Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 1, Episode 5: “They Capture the Heat”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Steven Katz
* For a review of the previous episode, “Where’s the Dignity?” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Start Calling Me Dad” – click here
“They Capture the Heat” starts with Bunky Collier (Danny Hoch) bringing a man of his into a shady old doctor. He’d rather not go over to The Knickerbocker Hospital, as it might put him in debt to Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb). I’m sure he’d love to keep an edge on Barrow, as much and as long as possible. Meanwhile, Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) receives a phone call and only mutters: “Whoever the hell this is – go to hell.”
Other medical work is taking place, but in the basement while Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland). The man in front of him has a brutal hernia, extending from the groin down right into his scrotum. Rough stuff. Edwards is also scolded by the patient for using such big words, not treating him “like a man“. Afterwards, they come to better terms after the man is clothed, they talk of heritage seeing as how the man is Cuban. Edwards levels with him and further talks surgery, an obvious treatment for the hernia. He wants to use metallic wire on the operation because other uses have proved to fail later on. Love to watch the medical advancements happening almost on the fly with these doctors.
At The Knick, Bunky’s brother-in-law – the shot man – comes in for treatment. Thack is a little confused, wondering how Barrow is related to Collier. In a little twist of fate, Algernon appears right as Thackery needs someone to scrub in on the surgery. There’s a tenuous bond between the two doctors going in, though, I can slowly see John warming to Edwards; first there was the co-authored paper, now he’s there to assist Thack on this tricky gangster surgery. Herman’s still trying to worm money out of Bunky for the assistance, too. Bunky is not too happy about the “black bastard” working on his brother-in-law. Watching Drs. Edwards and Thackery in surgery together is something else. They have a good back and forth together, working alongside one another like old colleagues, no bickering simply doing what they were trained to do. All works out in the end, and nobody gets shot, as Thack figures out exactly what to do.
Dr. Thackery: “Funny thing about Darwin – he wanted to be a doctor, but couldn‘t stand the blood.”
Inspector Speight (David Fierro) and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) are still trying to get to the bottom of the typhoid outbreak, searching through upper class homes, questioning the homeowners and their help.
Back at the hospital, Edwards and Thackery relax after the tense surgery. As does Barrow who takes a nice drink from his flask, without offering any to Algernon and passing it in front of him over to John. More of the subtle yet screaming racism hanging over The Knick as a series.
In this episode we’re privy to a presentation by Edison’s people – the new x-ray machine. Another incredible look at the innovation in modern medicine, circa 1900. Thackery talks with Cornelia, Herman and another of the money-men, none of which are hugely thrilled about spending thousands of dollars on the machine. Nobody is concerned with the future, only John. Everyone there is more concerned with money, donations, and so on; profit, profit, profit.
Cut to Herman, out in the whorehouse and making more possible deals. Hilarious to see him sit there sweating while Thackery and the others were previously talking money. He’s always stuck at the epicenter of the money woes. But just as often he finds himself in the right place to make a quick buck, as evidenced by the scene where he’s visiting his prostitute mistress.
Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) and Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) are out on the town together. They’re also doing business, of another sort entirely. And not all just to make a profit. Part of their deal is based on wanting to help young women; at least Harriet’s, anyways. Cleary would do almost any last thing for a buck.
Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) and his wife Eleanor (Maya Kazan) are having troubles of their own. Their little baby is presenting signs of meningitis, so off they rush to The Knick, fast as possible.
At a nice dinner, Captain August Robertson (Grainger Hines) discusses his willingness to follow the future, along with Thackery. He wants to buy the x-ray machine at $3,000, hoping to “discuss it over cigars“. Amazing scene here, as we see how far Barrow is from being in the upper class. He’s constantly berated, out the side of mouths, for going to a less than premium restaurant; once by August, again by a man August knows. The class division is clear, and perhaps this is why Herman is always scrambling to make money, any way he can. He wants in on the upper class, even watching closely as August tastes wine like a true connoisseur.
Dr. Edwards is going headlong into the surgery with his silver wire, hoping to help cure the herniated man of his painful nuisance. Turns out Algernon used his own pocket watch to get the wire. Probably his only choice, as black people might not have been able to access silver readily in those days, evidenced by one of the nurses asking where someone like himself could’ve gotten his hands on the goods. Watching them operate undercover like that is impressive, yet always sad and tragic.
Barrow brings new business over to Bunky Collier – a policeman. One willing to traffic in prostitutes. Herman plans on whittling away some debt through this new arrangement. Greasy little weasel of a man.
Things get intense when Cornelia fetches Algernon: his mother isn’t well, complaining of terrible back pain. When he arrives, Dr. Thackery is already there to help. He pops what’s likely a cyst, using a leather belt to do so, then all is right as rain. Edwards doesn’t seem thrilled about it all – another thing to be held over his head. But maybe this might bring he and Algernon together.
Sister Harriet brings a woman to The Knick suffering from placenta previa. Young Dr. Chickering is ready for surgery. As is Thack, who shoots up cocaine before getting scrubbed. Bertie is worried – the last time previa came in, it was when Dr. Christiansen killed himself afterwards. Except in the operating theatre the gruesomeness of the scene to follow is evident in short cuts; Thack looking into oblivion, blood all over his hands, all over the floor. And still, there’s nothing the doctors could do. Another pregnant woman dead.
Then there’s Gallinger’s little baby being treated for meningitis. So much terror for children in those days. It’s likely the infection came from Everett, after having the previous patient with all those rat bites. Hopefully, the child will pull through. If not there’s no telling what sort of pain and anguish this might cause Everett and his wife.
The final scene shows Dr. Thackery examining a bike belonging to Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson). “You chose blue to match your eyes,” John says looking at the bike. He likes her free nature, riding on the bike like some angel along the streets. There’s quite obviously a budding relationship between these two, beginning with John trying to ride the bike. Plus, we get more of that excellent history worked in, seeing the first rambler bicycles in circulation, people getting used to them. Even more, it’s a metaphor concerning Thackery’s own adjustment to the modern world. He’s willing to do anything, try anything, as long as it will propel him and the world into the future. Off he goes riding the bicycle down the block, singing a song to himself called “Sidewalks of New York”.
A perfect ending to this chapter.
Next up is “Start Calling Me Dad”. Stay tuned for another review with me.