Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 2, Episode 6: “There Are Rules”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
* For a review of the previous episode, “Whiplash” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Williams and Walker” – click here
After the eerie end of the last episode, “There Are Rules” starts with a hypnotist (Jarlath Conroy) is working his magic on a stage, as Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) watches on. He’s looking in every possible direction for a cure to addiction, even if it means dipping into things like this. Any inspiration is good inspiration, I suppose. With a smile, Thack watches the hypnotist make a man afraid of a kitten, and other such fun. Over at another attraction, two conjoined sisters are on display, supposedly due to their mother, a situation involving a bear, and other foolishness about their history in Russia. John introduces himself to Lester Brockhurst (Fred Weller), the man in charge of the act, asking if he might examine the girls. For his own curiosity. Brockhurst is simply worried about money; naturally, this can be “definitely be arranged“, as Thack tells him. What’s Thackery up to with these girls?
Cut to Dr. Bertie Chickering Jr (Michael Angarano) and his mother Anne (Linda Emond), who is getting lots of treatments for her illness. The good son has also fully enlisted Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) to help with things; interesting note, Algie is now wearing glasses, which he says helps “a little“. They’re going through ways to try helping his mother, including surgical operations and such.
Then there’s Henry Robertson (Charles Aitken) still trying to get things moving best in his direction, away from the slow tide of his father’s unwillingness to get into the future. Henry also receives a nice sexy visit from Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson); a handjob visit. She wants an invitation to some big shindig, so of course stroking Henry off in the office is her best way to that end. I suppose it is, considering his love of pornographic material and all things fleshy. Plus, she leaves him hanging: good for you, Luce!
Down at the surgical theatre, Dr. Edwards shows D.W. Garrison Carr (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) around, along with Dr. Russell Daniels (Colman Domingo). Turns out, Carr needs surgery. Even more than that, Algernon is the first choice to do the surgery. And he plans on trying to get the surgery done there, even though as Carr puts it: “There are rules.” Algie is going to try bending Thack’s ear on the subject.
At home, Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) returns home from eugenics and racism to his wife Eleanor (Maya Kazan). Things aren’t happy, as she invited the doctor who butchered her over for a meal – Dr. Henry Cotton (John Hodgman). Everett talks at the man with no respect, though, he keeps speaking regardless if the man of the house wants to hear it or not. I’m not sure Everett has any room to talk, not any longer. He’s a few decades away from his rightful place in the Aryan Nation. Excusing himself early, Cotton is ill and leaves.
In a quiet room at the hospital, Dr. Edwards and Dr. Chickering (Jr), along with Betram Sr in attendance, begin a procedure on Anne to possibly remove the tumor that’s been nesting in her throat. The older Chickering can’t watch, though stays close by. Bertie braves through it, even refusing a drink after Algie suggests one might be good for his nerves. They’re injecting mercury into the tumor then applying a current to the areas injected. With a fine hand, Bertie works on the procedure. But they’re interrupted by a wandering orderly who balks at Chickering doing unauthorized surgery, and even more at Algernon. Soon enough, Dr. Levi Zinberg (Michael Nathanson) arrives and berates them all, before literally rolling up his sleeves and helping as best he can. Watching on in horror while Anne slowly loses a pulse, Betram Sr has to pull his son off his own mother: “She‘s been through enough.” The entire sequence leads to young Dr. Chickering tendering his resignation, which at least is better than Zinberg firing him. Luckily, though, above all else – the father and son aren’t being torn apart; Betram Sr actually admires his son for trying to help.
Back to Thack, who sleeps on the couch at the home of Abby (Jennifer Ferrin). The woman on the boat in his dreams is Abby, before the syphilis and all that. Then, the young girl from the Season 2 premiere, the dreams and hallucinations of Thack, she returns. Over and over in his head.
Harriet (Cara Seymour) is still suffering the tortures of the damned on Earth over with the other working girls under the nuns. Yet she still tries to instill the young women with knowledge of a sexual nature. Bless her heart.
More Thackery – he’s trying hypnotism on Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan), with help from the hypnotist at the show earlier. John and Algernon try to figure out what the hypnotism actually does. Thack wants to start trying to use hypnotism in aid of recovering addicts. Now, he begins to work on Tom and his tobacco pipe smoking habit. Waking Tom up, he puts them on for a minute before revealing he still LOVES the pipe: awesome, awesome moment that worked so well due to Chris Sullivan’s acting!
