Tourmaline walking down Carnival Row

The Real Hero of ‘Carnival Row’ Isn’t Who You Think It Is

She's my favorite fae.

Most fairy tales have one thing in common: a happy ending. The series finale of Carnival Row, a show featuring realistic faeries and other fae, gave us a fairy tale ending. It just didn’t happen between the two characters you would most expect. The series revolved around the relationship between Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) and Rycroft “Philo” Philostrate (Orlando Bloom). They fell in love while fighting in Tirnanoc, the faery homeland. After years apart (Vignette thought Philo had died), the two unexpectedly reunited when Vignette came to the Burgue.

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Spoilers ahead for the series finale of Carnival Row

I wasn’t so sure I wanted Philo and Vignette to end up together. There were enough red flags about their relationship that I wasn’t sure Philo was right for her. Look, I LOVE Philo. I can’t get enough of his bowler hat and sad brown eyes. He’s half-fae! With a tragic backstory! I can understand why Vignette, a super cool faery warrior, would fall for him and he would be in love with her. Yet, in the background, Tourmaline Larou (Karla Crome) stole the spotlight from the main couple and won Vignette’s heart.

Tourmaline the Poet

Both Vignette and Tourmaline are faeries that immigrated to the Burgue from Tirnanoc, but that’s where the similarities end. Tourmaline is my favorite character from Carnival Row, and she goes through a journey. I know I’m not the only one who thinks so, since Amazon made an audiobook (read by the actress who plays her) about her life before the Burgue called Tangle in the Dark. While attending school, Tourmaline and Vignette had their own meet-cute as roommates who went from enemies to lovers. At first, their opposite personalities and outlook on life kept them at odds. Eventually, they became friends and girlfriends.

Tourmaline spent her life studying the historic literature of her people. As a poet laureate, she passed on the knowledge to younger generations while still creating her own poetic masterpieces. When Tirnanoc fell to invaders, Tourmaline went on the run and had to escape to the Burgue (that’s also when Vignette met Philo). The Burgue had no need for a faery poet laureate, so Tourmaline did one of the few jobs a faery woman could—she became a sex worker in a high-end brothel.

Several years after Tourmaline settled on Carnival Row, Vignette also came to the Burgue. After the two reunited, Vignette was obvious about her disdain for Tourmaline’s profession. However, Tourmaline let her friend know that there was nothing wrong with her job. It might not be the same as poetry, but at least she was bringing some kind of beauty into the world. Even though she was much more a lover than a fighter, Tourmaline was not to be messed with.

The hero in her own story

In season two, Carnival Row changed drastically with the caging in of the fae. The beautiful brothel where Tourmaline once worked had become a shelter for people just trying to survive. Tourmaline herself also faced a change when she was cursed. Throughout the season, she took the curse and learned how to bend it to her will, becoming a powerful witch with the ability to see into the future. Her powers go from being a source of fear to a tool she used to help others.

She traveled from home and became more powerful in a foreign land. What else would be on Tourmaline’s hero journey? Well, she reunited with the love of her life, Vignette. The two reconciled and committed to each other, even though Vignette loved Philo. Together again, the faeries returned to a newly freed Tirnanoc to live happily ever after. One of the last scenes of the series showed them getting married in beautiful coats and flying off into the sunset.

Philo was left back in the Burgue, ready to start a new chapter in his life. Yet he reiterated he would always love Vignette, so maybe they will not be apart forever. Season two revealed that polyamory is considered normal among the faeries, so a Tourmaline, Vignette, and Philo throuple is not out of the question. I wouldn’t be mad at that ending either. Sadly, this is the final season of Carnival Row, but at least we got to see Tourmaline become the hero of her story.

(Featured image: Amazon Studios)


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Author
D.R. Medlen
D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a pop culture staff writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.