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Carnival Row: Sorry Kids, the Faerie Sex Is Here to Stay

Get ready for an adult look at faerie life

Tim Surette

Carnival Row may be set in a fantasy world of faeries and other mythological creatures, but its messages about immigrants and refugees very much resonates with the real world. Also, there's lots of faerie sex.

The Amazon series -- which was renewed for a second season Saturday -- stars Orlando Bloom as Rycroft "Philo" Philostrate, a human inspector investigating crimes, and Cara Delevingne as Vignette Stonemoss, a refugee faerie who drums up a love affair with Philo during a time when such mixed relationships are frowned upon by an intolerant society.

It's a set-up for a series that could make big inroads with the young adult crowd, or even with families. I mean, faeries are often considered to be gentle creatures and staples of lighter fantasy fair -- Tinker Bell! -- but Carnival Row is showing a darker, sexier side of the species, and it ain't for the children.

Carnival Row Renewed for Season 2

"Part of what was interesting about [writing] it was using these tropes from fantasy in a more adult context, without it being too gimmicky," co-creator Travis Beacham said during the Television Critics Association summer press tour when asked if he thought of toning down the sexiness to open the show up to a wider audience. "I wanted it to feel organic and lived in and real, because I think one of the things that makes it difficult for fantasy to comment on the world we live in is when it becomes too whimsical and too removed. And then the things it's trying to say, as a consequence, become simpler."

​Cara Delevigne, Carnival Row

Cara Delevigne, Carnival Row

"The subject matter is so serious and very real," Delevingne added, noting that the show has themes of death and violence, so sex shouldn't be excluded. "And it's not just sexy just to add it in there, it's very necessary to the storyline. And again, it's not objectifying at all, it's beautiful, it's amazing."

The cast and producers also note that much of the sex comes from these immigrants needing to find work, even if it means selling their bodies just to live, which is, unfortunately, reflective of the real world.

"That's what they do, to support their families," Bloom said. "That's tragic, and it's true, and it happens a lot today."

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However, the sex between Philo and Vignette won't be out of desperation but true human-faerie love, a mixed-species relationship that forms the core of the show's theme of forbidden love. And it's going to be something.

"They're making love and being elevated into the sky," Bloom says. "It's an image that plays through the show and it's pretty dramatic."

Carnival Row premieres Friday, Aug. 30 on Amazon.