Afterwards, Algernon appeals to Thack about the surgery for Carr. Of course, John is willing to help, even reveling in the likely reactions of the board. Following this brief conversation, Bertie shows up in Thack’s office; he wants to come back, he needs “the speed” of The Knick, and needs a bit of Thackery, too. Glad to see Bertie finally admit: “I know now that this is where I belong.” He and Thackery embrace in a beautiful moment.
Cornelia Showalter (Juliet Rylance) is out with her wonderful bleeding heart trying to figure out the trail to Speight’s death, or better put his murder. She finds an immigrant man in rough pain, hoping to get information from him concerning the ticket she located in the former home of Inspector Speight. With not much, Cornelia leaves.
Nurse Elkins and Dr. Chickering have their little reunion. Bertie apologizes for his anger and childish behaviour after their “falling out“; he’s forgiven her for any of the nonsense which went on between them. She only wants to be friends again. Lucy suggests Bertie ought to take his new “lady friend“, giving her time to get a new dress and prepare for things.
Henry Robertson is telling his father about the proposed surgery on Carr. August (Grainger Hines) doesn’t want to hear much about it, having trouble with “integration“. Mostly, it’s the board who are firm in their racists roots, as it seems August is at least willing to bet on Algernon’s skill as a talented doctor.
The meeting at the apartment sends Cornelia down to where the immigrants come into New York. The reference of bubonic plague earlier: could Speight have been onto something big that the upper crust didn’t want getting out? Either way, Cornelia is becoming embedded in issues of immigration, which are excellent and timely for a series in its second season during 2015 – a year rife with issues concerning immigrants.
At The Knick, Thack receives Mr. Brockhurst and his conjoined ladies Zoya and Nika (Miranda/Rebecca Gruss). The whole thing is a money racket in Brockhurst’s eyes. But Thackery is merely interested in them for medical reasons. He whisks them off to start testing and examining them, as their manager heads out.
Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) has his mistress over at the new apartment where she’ll be staying. They end up having a bit of impromptu sex before being interrupted, briefly.
Examining the conjoined sisters, Thackery believes it may be possible to separate them in a healthy manner. They might possibly only share one organ, making it easier to take them apart. The girls tell him about meeting Brockhurst, their true beginnings being sold to a circus by their father, eventually coming to meet him down the road; they say he treats them “better than some“. John has a genuine heart in him, even for a degenerate man of medicine with raging addictions. He seems to be interested in helping them, seeing the pain behind their eyes as they speak. Clearly, the girls are under Brockhurst’s thumb to an inordinate degree, too. Such a sad story, revealing Brockhurst pimps the girls out, as if it weren’t already obvious from his mean spirited sense of acting and talking with others.
Cleary is out busting locks, entering clandestine into a building with Thack at his side. They’re out to get the conjoined twins, knocking Brockhurst to the floor with Cleary’s crowbar. Under cover of darkness, Zoya and Nika are released from their servitude to the awful man. At The Knickerbocker, they’re being cared for by Cleary, who is respectful even while asking questions like: “How do you two take a shite?” And they even giggle a little.
With Everett, Edwards, and Chickering in his office, with Zoya and Nika there as well, Thackery is laying out his plan to separate the conjoined parts of their body. I love all the excellent bits of modern medicine which come out, from the quest to cure addiction by Thack to the conjoined twins, and so much more.
At a lunch, Cleary and Harriet talk about her state of being. She feels broken, “useless, no good to anyone“. With the nuns now against her, all the girls banned from talking with her, Harriet is being driven inward, to madness nearly. Tom also says he’s been sending $3 a week, which she hasn’t been getting; the sisters aren’t letting it through. He wants her to leave, he wants her to stay with him like suggested originally, and keeps on mumbling “fucking cunts” under his breath, over and over.
Once more at Abby’s place, Thack talks with her about the twins. Then she tells him “I can‘t live with you here, John“. She clearly cares for John, loving him even. But she knows she “has no claim” on him and that they will not be together. He loves her, only going to her to talk. He has sex with other women. But there is something inside him which continually burns for Abby, regardless of anything else in his life going on: the drugs, the surgeries, the women. He loves her. We finish on a shot of them kissing, John embracing her face, not worried about superficial beauty or any of it.
Can’t wait to review another episode, the following “Williams and Walker”. Stay tuned.