Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 2, Episode 7: “Williams and Walker”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
* For a review of the previous episode, “There Are Rules” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Not Well At All” – click here
Back at The Knickerbocker Hospital for another round of surgery and experimentation in the early 20th century.
This episode starts with Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) and Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) pouring up liquor, again trying to hypnotize a patient into becoming sick at the thought of his former addiction. It seems to work on the man in front of them, exciting Thack to no end.
At the front desk, D.W. Garrison Carr (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) shows up saying he’s giving the go-ahead for the surgery himself, as if on a rogue mission. Feeling as if his wife is a little too involved, Algie gives Opal (Zaraah Abrahams) the tough eye.
In another part of town, Dr. Bertie Chickering Jr (Michael Angarano) is seducing Genevieve (Arielle Goldman) with a funny top hat routine, naked save for a towel. He’s charming, that Bertie. Finally in bed together, they appear a very sweet couple. Each of them are nervous, which makes it all the more gentle and beautiful. It’s nice to see two people like them in a relationship, instead of so many nasty, base relationships that happen throughout other parts of the story and its various plots.
Ping Wu (Perry Yung) is having sex with a prostitute, then says “give it to me“: Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) puts out her foot, letting him suck her toe. Then she’s back in her apartment with a new dress.
The weasel Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) is skimming and being called on it by his contractor. Apparently, Herman’s indiscretions aren’t exactly quiet around town. But as is usual: people talk.
And back to Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson), whose racism knows no bounds, treating Carr like a regular animal, as I’m sure he sees him.
Thack is in his office, snorting on drugs and charting his findings. A pain in his gut prompts a swig of… turpentine? Then Everett bursts in: “Have you seen what’s in the ward?” Though John is not a racist like Gallinger, he was trying to help Algernon and feels betrayed. Giving him shit, Thack still doesn’t understand how things are for Algernon and other people of colour at that time.
Algernon: “It‘s the future; you think it‘s here too early, I think it‘s here too late.”
Cornelia Showalter (Juliet Rylance) is down at the docks once again, snooping around for more information. She meets with an Inspector there. Turns out, there’s a “usual deal” for the Robertson family that takes place at the end of the month. Cornelia lies her way into accepting a file full of interesting stuff. This leads into information about Inspector Speight and possible things he may have discovered, or may have caught. She further catches wind of lots that’s happening at the docks and Ellis Island.
In the operating theatre, Dr. Thackery is laying out the procedure he’ll be conducting on the conjoined twins. A bunch of nurses, Dr. Gallinger, Dr. Edwards and Dr. Chickering Jr are all in attendance. Then John announces he wants to capture the surgery with the new motion picture camera, to which Nurse Daisy Ryan (Emily Kinney) replies Henry Robertson (Charles Aitken) has one; Lucy’s eyes perk up a little at this comment, a bit of jealousy flaring possibly.
Former Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) is living with Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan), in a respectable situation for an unmarried man and woman sharing one apartment. Things seem to be going along smoothly. Then in other man-woman relations, it appears Thack is still sleeping over with Abby (Jennifer Ferrin), which hopefully will keep him grounded, as much as possible while he’s all but literally flying high.
Out in the dim light of the morning, John is off at a grave for a young girl. Surely, the one in his fever dreams so often.
Finally, we’ve come to the surgery of the conjoined sisters, Zoya and Nika (Miranda & Rebecca Gruss). Bertie and Thack start to get things prepared; the former notices something on the good doctor’s breath, though, John assures it’s only turpentine. Still, I don’t think the younger of the two is too worried. At the same time, Thackery is on edge. Back in his office he stands as if trying not to fall over. Before taking a bump to dull the edges, John calls Abby instead: “This used to be easier,” he tells her.
Abby: “What do you need?”
John: “I need you to tell me that I can do this”
Abby: “Of course you can. If I hadn‘t believed in you, I wouldn‘t even be here.”
Down in the theatre, John explains to those watching he is hoping to help these girls out of freakdom, to help them lead a “human life” of which “fate robbed them“. With Henry filming, Thack begins to cut into their connecting tissue. Later, the theatre is full of people while Thackery runs through the motion film of the procedure. He even named a new suture after Everett: “The Gallinger Knot” based on his time with fishing knots in the Season 2 premiere. He is a true innovator, regardless of whether or not his mental state is always stable.
