TNT’s The Alienist
Episode 10: “Castle in the Sky”
Directed by Jamie Payne
Written by Cary Joji Fukunaga, John Sayles, & Chase Palmer
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Requiem” – click here
Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) can’t help sinking into the dark ether of his memory, unable to confront his own past enough to keep himself involved in the present. Meanwhile, John Moore (Luke Evans) goes to the bathhouse where the latest young boy’s been found mutilated, though it isn’t the young boy he knows. It’s still another child, dead and gone, and another notch on the serial killer’s belt.
At the NYPD offices, Teddy Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty) is informed by Ms. Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) about the latest corpse. The Commissioner’s a supposed “honest politician,” though he’s drowning in the corrupt bureaucracy of New York. And he laments that the investigation has yet to be clued up.
Can the doctor free himself from the psychological burden holding him back? Or, can Moore and Ms. Howard finish this themselves? The artist is haunted, seeing one young boy after another succumb to the whims of the depraved murderer on the city’s streets.
“I’ve made my life’s work the study of the human mind, and yet now my own mind deceives me.”
Dr. Kreizler is trying to reconcile the death of Mary with everything else in his life. She was just about the only thing keeping him attached to the world, and now he’s drifting out into a depressing sea. When Ms. Howard goes to see him she finds out more about the “loving” and “brutal” sides of Kreizler’s father. Dear old dad was responsible for his son’s bad arm, after fracturing Laszlo’s arm when he was a young boy; just as I suspected earlier on. Sara’s own father tried to kill himself, too. He botched it, and this required her to help finish him off. That’s so awful.
What’s intriguing, and sad, is how in the 19th century people were so willing to disguise their pain and hide their truths from others, so much so that they almost regress in humanity, and they certainly were repressed in many forms. However, the moment Sara and Laszlo finally open up to one another, they begin to heal. Kreizler’s also a great precursor to all the modern and postmodern therapists who’ve gotten too involved in cases, letting their own mental states suffer in an attempt to try saving lives and minds.
All this gets the doc up and at ’em. Laszlo goes down to where the latest boy was found. He has a look around the bathhouse, checking out the original location of the body before it was dragged into the water in the next room. He walks himself through the crime scene, coming across a few clues as to what happened the previous night. Afterwards, he meets Dt. Sgts. Lucius (Matthew Shear) and Marcus (Douglas Smith) Isaacson to go over more together. They know the killer uses the sewer system to move throughout the city.
Oh, and the Feast of John the Baptist is coming up fast; the next day when the killer will strike. The doc has got lots of work to do if they’re going to prevent more death. Poor Joseph is stuck in the sewers with Beecham (Bill Heck), watching a bag full of kittens get smashed to bits.
Speaking of Beecham, there’s more to him. Ms. Howard has a few theories, including that he took the name John instead of George due to John the Baptist. Not just that, she believes that Beecham’s chosen the location for his kill on the day of the feast: High Bridge Water Tower.
The psychopathy of Beecham is deeply ingrained in his troubled psyche. He mumbles in the dark around Joseph, speaking of Native Americans in disparaging terms and ranting about his mother. There’s only a matter of time before the little kid meets a grisly fate, just like all the rest of those boys.
In the meantime, Dr. Kreizler and the rest of the crew are heading for the opera house, where Don Giovanni‘s being performed. Moore arrives and has to head off old foul weather friends – like Jack Astor (Ben Lamb), a casualty nearly two decades later when the Titanic sunk – before he can make it to his seat. There are other familiar faces at the show, like Thomas F. Byrnes (Ted Levine) amongst the high society for whom he rigs the society’s economy for behind the curtains; he and other “guardians of the social order.”
Moore and Dr. Kreizler head for the tower. As they make it to the sewer tunnels, Beecham is carrying Joseph away into the shadows. Soon, they come across the boy, but no killer. When Laszlo wanders looking he’s attacked, and it leaves Moore alone to be knocked unconscious, as well. This puts everyone in a terrifying predicament.
And also, who’s followed the doc down there? The former Captain Connor (David Wilmot).
“I could take your eyes, but I want you to see.”
Connor shoots Beecham in the back, even though Kreizler protests. That puts the doc at the end of a gun barrel. The drunk corrupt once upon a time cop starts thinking he’ll just kill the alienist, as well as Ms. Howard after she shows up. Except Sara has her gun, and puts a bullet in his gut.
There’s nothing better, even if it’s frustrating for Dr. Kreizler, than Beecham dying before he can give any answers as to why he killed all those boys. I’m glad they chose to defer meaning in that sense. Because, in the end, no meaning is good enough; nothing a paedophile cannibal killer can say is going to explain away his psychopathy. Kreizler’s even more disappointed later when they find he had a “perfectly normal and healthy brain,” as if it might’ve given them something to understand.
Regardless, this is the beginning of when the modern world knew that human monsters lurked amongst them everywhere, and scarier still, there was no way to tell where they came from, nor was there a sense of how to stop them. Yet through it all, Dr. Kreizler kept up a sense of hope, that there would come “others” and there was a possibility of learning from those men, too.
Ironically we see Roosevelt pass of Connor’s death as an honourable act in his final moments, which even Byrnes knows is total horse shit. Just such a bittersweet thing for the Commissioner to have to do in the end. In a way, it was still a victory, because Byrnes himself knew the difference; he knew Connor wasn’t honourable, not in the slightest.
While Moore waits, hoping Sara will be with him down the road – knowing she’s ambitious and wants to keep doing big things with her career – Dr. Kreizler is visiting his father, and confronting the past face to face. He’s finally letting go, in the sense that he’s fully understood the truth of his father’s own weaknesses instead of focusing on what he perceives as his own.
“I still believe we can be better than nature intended”
Amazing finish to this season. I was expecting something else, so it was interesting and awesome to see The Alienist end strong and differently than what I’d anticipated. There’s even room for more. Although I’m not sure if it was ever intended by TNT as anything more than just a miniseries. Either way, loved this, so much. Can’t wait to revisit again later, see all the things I likely didn’t pick up on this first time around. What did you all think? Disappointing end, or did you dig it like me?
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