Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 1, Episode 6: “Start Calling Me Dad”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
* For a review of the previous episode, “They Capture the Heat” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Get the Rope” – click here
This episode begins, again, with a ringing phone. Now, it is at the Chickering household and the call comes for Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano). At a very early hour. Just so happens it’s Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen). But then Dr. Bertram Chickering Sr (Reg Rogers) isn’t too pleased with the early calls. Even less impressed with Thackery and his early morning experiments.
When Bertie gets to the lab, there are naked Asian women sitting with Thack. They’ve been there a couple days straight: “We took a few small breaks,” John says with a saucy, sly grin. He has lots to show Bertie, hoping to improve on the placental problems they’d encountered when Dr. Christiansen was still around. The plan, says Thack, is to put pressure on the wound while performing a Cesarean inside the wound, rather than outside. Watching these innovations on the part of Thackery is amazing, almost like witnessing a piece of history. The excited way in which Clive Owen delivers these lines shows us both Thack’s own happiness to push forward into the future of medicine, as well as his raging cocaine addiction. Furthermore, the way he employs the prostitutes to help with his new experiments is sort of hilarious, especially the way he reels Bertie in to the entire thing. Well written opener to the sixth episode of The Knick‘s Season 1.
In less exciting and sadder news, Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) and his wife Eleanor (Maya Kazan) are all but watching their child perish from meningitis. She is upset that Everett “brought this into our house” while he is devastated. Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) tries to tell Eleanor there isn’t much to be done, at all. Though, Everett mentions a slim chance bloodletting procedure, and the mother wants anything, everything to be done in order to try saving their child.
Inspector Speight (David Fierro) and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) are still trying to figure out the typhoid outbreak. He has a fairly well connected map of the disease spreading around New York City, so they’re merely trying to discover the link: ice cream. Or “what‘s in the ice cream“. Turns out a woman named Mary Mallon (Melissa McMeekin) made all the ice cream which got everyone sick; Typhoid Mary.
Meanwhile, Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) is trying to acquire an x-ray machine that doesn’t cost $3,000. The salesman of a second hand unit introduces Herman to the machine and takes an x-ray for him. “This should take about an hour,” the man tells him. Incredible how advanced we’ve become since.
Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) and Cornelia sit together for a talk. He seems pensive, perhaps depressed. His life at The Knickerbocker Hospital isn’t what it promised to be at the start. Here, we get insight into the young life of Algie, as an almost additional member of the Robertson clan, having played with Cornelia and her brother Henry as children. We can tell there is more to the relationship between Algernon and Cornelia, so it’ll be interesting to watch more of that come out as the season progresses.
Abby (Jennifer Ferrin) and her syphilis treatment is coming along. The poor thing is strapped constantly into a contraption which keeps her arm over her head, the skin from her inner bicep stitched to her nose. “It‘s always looks like rain,” Abby tells John, “if you only look at the clouds.” Her spirits are high, though, it’s probably only because of having to deal with her illness so long. She has become accustomed to it, sadly.
Then there’s Thackery dealing with the greasy salesman, Luff (Tom Papa) who hawked a second hand x-ray machine off on Barrow. He comes in with a liniment oil already emblazoned with Dr. Thackery’s face, ready to sell. Essentially, Luff is only concerned with his share of the “booming market” in medicine. He even talks about Dr. Pepper, whose “brain tonic is doing so well they’re serving it at fountains all around the city; as much a beverage as it is a remedy.” John doesn’t have much time for it, shooing Luff out and calling him a “moldy rogue”. Already in 1900, the vultures of capitalism are peeking their heads out and trying to make money from whatever they can in the burgeoning field.
Bertie is taking Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) out on a date. They have a pretzel and walk together, enjoying one another’s company. Smiling, talking. A new relationship is beginning here, but will the small looks between Lucy and Thackery become anything? Will that further cause tension between John and Bertie? Either way, for now Bertie clearly likes being with Lucy, and she seems to, as well.
In an African-American bar, Algernon is having a drink. His eyes are dangerous and his face looks almost vacant. The bartender talks about “the Big Nig“, someone to whom Algernon should not go looking for a fight. He does, though. And afterwards we watch him ice down his side, clearly after having gone for a fight with the man. Glad we didn’t get another scene of Edwards fighting, but that it’s merely alluded to heavily. Nice editing in this particular scene.
More sadness now, as the Gallingers finally lose their child to meningitis. Eleanor is apparently lost in her own mind, not thinking straight. She can’t accept the death of their daughter. Sister Harriet and Everett are both equally concerned. Of course, “the powerful wave of melancholia” is coming, and Harriet suggest perhaps they ought to adopt a baby that was left on the church steps recently. A way to get through things. Everett’s left to consider whether or not they ought to take the child in.
Such a juxtaposition to see Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) waiting outside for Harriet: “We‘ve got work to do,” he says. She goes from caring for children to abortion so quickly. Not that I have any issue with it, just an interesting parallel.
Inspector Speight and Cornelia finally track down Typhoid Mary. She is at a new home serving ice cream again. Once the news of her typhoid is let out, everybody at the table eating drops their spoons, afraid they might contract her nastiness. Awesome little scene where Mary tries to run away and then Cornelia tackles her – “Definitely a new century,” Speight laughs remarking he’d “never seen a society girl join a fracas that quick.” This part had me laughing, in the best sort of way. Cornelia is a tough cookie.
At The Knick, another pregnant patient comes in and Thack gets himself ready by shooting up a good dose of cocaine. Bertie is along for the ride, once more. “Are you sure we’re ready?” he asks Thack. But John is all ready, he wants to go and figure things out. He wants to move forward and try getting the procedure right, on the table, in the operating theatre. No more experiments. So they used their new contraption to enter the vaginal canal and attempt to succeed where they’ve only managed to fail until now. Thack cuts into the stomach and forges on. Their new technique helps to slow the bleeding, allowing the successful delivery of the baby. The placental repair is named after all three men who influenced its development: Christiansen-Thackery-Chickering. A new step into the modern world of medicine and childbirth.
Late at night, Thack is working. He hears something downstairs and eventually comes upon the makeshift black emergency room which Algernon has been running. John wants them all out, so the gig is up. So it seems. This could be bad for Edwards, as well as the patients he will no longer get to service. He shows Thackery the extent of the little clinic, what he’s been doing down there with limited resources and under the virtual cover of darkness: “Are you out of your fucking mind?” John asks sternly. Things change slightly when Thack sees the blood pump Edwards made out of a vacuum cleaner: “That‘s not the only thing I‘ve come up with down here,” Algie assures before introducing his solution for the inguinal hernia. John agrees not to say anything for now, as long as the door stays locked and nobody else wanders in. Even better, Algernon’s hernia treatment is heading for the big time and tenuous agreement is struck between the two doctors: “Dr. Edwards,” begins Thackery, “may I officially welcome you to The Knick?”
Cornelia is being readied to marry Phillip Showalter (Tom Lipinski). He believes she’ll be a perfect little housewife instead of continuing on with any business after their marriage. A tense, sort of creepy scene sees Phillip’s father Hobart Showalter (Gary Simpson) confront Cornelia in her room, as she happens to be undressing for the day. The name of the episode comes from these moments. He’s got lots of ideas about what needs to happen after Cornelia is hitched to Phillip. It is an unsettling and nervous scene, but sets the tone for Cornelia’s further relationship with Hobart and the Showalter clan. You could feel something more almost breaking through, and yet the episode finishes her on a strange, awkward note. Very interested to see where it all goes from here.
The next episode is titled “Get the Rope”. Stay tuned with me for another go round.