YMMV / Carnivāle

  • Cult Classic: Never the most popular show on HBO, it nonetheless has a loyal following to this day.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Some critics during the first season's run felt this way about the show, as its bleak, macabre take on the Depression-era U.S. and moral ambiguity made it difficult to care about its characters. The second season was better about this, but the show suffered a large enough ratings drop between seasons to be Cut Short.
  • He Really Can Act: Turns out Michael J. Anderson is just as good playing a human character as he was a backwards-talking, dancing spirit.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Jimmi Simpson plays an Ax-Crazy hick on this show. He would later go on to play the exact same type of character on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but there it's Played for Laughs.
  • Magnificent Bastard: One could make a valid argument to rename the trope Management. Justin and Iris also fit this trope at numerous points throughout the series.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Multiple.
    • Iris when she set the ministry on fire.
    • Brother Justin's treatment of his maids.
    • Sofie shooting Jonesy and resurrecting Justin in the finale.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Start with the raining blood and possessed Madonna and child statues, and just keep going. Every single episode has something terrifying in it, though especially the end of "Pick a Number".
    • "She's screaming!"
    • The town of Babylon. Not during the day, but the nightlife is, well...
    • Every scene involving Ben's extended family. Forests full of doll's heads is NOT charming!
    • The death-mask scene with Evander Geddes.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Tear Jerker: Many, most especially the immolation of the orphan children in Justin's ministry.
  • Vindicated by History: Of a sort. The show itself was always an Acclaimed Flop, but it was also the network's unsuccessful first attempt at bringing a fantasy series for adults to the small screen. At the time, many people wrote off Carnivale's failure as the inevitable result of trying to run a history-inspired fantasy saga on HBO. Because a show like that could never possibly find a wide audience, right? But after the absurd success of Game of Thrones (currently HBO's most popular show ever), the idea doesn't seem nearly as strange.
    • There's also the rather slow pace of the show, with individual episodes mattering less than the season as a whole. Maybe it's not the best approach for a weekly series, but it's been good for several streaming shows.