into the battle between good and evil.


Also interesting is how Carnivale asks its audience to root for a convict and hiss at a priest. There are many contradictions at work here, but ones which are enjoyable in their ability to make us to look at things in a different light.


Tipton pushes the plot forward, keeps the mystery alive and is a strong, amusing third outing for the series. Questions are raised, and answers are yet to be had, but that’s all part of Carnivale’s charm.





About the author JakeCunliffe125


I am a first year Journalism student studying at Huddersfield University. So far so good.

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