Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 2, Episode 9: “Do You Remember Moon Flower?”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
* For a review of the previous episode, “Not Well At All” – click here
* For a review of the Season 2 finale, “This Is All We Are” – click here
Rounding out to a close on Season 2, the penultimate chapter “Do You Remember Moon Flower?” begins in 1894, Nicaragua. There, we see Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) a few years younger, walking along a dirt road with a donkey in tow. He comes to a tent where a breakout of small pox is happening, not yellow fever, as Thack supposedly thought: “I‘m equipped for the wrong disease.” Unpacking his things, Thack discovers Captain August Robertson (Grainger Hines) handcuffed to a post. Apparently, he’s had some trouble while navigating South America, all due to his having been responsible, possibly, for the latest outbreak. John is threatened a little, yet doesn’t back down. He wants August let go, or nobody will be treated. An ultimatum. Without the appropriate vaccine, Thack goes to work looking for the appropriate plants, roots and such.
Overall, this is one of my favourite sequences out of the entire second season. Just watching Thackery go to work with all the raw elements is amazing. He does his best to help the people of the village with cobbled together bits of makeshift medicine.
Cut back to present Knick timeline – Thack is mixing and doing similar things to the opening scenes, but in his office at the hospital. He concocts some liquid then drinks it, before puking most of it into a bowl.
In other news, the formerly conjoined sisters Zoya and Nika are walking separately, on their own for the first time in their entire lives. Surely an amazing and gorgeous feeling for them. Watching on, Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) and Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano) are all smiles, alongside Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) and more staff.
When Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) arrives at work for the day, Dt. Moorhouse (Tom Brangle) is there. He tells him the news: Cotton was poisoned by his own sons. Cotton actually pulled out his own sons teeth, much like Eleanor (Maya Kazan). Before the boys were arrested, they committed suicide. So, did Eleanor lie? What is happening? Regardless, Everett nearly collapses after leaving the detective.
Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) meets with her husband Phillip (Tom Lipinski). He’s off, again, on business. As usual. He wants her to go, too. More of his father’s business, all that. She isn’t interested in going obviously, wanting to hold onto everything in New York, from Algernon to her investigation into Speight’s death and all the involved elements.
Thack is wasting away in his office. Algernon arrives for a talk, asking how John is doing. To no reply. Edwards offers condolences about Abby, and also gives the good news about the twins; they’re healthy, no more pneumonia, and things are looking up more each day. A family from Missouri is in the city hoping to adopt both girls and give them a new, loving home. A great accomplishment overall for Thackery and The Knickerbocker Hospital. Though, as evidenced by the heroin vials in his wastebasket, John is taking things hard, and Algie knows it. Not like John’s hiding things, anyways.
More condoms are made. Harriet (Cara Seymour) is packaging them, as Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) tries to apologize for the kiss last episode; “A kiss I didn‘t even get,” he says. He isn’t some pig, though. He has genuine feelings. All the same, Harriet is unimpressed and makes him feel pretty low, which isn’t exactly fair.
Meanwhile, Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) is giving his $2,000 to the Metropolitan Club treasurer. His entrance fee into the world of high society, one his fishmonger father could’ve never achieved. Up in the smokey lounge, Barrow chats up a man named Corky (Brian Kerwin) and talks of donations.
With the twins leaving The Knick, a nurse wakes the sleeping Dr. Thackery. Down on the street, Drs. Chickering and Edwards put the girls into a cab and excuse the absence of John, who is otherwise indisposed. Then from the front door comes Everett, angered at Edwards for bringing him up on charges concerning the sterilization of those boys. Strolling from the hospital, Thack comes to see the girls who are already gone. Instead, he falls to the ground with stomach pains.
Cue a quick surgery. With Dr. Levi Zinberg (Michael Nathanson) working on him, Thackery has his abdomen explored. Algie and Bertie get to have a look inside. There are some necrotic bowel troubles due to the cocaine use. The others want to resection his intestines. Thack wants nothing to do with it, hoping to explore “other options“.
Bertie: “My lord…”
Thackery: “You do realize the patient is conscious – don‘t you, Dr. Chickering?”
With Herman’s situation, we’re seeing how laws in the early 20th certainly weren’t in favour of women. Effie is left out in the cold by her husband. Though, she has a record of steel deliveries concerning the new Knick renovations. Mistakenly she was given keys to another box Herman owns at the bank. She’s pulling blackmail on her disgusting little pathetic husband. Effie wants to “live the life I was accustomed to living” and wants everything back the way it was, the best of everything for her and their children. She intends to half everything between herself and Herman, to get all she deserves. Herman tries to emotionally abuse her once more before Effie leaves, but it’s a desperate attempt to gain some footing. If only for a second in time.
