Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 2, Episode 10: “This Is All We Are”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
* For a review of the penultimate Season 2 finish, “Do You Remember Moon Flower?” – click here
And here we are: the Season 2 finale of The Knick.
Open on Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) headed into Chinatown. On the floor of a brothel, he finds Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) who doesn’t want to go to The Knickerbocker Hospital, but rather Mount Sinai – to see Dr. Levi Zinberg (Michael Nathanson). He needs a bit of work done on the bowels. Although, John wants to stay awake. Nothing to dull the pain. He and Zinberg are a little at odds, but something will be done either way.
Lots of condoms are being sold. Harriet (Cara Seymour) has them all packed up, disguised in boxed of vegetables, while Clear carries them to and from where they need to go.
Then we find ourselves with Henry Robertson (Charles Aitken) and Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson). He’s obviously torn up with the death of his father, the fire at the new Knick. He plans to take his mother to the country, away from the city and everything else. Henry offers Lucy to come stay at the guest house out there: “I don‘t know what I‘d do without you,” he says. Doesn’t seem she’s too eager to head out, though.
Many people mourn the death of Captain August Robertson (Grainger Hines). People attend his wake and funeral to give condolences to Henry, Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) and his wife. Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) arrives with his new lady, leaving fairly abruptly. Others such as Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) stay to grieve.
Outside, Herman is confronted by the police. He reels off his mouth a bit, calling the contractors down to the dirt to make himself look better. The cops, for their part, aren’t exactly interested in his bullshit. Herman further throws down a few insults acting all high and mighty. But with August gone, is he exactly in with the upper-ups? Not sure.
Back inside the wake, Algernon with his freshly beaten face talks with his father Jesse (Leon Addison Brown) about what happened between himself and Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson). You can tell Algie has had a history of fights. Not by his own fault, all the same. He is a properly defiant man for good reason. He’s always being thrown into fire, and also feels his father was essentially beaten into submission, “afraid to look up“. This scene comes off incredibly well, plus more perfect Cliff Martinez score works in to turn this into a spectacular moment between these characters. Dark, brooding, and intense.
Then the unexpected happens: Tom took the money he and Harriet earned. Except he took it to invest it in them, “in us” he says. Down on one knee, he asks Harriet to marry him. But then she rushes out, leaving him on the floor in a broken state.
At The Knickerbocker, in the operating theatre, John is getting things together to perform surgery: on himself. Alongside are Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano) and Dr. Gallinger. They’re not too eager at first to do what Thack wants. Eventually, he gives an ultimatum: help, or get out.
Barrow is trying his best to weasel out of responsibility for any part in the fire. Furthermore, he’s hoping things will work out for him going forward. It’s possible the city may take over The Knick. Of course, Herman doesn’t like that because it means bureaucracy, which in turn means not much chance for more money. He heads down and talks to Thackery, who’s ingesting turpentine to keep him going. Herman’s flaunting his full membership of The Metropolitan Club: “Bully for you,” John says sarcastically. It doesn’t look like he’s much too concerned about The Knick, not any longer. Still, Herman squirms hoping to come out on top in the end.
Cornelia’s having a tough time after the death of her father, regardless of the business in which he was supposedly involved. Her husband Phillip (Tom Lipinski) is attempting to cheer her up. Then he lets slip Henry has been working on the ports for years. Exactly as I thought. “Turns out your brother is quite the wharf rat,” Phillip tells her. Really, now? Perhaps Henry’s been up to more than anybody ever expected. The look on Cornelia’s face says it all. I knew that sly bastard was up to something nasty, more than just his pornographic pictures.
“I know what you did behind our father‘s back,” Cornelia confronts Henry, who acts coy and unassuming. She accuses him of all the rotten things first assumed to have been done by their father. Henry felt his father was doing nothing with his fortune, pissing it away. And so he tried to take the reins, steer things towards his vision of the future. He further tries to put some blame on Cornelia for apparently pressing his hand into doing what he did. Henry says she won’t do anything like go to the press, to the police, to their mother because it’s Cornelia’s word against his. Very eerie moment where he backs her to the top of the stairs, and we wait with bated breath almost already assuming she’ll go tumbling down backwards at any moment. He threatens her and assures that her “one–woman crusade is over“. On her way out, Lucy is heading in with bags in tow. The disgust on Cornelia’s face is powerful, staring up at her brother in all his hideousness.
Cornelia: “How could you?”
Henry: “How could I not?”
Barrow is all but unraveling. His new lady Junia (Rachel Korine) is worried, too. Afraid she’ll be put out onto the streets. He’s going just about mad, looking outside and seeing police camped, waiting to see what he does next. Things in his world are becoming less and less fun as the days go by.