Cornelia is given jewelry by Mr. Hobart Showalter (Gary Simpson). They have a chat about her “running around” and their agreement, which brought her back to New York in the beginning. He knows she’s been “sneaking around like a thief in the night“. Hobart is the one who is having her tailed, as we recently saw. With Phillip (Tom Lipinski) she talks later about leaving, though, he has other plans.
At the apartment, Harriet has a few young girls over to teach them how to protect themselves. Tom shows up and I’m inclined to believe he has a bit of a thing for Harriet. We’ll see.
The big ball for The Knick is in swing, with Algernon and Opal in attendance, as well as Bertie and his new lady Genevieve, all of them looking wonderful and ready for a civilized dance, a few drinks, and so on. Others such as Captain August Robertson (Grainger Hines), Philip Showalter and those types are talking money, awards, plus everything else other than medicine which truly drives the hospital.
Having their own fun at home, Tom and Harriet eat a big meal, followed by a nice cobbler. Afterwards, Tom starts talking about getting condoms for people like the young girls there earlier, the men having sex with them. Even though he wants the money, part of him also wants to see people not have to go through hardships he’s watched others go through up close and personal. He and Harriet come to an agreement with a nice spit handshake.
At the party, Lucy begins to exert a degree of control of Horny Henry. First, it starts with him fetching drinks for them both. I have a feeling she’s finding her feminine power through sexuality, and at a time like the one in which The Knick is set I can’t say I blame her; the world she’s in doesn’t look well on a woman, so she has to do whatever she can to pull ahead of the game. Meanwhile, Cornelia warns Lucy about getting her hopes up over Henry, about the family and such. Although Lucky doesn’t feel too happy about standing around listening to any of that.
And then, we see Thack show up with Abby. Everyone stares, of course. But John assures her: “You‘re beautiful.” Around the party they stroll, even introducing Abby to the Edwards’ and toasting drinks.
The most shocking event of this episode comes when the titular Williams and Walker are introduced, two supposed “coons“. A minstrel show-style act follows. In the audience everyone watches on. But even Algernon and his wife don’t look too taken back. Is it mere appearance, or do they not care?
Simultaneously, we also see the dark shadow of Everett standing in the door of Carr’s hospital room as he sleeps. While people dance away in the ballroom, enjoying their night out to various degrees, chemicals are being mixed in a vial. Is it Gallinger? Medicine is being replaced in tiny bottles. Is this what I believe it to be? Certainly. Gallinger doesn’t want Carr there, and even further wants his whole race essentially exterminated, stunted, sterilized and bent from procreation. Are the switched drugs meant to kill Carr, or simply sterilize him? I believe we’ll figure it out soon, and the former might be the right answer.
On the steps outside of the ball, Captain Robertson chats with Dr. Edwards and his wife. Opal is forward and wants to know if Algie will have a permanent position at the new hospital, though, her husband is reluctant. Yet she presses. August makes it apparent the position may not be guaranteed, which does not sit well with either Algernon or Opal.
Heading home for the night, Abby and Thack talk about her nose. She loves the way he compliments her, but asks if anything else can be done about her face, to make things look better. Nevertheless, Thack says: “I like this one just fine.” It’s apparent he loves her.
The contractor Herman came up against earlier is getting a beating at the hands of Jimmy (Happy Anderson), and now obviously it leaves Barrow to keep skimming for himself and Tammany Hall.
With Carr under the knife, Dr. Edwards begins his procedure. Everett shows up claiming he’d already missed one minstrel show and wouldn’t “want to miss another“. The curare to be injected has been messed with by Gallinger, and of course Algernon goes ahead and injects it, meaning to help Carr. Continuing on, the nurse says Carr’s heart rate isn’t right. He’s stopped breathing. Thack and Everett move in to help. It’s all stacked against Edwards, with Everett pocketing the vial he tainted while no one is watching.
Embarrassed and beaten down, Algernon is forced to rethink everything he’s done to that point. It could be a devastating blow for him, his confidence, his entire career. Luckily, Opal stands by his side in such a rough time assuring “there are better days“.
Loving the progression overall in this season, from characters to subplots to giant events intersecting with history and its various issues, problems, et cetera. Looking forward to watching/reviewing the following episode, “Not Well At All”. Stay tuned, fellow fans.