Watch Carnivale

Taking place in the United States circa 1930s,'Carnivale' is an American series about two traveling performance troupes. A mixture of dark fantasy and mystery, the 24 episode story touches upon the timeless struggle between good and evil, and contains elements of modern religion and Western folklore, with especial emphasis on the Knights Templar.

The brainchild of creator Daniel Knauf, 'Carnivale' was executive produced by Howard Klein and Ronald D. Moore. The premise of 'Carnivale' concerns a young man named Ben Hawkins. Ben is a fugitive who commands unique powers of healing, and when his mother perishes from dust pneumonia, and a traveling carnival wends its way not far from his childhood home, he joins the troupe.

Almost at once, Ben begins having bizarre, recurring visions and dreams about a trench war and a soldier, and also about a man with tattoos in a corn field. Lodz, the resident carnival troupe mind-reader, distrusts Ben and his dreams. Meanwhile, Ben mysteriously heals a girl's lame legs by laying his hands upon her, inadvertently establishing Ben as the series' Christ-like figure. Ben performs other miracles as well.

Elsewhere, an obscure preacher named Justin Crowe, a man gifted in a way similar to Ben, dreams of Chin's, a nearby Chinese establishment. When he visits it eventually, he observes a bright cross appearing upon a neon sign, and a shower of blood soaking him through.

Back at the carnival, Ben is cleaning out a baggage trailer one day and stumbles upon a photo of his mother. Ben shares the photo with the local snake charmer, Ruthie, who tells him the woman is named Flora, a sweetheart of Henry Scudder's. Ruthie shares a photo of her own: one of Henry Scudder, a onetime member of the same troupe Ben now belongs to. Ben identifies the man as the soldier in his dreams. Presumably Henry is Ben's father.

Ben soon embarks on a path of self discovery, as the wonderful world of carnival troupes is revealed against a picaresque, historical background.

Sundays at 10:00 pm on HBO
2 Seasons, 24 Episodes - Canceled
September 7, 2003
Drama
8.5/10
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Carnivale Full Episode Guide

  • As the world grows smaller, Samson devises a grand plan; Justin forces Iris to face her fear of heights; Stroud wants to protect Justin; Sofie finds herself in the dark; Rita Sue is touched by Samson's generosity; Ben performs his most important healings.

  • When Samson announces the carnival's next stop, Lila challenges his authority; Stumpy and Rita fear dark days to come; and Libby urges Jones to reveal a secret to the troupe. As Justin baptizes his converts, a new tragedy rises to the surface; Ben volunteers to stack firewood; Sofie sees a face from her past; Iris welcomes a chance to sponsor some fun; and Justin is startled by a development in the migrant camp.

  • Libby struggles to stick to her alibi, buckling under the weight of Rita Sue's superiority; Jones goes for a ride with Ben; Ruthie delivers a nocturnal message to Lila; Talbot- Smith intercepts a near disaster for Justin and reneges on a deal with Scudder; Iris discovers a relative; Stroud increases security with his "Knights of Jericho," and Justin does some backseat driving.

  • Ben and Jones learn that justice is "for the birds"; Ruthie's visitor leaves lipstick traces; Lila tries to reach Lodz; Sofie finds salvation in her work; Iris takes Eleanor on a picnic; Balthus misses a big chance; Stroud keeps the morphine flowing; and when chaos breaks out during a public speech, Justin shocks the crowd with forgiveness.

  • Ben and Samson have a heated argument; Iris and Justin back a local politician; Rita Sue tries to play hardball with Stumpy's debt collector; Libby shocks her parents with an announcement; Ruthie seeks refuge in the safety of her trailer; Smith interprets a bad sign for Justin; Stroud nurses a wound; Jones is blamed for an accident; and Sofie finds a new job.

  • Justin and Iris placate Bishop McNaughton with a hearty breakfast; Ben follows his visions to a seedy hotel with Stroud hot on his tail; Sabina airs her dirty laundry with Lila; Libby and Rita Sue do some self-reflection; Iris displays her strength to Norman; the troupe worries about Sofie; Libby gives Jones special treatment; and Samson is distracted while Management tries to destroy a gift from Ben.

  • Justin is pushed by Dolan to make a difficult decision; Iris gives an important dictation; Ben has a nightmare visit with a mask-maker; Ruthie shares her visions with Sofie, who decides to help Ben; Rita Sue is generous with Stumpy, who bets on a big fight; Libby fishes for a compliment from Jones; Stroud continues his pursuit of Ben; and Justin receives a mysterious gift that gives him a new perspective.

