TNT’s The Alienist
Episode 8: “Psychopathia Sexualis”
Directed by David Petrarca
Written by John Sayles
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Many Sainted Men” – click here
* For a recap & review of the penultimate episode, “Requiem” – click here
Mary Palmer (Q’orianka Kilcher) is noticeably more chipper following her and Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) getting more intimate. As is the doctor slightly less an asshole than usual. Meanwhile, the doc and artist John Moore (Luke Evans) are on the train together again, headed for Washington. And John’s got two blackened eyes, a cut across the bridge of his nose. These two men are more at odds than they’ve ever been, too. What with Moore suspicious of his friend after sussing out something nasty happened between him and Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning).
No matter. They have bigger fish to fry. They don’t even know someone’s on the same train watching them, listening in on their conversations.
In New York, Teddy Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty) laments his name being beat around in the press. Lately they’re calling him The Great Crusader; a patronising term mostly, as he was taking on corruption within the police department itself.
In D.C., Dr. Ignatius Blunt greets Dr. Kreizler, trying to help him track down the patient for whom the visiting psychologist is looking. Well, Ignatius isn’t exactly a doctor; he’s one of the patients there, who “hacked off a few too many limbs at Gettysburg.” Regardless, the patient Kreizler wanted to see died several months prior. Still the doc inquires about a “facial tic.” The red carpet’s not rolled out, though he gets to go digging for more clues.
“Boys will be boys”
The horror of war was – and still is – viewed as some manly, even formative boyhood-to-manhood experience. The more sensitive, artistic Moore looking at these crime scenes has been rough enough. Here he is digging into photographs of the atrocities done to human beings during war. And of course polite Anglo-Saxon society had to attribute it to “marauding Indians” standing in for “all forms of savagery.” Y’know, just like Roosevelt, whose image here is that of an honourable lawman when he was merely another racist, Native American-hating cop who – surprise, surprise – became President of the United States of America a bit later in his life.
Moore and Kreizler find out some more info. There was a “massacre in New Paltz” and it was possibly committed by a man called John Beacham in 1880. The artist and the doctor are going to find the son of the murdered couple, Adam Dury (David Meunier). Meanwhile, Marcus (Douglas Smith) and Lucius (Matthew Shear) Isaacson are going to go meet with Beacham’s former commander in North Dakota. In addition, everyone’s paranoid. Particularly Ms. Howard inside the NYPD. Moreover, it’s fun to see the various clash of societies – Sara smokes next to a woman who obviously has opinions about women smoking (while she doesn’t give a shit about the men smoking around her); the Isaacson brothers sit on the train across from two indigenous men as they head into the territory of the Dakota Peoples. It’s even more compelling when Marcus starts taking pictures at the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn (an important location re: Sitting Bull and the ongoing genocide, both cultural and literal, of Native Americans) and his brother chastises him for a sort of blasphemy in being “a tourist.”
Marcus and Lucius meet with Beacham’s old commander (Eric Johnson), who tells the lads about the soldier’s religion, his behaviour around the others in the platoon, so on. The commander also talks of the brutality of war, and the horrific act Beacham committed – he was found repeatedly stabbing a naked boy in an alley, blood everywhere, and “stiff as a flagpole” in his pants. Hideous! Makes Beacham a likely candidate for serial killer in New York.
Former Cpt. Connor (David Wilmot) chats with Thomas F. Byrnes (Ted Levine) about updates on what they know about Dr. Kreizler and their team. They mention the necessity of keeping the alienist from undoing their vast corrupt network.
On her own, Ms. Howard is in the country to see the old Dury place. It’s nothing but a crumbled structure, mostly burnt. Sheriff Early (Sean Bridgers) tells her about the crime scene, where the couple were “butchered like hogs.” Sara finds an old cigar box full of animal bones in the house’s remnants.
Simultaneously, Kreizler and Moore are taken to Adam Dury’s farm. They find the man; if not a little paranoid. They manage to ease into conversation, asking about his brother Japheth – makes sense his killings have a twisted religious bend to them, considering his name – and the incident those many years ago. Adam mentions the heartlessness of his mother towards his brother. He also tells them, not in so many words, that Japheth was raped by a farmhand: George Beacham. Turns out George was found with his throat cut, eyes gouged out, and after falling off a massive cliff around the same time as the massacre.
In New York, J. P. Morgan (Michael Ironside) puts more pressure on Roosevelt, not to let the alienist clue up the case before the police do. Because who needs progress, right?
“You can‘t stop the future”
On their way out of the woods, Kreizler and Moore are shot at in their carriage. The driver’s killed and the horses go wild. This eventually sends the whole carriage off the road over a bridge. Both men survive, though the doctor’s leg is fucked up fairly bad. Moore gets Kreizler tied off, then they walk into the woods to stay out of sight. Provides time for a personal talk about “reciprocated” love. However, the artist doesn’t realise the doctor is talking about Mary, not Sara until he’s told different.
At Kreizler’s place, Mary receives an intruding visit from Connor, with Cyrus still laid up in bed. They want to know where the doctor’s gone, and they’re already intimidating Ms. Palmer. At the very same moment, the man who was following after Moore and Kreizler has sneaked inside during the carnage. Things get scary soon enough, so Mary grabs herself a knife. She takes on Connor, but manages to get the upper hand. Before he tosses her over the stairs to her death.
Oh. My. God.
Really sad that Mary died; full stop. Add to that the fact she and Dr. Kreizler were just becoming intimate, it’s even more tragic. This will have devastating consequences, in several ways.
The penultimate episode – “Requiem” – is next. Only two episodes left. My fingernails are bitten to nubs.