Amazon’s terrific fantasy Carnival Row works best when it isn’t copying Game of Thrones

Photo by Jan Thijs / Amazon Prime Studios

Since Game of Thrones ended in May, HBO’s streaming rivals have been racing to capture their share of the viewers who still crave shows packed with fantasy spectacle, intrigue, and sex. Amazon seems especially focused on winning over genre fans: its Prime Video service is currently spinning up an epic-fantasy lineup that promises series based on The Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time. It’s starting its run with the original show Carnival Row, which will release its first eight-episode season on August 30th. It’s a gorgeous, well-written, and unrepentantly political series, but it’s at its absolute worst when the writers try too hard to make it feel like Game of Thrones.

Carnival Row is set in a world that resembles what the 1800s…

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