  • As Brother Justin spreads his radio message to the weak and huddled masses, his word reaches the ears of a new "apostle" - prison inmate Varlyn Stroud - and occultist Wilfred Talbot Smith, who pushes him to seek out the elusive Henry Scudder. Meanwhile, Management also urges Ben to find his father, showing him visions of the apocalyptic horrors that otherwise threaten. Tommy Dolan does some sleuthing on the Dignity Church arson; Reverend Balthus is stricken ill; and Lila worries about Lodz's whereabouts. Meanwhile, Samson does his best to quell suspicions among the troupe.

  • Faced with a crisis of life-and-death proportions, Ben turns to Lodz for advice, and ends up meeting with Management for the first time. Stumpy and Rita Sue strike a deal with each other, and Jones, to save their marriage; Samson covers for Ben when the law comes knocking; and Sofie settles a score with Libby and Jones, only to find herself in the grips of Apollonia's fury. Meanwhile, Balthus and Brother Justin contemplate the former's "greatest evil," with the latter pondering the prospect of salvation versus damnation among his congregation: "The clock is ticking, brothers and sisters... counting down to Armageddon."

  • With Management's blessing, Lodz hatches a devious plan to reach Ben, who is vulnerable after letting his guard down with Ruthie. Rita Sue upstages Catalina in the Gay Paree tent; Sofie reads Stumpy's cards and doesn't like what she learns; and Ben learns that some wounds aren't easy to heal. In Mintern, Balthus is concerned about the influences surrounding Brother Justin, as well as some fiery allegations that Tommy Dolan threatens to make public. For her part, Iris proves she'll do anything to advance her brother's career.

  • Brother Justin returns to Mintern to chart out a new direction for his ministry. At the Carnivale, Samson's loss is Lodz's gain; Libby catches on to her mother's deception; Sofie accuses Apollonia of breaking the rules; Ben and Samson come up empty in search of information about Scudder's whereabouts; Stumpy takes his lumps in enlisting a new dancer named Catalina; and Lodz and Lila wait for Ben to finally succumb to sleep.

  • Samson sends Ben on a road trip to enlist a new attraction, where he encounters a longtime carney rival named Phineas Boffo. Sofie debates whether to defy her mother and join Libby on the bally; Stumpy tells Jones he needs to get his candle waxed; and Lodz and Samson have a falling out over Ben's errand. Meanwhile, while Brother Justin is receiving treatments for -religious excitation, Tommy Dolan is posing a rallying cry for his radio listeners: "Where are you, Brother Justin?"

  • While Brother Justin rediscovers his "birthright" on the banks of a river, his sister Iris gets some unexpected support from an attentive radio reporter. At the carnival, Rita Sue and Stumpy argue over their family's future; Ben and Ruthie go hunting for snakes to use in her act; Samson goes to work on the bally; and Libby and Sofie see stars on the western horizon.

  • Thirsty for payback, the carnies get caught up in an obscure yet fascinating phenomenon known as "Carnival Justice." Ben's dark adventure ends, and Lodz is there to welcome him back into the fold. Meanwhile, Brother Justin decides to take a trip - destination anywhere - and ends up wandering in the wilderness. Later, he swaps campfire stories with a group of hobos, one of whom is about to change Justin's life.

  • As Brother Justin tries to make sense of a major catastrophe, the carnival rolls into Babylon, a tapped-out silver-mining town with a luckless history - and few visible inhabitants. Samson looks to raise morale by treating the troupe to a night at a local bar in town, while Sofie and her new friend Libby (one of the cooch dancers) take in a film. A drunken Ben falls down a mineshaft, where he unexpectedly encounters a familiar face. Finally, a group of restless miners arrive just in time for the evening cooch show - and the latest tragedy to befall Carnivale.

  • On the road to Babylon (Texas), the carnies come face-to-face with nature's fury. Lured by clues about his past, Ben reluctantly follows Lodz into an abandoned house, where the seer tests Ben's powers; Sofie socializes with a handsome cafe owner, to Apollonia's chagrin; Samson pays a visit to an old flame, a prostitute named Jolene; and Jones, facing a roustabout mutiny, comes up empty in his effort to meet with Management. Meanwhile, Brother Justin struggles with an ultimatum: give up his new migrants' ministry at Chin's, or face losing his old congregation at First Methodist.

  • When authorities of the cash-poor town of Tipton refuse to let the carnival set up, Samson takes Jones' advice and temporarily reinvents the troupe as a religious-revival show - with Ben as its headliner "act." Brother Justin is headlining his own new show at the former Chin's, promising to bring "Old Time Religion" to migrants, a move that upsets his regular congregation. Back in Tipton, Ben and Sofie visit an ailing woman outside of town in search of clues about his history. At the last minute, Samson decides to change Carnivale's travel itinerary from north to south.

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