This is Wikipedia's basic description:
Carnivàle is an American television series set in the United States during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. In tracing the lives of two disparate groups of people, its overarching story depicts the battle between good and evil and the struggle between free will and destiny; the storyline mixes Christian theology with gnosticism and Masonic loreThe 2 groups of people:
1) The Carnivale, including Ben Hawkins (a young man with healing power who is newly a part of the troupe). The carnival experiences many strange events as they travel from place to place under the guidance of The Management (voiced by Linda Hunt), a never-seen force who runs things through the carnival boss.
2) Brother Justin, a charismatic Methodist preacher with growing dark powers, who seeks Hawkins.
The entire series is fascinating. I'm glad we own both seasons on DVD, because I will certainly be watching it again. And again. I am uneasy with the ending of the 2nd season. I'd prefer a bit of closure, but the ending does hint at the continuing struggle between good and evil and in that way serves as a completion of the series.
I love that Tarot deck. I love all the characters. It has Michael J. Anderson (Rumpelstiltskin in Star Trek) and Adrienne Barbeau (who has a Star Trek:DS9 connection) and Ralph Waite in it. Other regulars are Diane Salinger (ST:DS9 connection), John Fleck (ST:TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise ), John Savage (ST:Voyager), Clancy Brown (ST:Enterprise), Robert Knepper (ST:TNG and ST:Voyager), K Callen (ST:DS9), John Carroll Lynch (ST:Voyager)
This series is a must-see for anyone who has a taste for dark fantasy.
trailer for the Season 1:
trailer for Season 2:
opening sequence from the 1st episode, including Samson's monologue:
DVD Talk reviews the seasons separately, saying of Season 1,
Carnivàle is an incredibly ambitious undertaking that demands more from its audience than many are willing to invest. ... if you are intrigued by stories about the battle between good and evil, you feel comfortable with a plot that develops with a deliberate and character-driven pace, and you can appreciate one of most impressive visual presentations ever on television, the first season of Carnivàle is an absolutely captivating program, and I Highly Recommend it.and of Season 2,
The second season takes the mystery established in the first and brings it into focus as the pieces are positioned for a showdown between the avataric leads. It is every bit as stylistic and entertaining as the first season with more clarity of purpose for the characters and a faster pace in the storytelling.... With better special features than the first release to accompany 12 incredible episodes of compelling television, it is a no-brainer to Highly Recommend.Salon.com finds it depressing: "Unmitigated pain and disappointment might be new for television, and therefore worthy of applause, but the appeal of such a dark path wears thin pretty quickly." Entertainment Weekly gives it a grade of C- and doesn't get it at all.
I finished the series in time to include it in the Once Upon a Time Challenge Quest On Screen.