In the world of Tom Cleary, he’s over at the Catholic Church looking for a confessional. Kneeling, hilariously with his feet hanging out the back, he talks with the priest on the other side of the veil. He admits to lots of wrongdoing, but also believes he’s “an all right fella” for taking the sick to the hospital “lickety split“. He believes perhaps confessing to God his sin may be what Harriet needs before she can accept his hand in marriage. This is probably the best scene for Cleary, ever. He reveals to the priest he set Harriet up for the abortion crimes, telling a police officer to get things going. But he further shows how hateful he can be, yelling at the priest who scolds him: “She was a fuckin‘ abortionist.” I like Cleary, though, he’s made me feel unimpressed at various times in both seasons. Then again, I guess it can’t be easy for someone like himself in America, at that time. So, kill or be killed, the motto of too many people forced out of their country and homes in the early 20th century.
More of the modern medicine man Dr. John Thackery. He’s practicing in front of a mirror for the surgery he plans on doing, on himself. What I love is the determination in his eyes, you can almost feel him willing the power to perform right there. An impressive, if not a bit reckless man.
Then we jet back to Harriet and Tom – she’s wearing his ring, as they sit at the table ready for a meal. He spies it and stops. Her smile speaks volumes, and they both have a chuckle. But is he ever going to reveal to her what he told that priest? Can he be cold like that? Perhaps it’s better off, yet I don’t think Harriet could ever bring herself to stay with him if she knew.
Barrow is still being followed by Dt. Tuggle (Joe Hansard). Only now, the detective is apologizing. Seems the reach of The Metropolitan Club has smoothed things out for ole Herman. Plus, even though he’s an embezzler, we certainly do know the source of the fire and so on. Worse – on Herman’s hands are what looks like lesions.
Everett Gallinger is being offered an opportunity to spread the message of eugenics. From the board who reviewed his case, Dr. Phelps (David Pittu) says he would be the “prophet of eugenics“, planning on traversing the globe – of course starting in Germany; “As good a place as any,” says Everett.
But the main attraction – John’s surgery. Doctors of all sorts pile into the operating theatre, each of them eager to see what will happen. Then, Thack gets himself into the medicine locker for a bit of cocaine. We’re back to the old John Thackery. He bursts into the theatre hopped up on cocaine, mainlined to his veins. You can see that there’s a wildness in his eyes. He strips down naked and then gets ready on the table, wide-eyed and maniacal. In the audience, Dr. Levi Zinberg and others watch on with their own widened eyes. Into his spine goes the cocaine solution, rendering John’s lower body painless. And the surgery begins! Thack watches the mirror and cuts, only allowing the nurse present to cauterize and hand around the instruments, not wanting to be “accused of not performing the entire surgery myself“. It is a gruesome scene, and amazing all at once. He pulls intestine out, feeling around to look at the necrotic tissue and determining it worse than expected. Bertie and Everett want to help, though, he refuses any of it. The effects work in this show is at its PEAK here, with lots of nasty looking entrails on camera, a close-up view on the surgery itself putting us almost right in Thackery’s shoes. Soon enough, he nicks himself badly and starts to bleed a good deal. His visions starts to dull, making things a little more difficult. Though, everyone watches on quietly. Not wanting to disturb the mad doctor at work. “This is it,” John says almost passing out: “This is all we are.” Then he fades and fades, seeing images of the girl in his hallucinations. Then he’s out like a light. Algernon comes in from the crowd to help. John has no pulse. They’re all working now, blood pouring out of Thack and onto the floor. Rushing down to the office, Bertie flies like a bird: to get adrenaline. Into the chest goes the drug.
But now we cut to an empty Knickerbocker. At least the operating theatre. Algernon sits looking at pieces of rope on Thackery’s desk. He finds a book belonging to Abigail (Jennifer Ferrin), a diary. Has John died? Nowhere is he to be found.
Henry and Algernon have a meeting. The latter has problems with his eye, even worse now. He says he’ll need a “new profession” and it seems he’s looking to try furthering some of the work done by Thack: “I owe him at least that.” Sitting down on the addiction ward with Mr. Dominczyk (Eugene Poznyak), Algernon tries to continue his therapy. They talk of bad dreams, almost starting the idea Edwards will venture into psychiatry down the road, reminding us of a doctor and patient on the couch situation.
I loved the end. A true cliffhanger if there ever were one.
Excited to see more of The Knick next year. Season 3 ought to be highly interesting, wherever it goes. I don’t believe Dr. Thackery is dead, but perhaps he’ll be disfigured or permanently injured due to his surgery. Maybe he and Edwards will continue in the third season together, going into a line of psychiatry involving addiction, or something similar. Who knows. He could very likely ACTUALLY be dead, too. It seems that way to most.
Either way, stay tuned with me – I’ll be going back to watch Season 1 over and review it soon enough. Cheers!