Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 1, Episode 7: “Get the Rope”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
* For a review of the previous episode, “Start Calling Me Dad” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Working Late a Lot” – click here
The Knick‘s seventh episode keeps on pumping, as the opening scene brings us back in time with Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) and Dr. Christiansen (Matt Frewer) meeting Dr. William Halsted (Michael Cerveris). This is a time before all of the madness which took Thack along his path. Christiansen calls John a “comet in the sky“. We see how uneasy Thackery is before heading into the operating theatre. Then Christiansen shoots up his cocaine, implying Halsted is where he first learned to take the drug in order to keep his energy up. In fact, William Halsted is who Dr. Thackery is modeled after, so watching this scene is very intriguing. The meeting of two men: one fictional, the other his real life counterpart. The surgery goes on in the theatre, as Drs. Christiansen and Thackery attempt to make progress heading towards the 20th century.
Cut back to 1900’s present moments. Thack is woken up from his drugged sleep to find that Ping Wu (Perry Yung) is having medical troubles. In an instant, John has a tracheotomy performed and Wu can breathe once again. He saves the day then has a fresh bowl of opium loaded. Y’know – for victory.
In other news, a young black woman is accosted on the street by a man belonging to Bunk Collier (Danny Hoch). He assumes she is a prostitute, but it appears she is higher class. Out comes her man and things get wild. A fight in the street begins. As you can imagine, people aren’t too pleased about “the nigger“, and not long after a stabbing victim – Phinny Sears – arrives at The Knick – Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) says a “dirty coon” got him. Then there are crowds of people at the hospital doors, pressing inward. With Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) arriving to work, everything is almost riotous.
Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland), Dr. Bertie Chickering Jr (Michael Angarano) and Dr. Thackery are all working on the man, along with the help of Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson). The medical table is crowded after Everett arrives; he isn’t happy about Edwards being there, nor is he thrilled to see the pump Edwards invented working so incredibly well in the hands of John. Outside of the hospital, the stabbing victim’s wife is calling for something to be done. She wants the man who stabbed him strung up. I wouldn’t doubt they’d all take the first African-American who came by to be hung. When Dr. Edwards arrives to check the patient, he is treated just like any other black man at the time. Sad and hideous behaviour.
Sears is in a bad way, and the situation around him, as well as outside, is not improving. He perishes from the wounds with his family and fellow officers at his side. The grieving wife and mother wants all the “fucking darkies” brutalized. A mob is out looking for blood now, attacking people on the streets. Witnessing this, Thackery rushes to the road. He may not have been totally into Edwards being at the hospital first, but now he is seeing the ugly side of racism rear its head. The consequences of allowing lax, subtle racism go without punitive measures. New York City comes alive with people beating black men and women alike. The streets burn with the hate of racist mobs. African-Americans limp down the street and make their way through the back doors of The Knick. All of a sudden inside Everett inadvertently causes some fighting, a man insisting there are “no niggers allowed“. A boy sees where the black patients are heading then goes to alert the crowds and the police outside: “Get the rope,” an officer says which prompts the door at the hospital’s front to be ripped off.
Chaos reigns after the doors are open. White men everywhere with clubs, knives, bottles, looking for the nearest, blackest individual. Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) is running around trying to get everyone safe, he even discovers Algernon’s makeshift clinic downstairs. Thack starts to get everyone on the move, intending to take the African-American patients elsewhere for treatment. He didn’t want to lead the charge on equality at his hospital. Although, now it’s out of his hands and he takes the lead running.
Transporting patients literally undercover, Thack and the others start to bring patients to a safer destination. Even Cleary, without horses to haul his ambulance, pulls the thing himself. Algernon hides under a stretcher, as patients are wheeled along under sheets like dead bodies. It is a tense, suspenseful moment. Especially once they’re stopped briefly by a very thick Irish-voiced individual. Nurse Lucy makes a sly remark about leprosy and a man’s testicles falling off, which helps them keep heading down the road. There’s also Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) who commands the crowds away, damning them all to Hell if they touch any of the African-Americans. What a wild and frenetic few scenes together. Funny when Barrow hears about all the prostitutes out on the street uptown, no police around to do anything; he’s worried about his little mistress, that maybe she might be in trouble or simply that someone else is fucking her. Who knows. Either way, there’s too much going on to be worried about Herman.
Arriving at a negro infirmary, Thack, Cornelia and the rest bring their patients to a Dr. Williams (Stephen Tyrone Williams) – an old friend of Dr. Edwards from Harvard. Great little moment, as we get peeks of more racism, and a Dr. Thackery willing to work with anyone now. He is changing, slightly. Maybe this event is something that will spur on his working better with Edwards, seeing exactly what he and his people have to go through every single day of their lives. Over at The Knick, young Bertie is left to do his own surgery from pictures alone, but looks to be doing fine.
With everything clearing out, Cornelia heads back to the hospital, as do Algernon and Cleary with the ambulance. Thack offers to see Nurse Lucy home safely.
But when Cornelia and Algernon arrive at the basement clinic, their relationship heats up intensely. She is highly impressed by Edwards, his setting up of the makeshift clinic, his resolve in the face of crisis during the riot, everything after. They are a long, emotionally charged kiss in the fading light. They hold one another close and, no doubt, will soon take one another right there.
Thack and Lucy experience their own romance. She invites him into her boarding house, then further into her room. They’re alone. Dark and shadowy. All the tension between them before now comes to a head, culminating between the sheets of Lucy’s bed. Where will this take them? Does Dr. Thackery have a new confidante? Or is this only going to become a source of betrayal re: Bertie?
“Will it hurt?” asks Lucy before Thack undresses her. “I can make it painless and perfect,” he replies. In the morning, a crushed vial of cocaine is on the floor, the room a mess. And John nowhere to be found, only a disheveled, tired Lucy. She remembers their previous night’s tryst in bits, pieces, little edits, as we come back to her getting ready in the morning. I suppose it turns out cocaine isn’t only good for taking the edge off surgery. Thack finds a use for it just about anywhere.
The next episode, “Working Late A Lot”, brings us closer and closer to the end of Season 1. Only a couple more left. It’ll be interesting to watch where things progress from here, heading into the second season. Stay with me, fellow fans.