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TNT’s The Alienist
Episode 2: “A Fruitful Partnership”
Directed by Jakob Verbruggen
Written by Hossein Amini & E. Max Frye
* For a recap & review of the premiere, “The Boy on the Bridge” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Silver Smile” – click here
Down in the morgue – where a mortician inserts a piece of piping into the organs of the dead, lighting the ends and burning off the gas inside – Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) searches for other bodies where the tongue was removed. Mostly, the doc encounters people who believe the young “boy whore” is the type who “had it coming.” Elsewhere, people are being threatened by police, that if anyone comes around asking about the Santorelli boy they should keep their mouths shut. Specifically the Santorelli family’s roughed up good. An ugly, horrific 19th-century New York.
At the police department, Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) must not only do her job, and well, she’s continually dealing with the unwated advances of Captain Connor (David Wilmot). Generally she has to bear the weight of the male gender, because society’s not gotten around to protecting women yet; still hasn’t, not fully.
Then what about ole John Moore (Luke Evans). His existence as an artists isn’t terribly fulfilling, either. He gets to draw, gets paid to do so, but he’s also got to bend to the whims of those paying for his art; an existential struggle that contemporary artists also know, too well. Soon he gets a visit from Sara, she’d like to go see the Santorellis and needs his help. Problem is it’s a rough, “riff–raff” sort of neighbourhood, as per the artist.
Nevertheless, Mr. Moore and Ms. Howard go down there, without any of Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt’s (Brian Geraghty) knowledge. They go to a rundown, decrepit apartment building that’s dark and dreary, full of the cries of children and arguing voices, many people crowded, lots of them sick, in one big room together. Sara speaks with Giorgio’s brother, whose father was beaten by the police. They find out that dad would beat on the kid, so he ran away from home. The cops mentioned to the family there were “other boys” killed, too. A cover-up, no doubt.
Brothers Marcus (Douglas Smith) and Lucius Isaacson (Matthew Shear) are working hard on the forensics, trying to discover what exactly was used to extract the eyes. They come across a particular knife that makes the marks they found on the bone at the inside of the boy’s sockets.
“You know the difference between capitalism and socialism?”
“In capitalism, man exploits man. In socialism it‘s the other way around.”
Dr. Kreizler still has his practice to which he must attend. He’s in contention against the social disregard for the mentally ill, as well as the misguided madness of religion. He finds himself continually at odds with God, as a man of medicine and science. He does not like anybody coming around with their religion in the face of his work.
And over at the department, Sara goes poking for clues concerning the other cases of murdered kids. She finds gruesome hidden files, including one re: a boy named Aaron Morton. She better be careful, though, ’cause Cpt. Connor’s a greasy bastard.
Afterwards, she and Moore take what they’ve found to Kreizler. We see the three discuss the case of Giorgio, what some called his inclination to “contrary sexual instinct.” Certainly the doctor is very serious about such things, he doesn’t come to his work with preconceived notions or prejudice(s). He also knows the killer will kill again.
We see a brief glimpse of another child, he asks an unseen man what’s wrong with his mouth. The two of them extend hands, grasping them over one another. Intensely creepy.
Moore tells Dr. Kreizler about Sara, that she was in a sanitarium for a time after he father died; it’s said he actually killed himself, rather than the official story. The two men are headed out for the evening. Although the doc isn’t letting slip any of his plans. At the opera, Dr. Kreizler keeps a close eye on many of the other attendees, from Roosevelt and Mayor Lafayette Strong (Peter McRobbie) to J.P. Morgan (Michael Ironside). When the show is over, the doc talks to Roosevelt, who’s not happy to be seen chatting up “the alienist” in front of everybody. A tenuous relationship. The psychologist merely wants to help, finding mostly resistance to a parallel investigation under his eye.
That night, Dr. Kreizler gathers his little team. They all sit for dinner. The Isaacson brothers go into all the gory detail. They tell everyone about the Arkansas toothpick, a curious blade that is the cause for the markings on the Santorelli boy. Moreover, the lads are working with early fingerprinting techniques – they call them “finger marks,” and it was new, so many police officers and the judicial system didn’t consider them evidence at the time. Plus they’ve found a timepiece with a bloody fingerprint on it. Now, Kreizler has to piece together the hidden parts of their suspect’s “alienated mind,” his “appetites” and such. One dangerous road they’re about to travel, one led by the beginnings of forensic psychology.
We see Mr. Moore go out to a type of gentleman’s club, where young boys sing and dance dressed as women for a crowd of mostly older men. Quite the establishment. The artist is bewildered by what’s going on around him. He runs into Biff Ellison (Falk Henstchel) who’s offering up “pleasure” and “pain” in equal measures. He asks about young Giorgio, which all but scatters anybody near. He also makes the mistake of turning his back as his drink is being poured. This sends him wandering through the corridors of that wretched place with a young boy called Sally. Moore pays him to talk about Giorgio, a.k.a Gloria, who had a client with a “silver smile.” Eventually the artist succumbs to the drug in his drink. Oh, shit. This puts him at the mercy of Biff, Paul Kelly (Antonio Magro), and Cpt. Connor. They, in turn, are putting him in a terribly compromising position, too.
What an episode, great follow-up. This is setting the stage for so much amazing stuff, can’t believe it’s only meant as a mini-series. There’s tons of plot to be explored. Can’t wait for “Silver Smile” next time.
Father Gore is first and foremost a passionate lover of film— especially horror. He's also a Master's student at Memorial University of Newfoundland with a concentration in postmodern critical theory, currently writing a thesis which will be his debut novel of literary fiction, titled Silence. He also used to write for Film Inquiry frequently during 2016-17 and is currently contributing to Scriptophobic in a column called Serial Killer Celluloid focusing on film adaptations about real life murderers. As of September 2018, Father Gore is an official member of the Online Film Critics Society. Get in contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you want to chat movies or collaborate!