Carnivale certainly broke my heart, too. In much the same way Twin Peaks (or, I’ve heard, “Lost”) did. Not entirely the creator’s fault, as it was cancelled long before the planned denouement.
While I enjoy the opening sequence of S1E2 I don’t find it in the least bit mystifying: Justin & Ben arrive at the diner, take their seats, & await the arrival of their respective fathers, Scudder & the Russian. It’s significant that both view the action in a mirror, reversing the scene — for, of course, Scudder the dark one is Ben’s father, while the Russian light one, is Justin’s.
“Every prophet in his house,” the waitress reminds them.
Thus the mirror tells us that this coming generation will be reversed: scion of light is dark, scion of dark is light.
Scudder & the Russian lift their glasses in toast — their work is done; it will now be passed on, in quite a catastrophic manner, to their scions. Hence the explosion as they touch.
One detail I’m unsure about is the significance of Hawkins glancing directly behind him as they enter, while Justin appears to look only through the mirror.
As for show overall, it’s not surprising that Carnivale promises us a tale of cosmic proportions, only to fall short. In that I’m reminded of Stephen King’s “It”, which built up spectacularly, only to fall onto the back of a turtle as god.
Also bugged by some of the minor details: what was Scudder doing wearing a Canadian uniform walking around a trench filled with, I believe, slain Austrians? Why would the Russian shoot at a Canadian? They were allies in the Great War. & of all the perils to encounter on a Great War battlefield, the Russian runs afoul of an escaped circus bear!?
As I watched I felt some of these seeming contradictions would be clarified, or explained. & perhaps they would have been.
I would have been more intrigued with the concept of cosmic conflict between light & dark if light weren’t necessarily always good & dark always bad. Did Knauf borrow the concept from F. Paul Wilson’s “The Keep”? (in which the protagonist champion of light admits that light doesn’t necessarily equate to good nor dark to bad). If we compare light to order & dark to entropy, then it’s clear that both are necessary & ideally in some kind of balance for the world to function.
Finally, although I understood, I was deeply dissatified with the brevity of Scudder’s appearance (though in reality it mirrored the Russian’s — both characters are central & referenced a great deal, but spent hardly any time before the camera).
Now with IMDB having deleted its discussion groups, there’s no easy way to vent. Thanks for the essay:)