Oklahoma Dust Bowl, 1934. 18-year-old Ben Hawkins is a young man whom lives with his physically sick, God-fearing mother. After his mother dies from a long illness, Ben unceremoniously buries her in the back yard of his home which is then repossessed for outstanding late payments. Ben is taken in by a traveling carnival troupe (titled Carnivale) and becomes acquainted with the residents whom include the kind-hearted dwarf owner Samson; his right-hand man and head rigger Clayton Jones; Gypsy tarot reader Sofie; the bearded lady Lila; girlie tent owner Felix "Stumpy" Dreifuss, his wife Rita Sue whom Felix solicits to some of the patrons, and their two teenage daughters Libby and Dora Mae; Gekco the Reptile Man; snake charmer Ruthie; Ruthie's son Gabriel, the low-IQ strongman; and conjured twins Alexandria (Alex) and Caladonia (Cat). Ben is revealed to have strange mystical powers of clairvoyance and healing which worry Professor Lodz, the blind mystic of the traveling troupe. Meanwhile in the small town of Mintern, California, an evangelical preacher, named Brother Justin Crowe, receives a sign when a woman vomits up silver coins that disappear before his eyes, that leaves him awakened to the possibility of mysterious powers that he has and it somehow gives him a psychic connection to Ben, both of whom have never met.