Eating a slice of watermelon, Jimmy (Happy Anderson) talks with Herman who is worried about his financials. “This is it for me,” Barrow whisper screams to him. He is watching everything slip between his fingers. Constantly scheming, I’m sure we’re about to watch Herman run down the drain figuratively. He’s up to see Henry Robertson (Charles Aitken), trying to weasel the new contractor out of operations because he obviously isn’t a snake; he is above board and all legal. Try and try and try – Herman won’t stop until he can find a new cow to milk.
Simultaneously, Henry and Cornelia are trying to decide how best to handle their father August. They need to know for sure, to find out more information in order to proceed. Is Henry on her side? Or is he playing Cornelia into the hands of their father?
Edwards is presenting his evidence about the “unauthorized vasectomies” performed on supposed idiot children by Dr. Gallinger. Yet Everett stands by his belief in eugenics. He wants to “spare the world” from addicts and degenerates. Algernon wants Everett’s license revoked, though, the latter claims everything was consensual. He even has Dr. Reid (Thomas Kopache) with him, who is the legal guardian of all those boys. “So this quackery is now sanctioned by the state,” Edwards sadly speaks aloud, half to himself. Everett and Reid try to make it seem as if eugenics is modern medicine. Again, I say it: they’re a few decades too early to join up with the Third Reich. The very heart of eugenics denies Algernon his own personhood – the board says it can help mankind, while Edwards knows the sting of vicious racism. And that’s what eugenics is all about, at the core of its being. Tragic, as the board of review sides with Everett. Out in the courtyard, Algernon rolls his sleeves, which Everett believes “proves my entire thesis“. A fight that’s been brewing finally comes, with racist vitriol spewing from Gallinger. He pretends not to be going for a fight, then blindsides Edwards: “Stupid nigger,” he spits before walking away like a piece of shit coward.
Everett: “I tamed the god damn beast”
Spreading the word about safe sex, Cleary pimps out Harriet’s condoms to a bunch of men drinking and smoking together at a table. And over at another table, Harriet is cleaning up, getting all sorts of women to take the condoms. One prostitute takes a condom over to Thackery, wallowing in drink on a dusty couch. But he only waves her away, unimpressed with something that’ll reduce the feeling on his knob, I’m sure. Love Thack. Deviant, though, that one.
Back to A.D. Elkins (Stephen Spinella). Lucy asks about Moon Flower, the mule at their old farm who everyone used to beat. This whole story parallels the story of Lucy – similarly beaten, working all the time. She talks at her paralysed father who can only look on and take it all in. “This world offers too much,” Lucy says. “And contrary to what you think, I‘m too smart to let myself turn out that way. And if that means sinnin‘ to get what I want – well then, so be it. I won‘t be shamed by the likes of you or anyone else anymore. What I‘ve done, what I will do is nowhere near the deceitful life you‘ve obviously led.” Even more, she reveals all her nasty sins, including much of her former life with Thack, which goes into great detail. She continually reels off more sin for her father to digest on his way out of life. Best is when she comes to the story of the toe sucking. Then, A.D. goes out like a light into the darkness of damnation: “Enjoy your trip,” Lucy says quietly on her way out. Vicious. Dig it.
Cornelia finds herself at the construction site for the hospital. She looks for her father, who’s surprised by her visit. He talks of all the grand things that will be installed at the new Knick. “This is it,” says August, “this is my legacy“. Beaming, he is soon interrupted by Cornelia’s accusations. Not unjustified accusations. She reveals all her knowledge, at which he balks initially. He denies everything, getting angry with his daughter. Their conversation turns into panic quickly. August notices smoke and down at the bottom of the stairwell, a fire is beginning to rage. He sends his daughter down a ladder through a small space between floors, staying behind until she can send help.
As flames consume the building, Henry and Cornelia watch their father jump from up high, crashing through scaffolding to the ground.
Then, we cut back to August in 1894 being released from his cuffs and leg shackles, Thackery watching on. It’s no wonder John got involved with The Knickerbocker Hospital, after getting August out of such a jam. A great ending to an intense penultimate season finish.
Looking forward to watching and reviewing the Season 2 finale, “This Is All We Are”. Been a great season and I hear the last episode has got some teeth. Stay tuned with me for another one, fellow Soderbergh lovers.