Synopsis by Josh Ralske
When the traveling carnival comes upon Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl), out in the Oklahoma dust in 1934, he's trying to bury his recently departed mother, while a man from the bank threatens to bulldoze their little house. Jonesy (Tim DeKay) helps out, gathering a group of carnies together to dig a grave. He notices the broken chain on Ben's leg, and when they pull out, with police sirens in the distance, the carnival takes Ben with them. Samson (Michael J. Anderson), the dwarf who runs the carnival, later tells Jonesy that "Management" had been expecting the mysterious stranger. Soon, Ben meets Lila (Debra Christofferson), the bearded lady; Lodz (Patrick Bauchau), the blind mentalist who peers into Ben's frightening dreams; and Sofie (Clea Duvall), a young woman who reads tarot cards and has a telepathic link with her mother, Apollonia (Diane Salinger). Ben isn't particularly friendly, and, though he has no prospects, isn't interested in joining the carnival when Samson offers to take him on, at Management's behest. After rescuing Sofie from some ruffians in town, she does a tarot reading for him, and nearly scares him off, speaking to him of his "hidden talent." Ben has an inkling of what that terrible power might be. Meanwhile, out in California, Brother Justin Crowe (Clancy Brown) preaches to his flock with the help of his devoted sister, Iris (Amy Madigan). Crowe, like Ben, plagued by mysterious and horrific visions, reveals a strange power of his own when he confronts a destitute woman who stole from the church's collection plate. The premiere episode of Carnivàle was written by the show's creator, Daniel Knauf, and directed by Rodrigo García (Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her).