They fled their ravaged homelands, often at great personal risk and desperate for a better life, only to be demonized by their new neighbors because they don’t look like everyone else.
Granted, these particular newcomers tend to stand out thanks to their massive wings — or, in some cases, hooves and ramlike horns.
Still, it’s hard to get more timely than the ambitious new fantasy drama “Carnival Row” (Friday, Amazon Prime), even though its creator, Travis Beacham (“Pacific Rim”), first sold it as a feature script all the way back in 2005.
The homeland of the fae — that’s highbrow fantasy talk for faeries, which is a further embellishment on the traditional “fairies” — was thought to be a mythical place. Then it was overrun by humans, who waged a brutal war over Tirnanoc’s resources.
Seven years later, no longer able to tolerate the brutal rule of The Pact, faerie Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) forces her way onto the latest shipment of refugees she’s organized for the dangerous sea voyage to The Burgue. The Victorian-esque city is where her former lover and fellow warrior, human Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom), serves as a police detective.
From the streets to the statehouse, anti-immigrant sentiment is boiling over in The Burgue.
The fae and the faun, those hooved beings, are met with general disdain at best and are not even deemed worthy of an autopsy when they’re murdered. And murdered they are, a nasty business that, among the humans, seems to concern only the man known as Philo.
Forget about opportunities. A former poet laureate is reduced to selling herself in a fae brothel that offers up some rather unique forms of copulation. And woe be the faun (David Gyasi) who uses his mysterious wealth to try to purchase his way into high society.
The refugees are “swarming our city,” it’s decried in the highest halls of government. “They’re changing the very fabric of our society, and not for the better. … Our streets are safe no more.”
In their minds, when Tirnanoc sends its people, they’re not sending their best.
Among the human inhabitants of The Burgue, “Chernobyl” Emmy nominee Jared Harris and Indira Varma (“Game of Thrones”) give the drama clout as Chancellor Absalom Breakspear and his regal wife, Piety.
Coming on the heels of its high-concept superheroes-as-monsters drama “The Boys,” “Carnival Row” is Amazon Prime’s most ambitious original series yet.
And, now that “Game of Thrones” has come to its dragon-fried end, there’s clearly a void in the big-budget fantasy marketplace.
Neither fact will remain that way for long.
Amazon also is developing a drama based on the series of “Dark Tower” books by Stephen King, as well as a magic-based series adapted from Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” novels.
That’s in addition to the reported $250 million the streaming service committed just for the rights to make a series based on “The Lord of the Rings,” with rumors that Amazon’s total investment could top a staggering $1 billion.
Despite having Legolas himself, Orlando Bloom, on board as the lead, “Carnival Row” can’t possibly compete with that sort of hype.
But it also isn’t burdened by those expectations.
It is, however, the first step in Amazon’s quest to make fantasy a reality.
Vying for the throne
Amazon Prime’s “Carnival Row” won’t be the last fantasy drama tabbed as the potential “Next ‘Game of Thrones.’ “
Far from it.
Take these potential challengers that are on their way to the small screen.
“The Lord of the Rings” (Amazon Prime): The pricey-yet-secretive adaptation is believed to be set in Middle-earth before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring.”
“The Dark Tower” (Amazon Prime): Former “Walking Dead” showrunner Glen Mazzara is behind this retelling of the Stephen King novels about gunslinger Roland Deschain’s confrontations with The Man in Black.
“The Wheel of Time” (Amazon Prime): The sprawling 14-volume fantasy series is coming to television with a series starring Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl.”)
“His Dark Materials” (HBO): Ruth Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda and James McAvoy star in this co-production with the BBC that adapts Philip Pullman’s trilogy that previously spawned the 2007 movie “The Golden Compass.”
“See” (Apple TV+): Jason Momoa stars in this futuristic drama in which most of the world’s population has been killed, with the survivors stricken blind. The Wall Street Journal recently reported its per-episode price tag has neared $15 million.
“The Witcher” (Netflix): Momoa’s onetime “Justice League” co-star Henry Cavill headlines this tale of monster hunter Geralt of Rivia that’s based on the stories by Andrzej Sapkowski.