Carnivàle (2003–2005)
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New Canaan, CA 

In the cliff-hanging season finale, Samson devises a grand plan by scheming with Ben, Jones, and the entire troupe to lure Brother Justin to Carnivale for his confrontation with Ben. ... See full summary »


Scott Winant


Daniel Knauf (creator), Daniel Knauf (teleplay) | 1 more credit »

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Michael J. Anderson ... Samson
Adrienne Barbeau ... Ruthie
Clancy Brown ... Brother Justin Crowe
Debra Christofferson ... Lila
Tim DeKay ... Clayton 'Jonesy' Jones
Clea DuVall ... Sofie
Cynthia Ettinger ... Rita Sue Dreifuss
Carla Gallo ... Libby Dreifuss
Toby Huss ... Felix 'Stumpy' Dreifuss
Amy Madigan ... Iris Crowe
Diane Salinger ... Apollonia
Nick Stahl ... Ben Hawkins
Brian Turk ... Gabriel
Ralph Waite ... Reverend Norman Balthus
Patrick Bauchau ... Professor Ernst Lodz


In the cliff-hanging season finale, Samson devises a grand plan by scheming with Ben, Jones, and the entire troupe to lure Brother Justin to Carnivale for his confrontation with Ben. Meanwhile, Stroud wants to protect Justin who correctly suspects that the carnival is setting a trap for him. Sofie finds herself locked in a dark shed after she tells Justin her conflicted thoughts about where her loyalties lay, and soon becomes terrorized by ghostly visions of her mother. Rita Sue is touched by Samson's generosity of giving her the money needed to pay off Stumpy's loan shark. Later, the final confrontation approaches when Brother Justin persuades Iris to overcome her fear of heights by riding the Carnivale Ferris Wheel where Jones traps both of them in for Ben to drain Justin's powers, and Ben performs his most important healing of Reverend Balthus, leading to Ben and Justin finally meeting face-to-face, and the visions of Ben and Justin coming full circle. At the same time, Joney sets ...

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Release Date:

27 March 2005 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs



Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The last show of the series leaves many questions unanswered and plot lines unresolved, due to premature cancellation. See more »


Samson: When it comes to living, dying is the easy part!
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Carnivale End Title (Ben's Theme)
Written by Jeff Beal
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User Reviews

Season 2: Clearer forward motion and more engaging and involving than first season, although ending is defined by cancellation
18 April 2014 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

I'm sure even absolute fans of this show would acknowledge that it really doesn't help the casual viewer to get drawn into it – and in particular the first season was very much a case of trusting it to see where it was all going. Of course as we know this strategy didn't pay off and the ratings never justified the high cost to keep it going. This is a shame because although the show continues its comparatively slow pace and rather dense tone and material, the second season is built on a lot more knowledge and understanding of what is going on, as well as more willingness on the part of the viewer to continue to go with it, because generally we have seen it steadily pay off, albeit in a manner and pace that is of the show's dictating.

The second season has a clearer forward motion thanks to the ground work of the first season; I felt I had more understanding of the characters and who they were both in the story but also the bigger picture – so although the show was still slow moving, it didn't feel quite so much a case of "trust me" as the first season did. This isn't to say that the second season suddenly becomes more accessible and easy to follow, because it doesn't; it continues to keep a dark, ominous tone that is rather unsettling but engaging at the same time. The imagery throughout is brutal, violent and disturbing, generally not delivered in cheap jump-scare style but rather being done as a bed of unease and threat. The characters in and around this do not distract from the main thrust either and generally those of the carnival were kept involved and close, with bigger plots and smaller ones generally working.

Of course the downside of all of this is that the show does not get a fantastic ending. The confrontation is good (although does end up with fighting in a field) but the ending was clearly written with the intension of more and as a result it leaves almost everything wide open with nothing resolved. Although this is annoying, it doesn't mean the season is not worth watching because it is engaging in the rather elegant and paced manner it tells the story and, although it was done at huge cost, the production values are high and the ambition of the show shows. For sure it has its limitations in how slow paced it is and how it throws oddity at the viewer often with little immediate explanation, however it does improve on the first season in that regard and generally does reward those that stay with it, even if ultimately the ending is unsatisfactory in light of its cancellation.

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