Religion in HBO's Carnivàle

The Apocalypse

 “The clock is ticking, brothers and sisters, counting down to Armageddon. The worm reveals himself in many guises across this once great land; from the intellectual elite cruelly indoctrinating our children with the savage blasphemy of Darwin, to the craven Hollywood pagans, corrupting them in the darkness of the local bijou, from the false prophets cowering behind our nation's pulpits to the vile parasites in our banks and boardrooms and the godless politicians, growing fat on the misery of their constituents. The signs of the end times are all around us, etched in blood and fire by the left hand of god. You have but to open your eyes, brothers and sisters. The truth is that the Devil is here. The Anti-Christ, the Child of Lies, the Son of Darkness walks among us cloaked in the flesh of a man. Does the Lord not weep at this degradation? Does He not tremble with righteous fury? And shall he not seek retribution? I open my eyes and I see a black sky that tears apart and screams with a voice that is thunder, 'Rise up, rise up brothers and sisters and take your place at my side. For you shall be my scythe and your face shall shine like a thousand suns and the streets shall be sanctified by the steaming black blood of the heretics.' And together brothers and sisters, together we shall build a shining temple, a kingdom that will last for thousands and thousands of years.”

Brother Justin Crowe “The Day That Was The Day” (imdb.com)

 

The idea of the Apocalypse is well known. The final book in the bible, known as the Book of Revelation, details the so-called end of the world. (newadvent.org)

 

This idea of the Apocalypse or ‘end of the world’ is alluded to several times in Carnivàle, specifically in the opening monologue of the episode “Milfay” in which Samson refers to “the day a false sun exploded over Trinity, and man forever traded away wonder for reason.” (imdb.com) and in Brother Justin’s radio sermon in episode “The Day That Was The Day”.

 

According to creator Daniel Knauf the “false sun” that Samson refers to is the explosion of the atomic bomb and man entering into the “Age of Reason”. Numerous scenes of Ben’s visions involve mushroom cloud explosions, bright lights, and swirling dust clouds.

“Immediately, he has entered a vision: He stands alone in a vast, silent desert. A warning horn sounds, followed by a flash and a tremendous nuclear explosion. Devastation spreads as far as the eye can see. And there, braced against the waves of dust and debris he sees another figure crouching: Brother Justin. Back in the trailer Management explains the vision. "A weapon," he says. "A false sun wrought by the hands of men." To stop it, Ben must destroy the preacher he sees in his dreams…” – “Los Moscos” (hbo.com/carnivale)

In a February 2005 interview with CarnyCon.com, creator Daniel Knauf shed a little light on the visions of the bomb blast.

"I think the biggest clue in the vision of the Bomb, to me, what I wanted to get across is that it wasn’t the deployment of the Bomb that defined us as a species.  It was the actual successful explosion of the Bomb." (CarnyCom.com)

Ben is meant to stop the creation of the atomic bomb and stop the potential end of the world in terms of "trading wonder for reason". In other words, Ben is meant to be almost a savior in a time where 'destruction' of man is imminent.

 

Brother Justin’s “counting down to Armageddon” radiobroadcast is quite the opposite. He is quite adamant that the Apocalypse is coming and that the Devil walks the earth, although his true agenda remains unclear.

 

The setting itself also creates the feeling of an post-Apocalyptic world. Being set in the "Dust Bowl" during the Great Depression, the land is bare and dry from drought and heat. Little life can survive in this desolate landscape.

 

Daniel Knauf seemed to enjoy putting messages of the Apocalypse into Carnivàle whether it was through visions or inserted directly into the dialogue. Had Carnivàle had continued it would have without a doubt led to some end result involving the atomic bomb and the end of the "Age of Magic".

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