TNT’s The Alienist
Angel of Darkness: “Belly of the Beast”
Directed by Clare Kilner
Written by Gina Gionfriddo & Karina Wolf
* For a recap & review of “Gilded Cage,” click here.
* For a recap & review of “Memento Mori,” click here.
Libby’s breastfeeding when she gets a bite on the nipple, sending her into a slight frenzy while the dead matron sits in the next room, dead as a door nail at the table for tea. Across the city, Sara’s apologising to Bitsy for putting her in danger inadvertently. Thankfully the woman undercover’s doing okay. But Libby’s out there, not yet caught. And that means danger. That doesn’t mean everybody’s willing to just believe that Libby was the one who killed Martha Knapp’s child. Byrnes is still pushing to “protect names and reputations” rather than seek the truth, meeting with Dr. Markoe behind closed doors as Dr. Kreizler and his team continue to look for actual evidence in service of the truth. Although there are cracks in the relationship between Byrnes and Markoe, the former making clear he’s only willing to extend his morality so far when it comes to infants— like that means anything compared to the rest of his awful personality.
The ever intrepid Ms. Howard is out with Lucius. They’re going to visit the matron, curious that this is her first ever absence from work. Sara gives a knock on the door of the woman’s apartment but gets no answer. She decides to open the door and go inside, in spite of Lucius’s protest. They’re barely in when they notice a huge bloody streak across the floor. Sara draws her pistol, then they move slowly further inside, and in the kitchen they discover the dead woman. Soon, Laszlo and the remainder of the crew arrive to begin poring over the crime scene for more clues, hoping they might figure out where Libby’s headed, what she’s planning. They do see Libby painted eyes in blood on the matron. Their killer’s unravelled completely. Sadly, Sara feels guilt for not seeing who Libby was when they were together, but nobody could’ve seen through the well-constructed veil. It’s only now the veil is slipping.
At the cop shop, Colleen’s being shown photos of offenders. They want to know if she sees anyone who looks like the person she knows as Libby Hatch. They flip through page after page until finally Colleen notices one— a woman with no known name, “only aliases,” and somebody known to fraternise with gangsters. At the agency, Sara and the others keep brainstorming. They only know that Libby will become more unpredictable, particularly now that Sara thinks perhaps the Linares baby’s getting under the killer’s skin. Marcus shows up to tell them they have a likely identification on Libby, and the gangsters she hangs out with operate in a very specific area, known to be “Duster territory.” However, the newspaper’s got a sketch of Libby out there and while that may help the public identify her it also helps her be aware that cops are looking for her.
When John and Sara poke around at the saloon where Cyrus works they find some interesting info. Not only is Libby hanging with gangsters, she’s likewise “Goo Goo Knox‘s woman.” So is ole Goo Goo part of the whole mess? Or, is Libby gone mad from being treated like gangsters typically treat their women? Or, is it all just labyrinthine coincidence? The Alienist is great with red herrings and deflection, as much as it is with weaving many real stories from the history of NYC into an awesome, albeit disturbing fictional tapestry. Later, John and Sara get back to the agency where Libby’s been recently, stealing one of Sara’s father’s guns and leaving them a mocking message. This puts them on high alert. And despite their recent troubles, John is desperate to protect Sara from the danger coming her way.
Laszlo’s hitting a brick wall in the investigation. He goes for drinks with Professor Karen Stratton, trying to pick her brain. He admits not knowing women very well, but a psychopath who goes from killing infants to murdering adult women is a whole other ballgame. For all Dr. Kreizler’s faults he’s getting better at admitting his flaws and faults. He’s not quite there yet with his social game, though. He clearly has other designs on Karen, more intimate ones, and she’s too smart not to see that, too. Nevertheless, she’s going to give Laszlo whatever help she can offer.
Ms. Howard gets help from Joanna. They follow one of the Dusters from the saloon down into the gang’s territory. They see Goo Goo there with Libby. The two lovers head off by themselves, talking quietly about the baby. Goo Goo says they can get “a new one” for Libby if this baby’s not working out. She wants her own, not somebody else’s child. Then they have sex right there in a dark alley. Joanna’s going back to let the others know what’s happening while Sara continues to follow Libby.
At a fancy restaurant, Joanna locates Moore and gets more orders to round up the band. And John keeps seeing the incompatibility between him and Violet, or more so him and Hearst. Just the look on those bougie white faces when Joanna turned up! Delicious. After John rushes off to take care of business, Hearst bitches to Byrnes. The latter suggests cooking up a story about Ms. Howard’s relationship with “working women” and “unavailable men.” The patriarchy of late 19th-century institutions is on full display.
And all the while Sara’s the one doing the most dangerous work of them all, including any of the police dragging their feet on this case. She’s snooping around the Hudson Street address. She moves through the dark rundown building with pistol extended in front of her, feeling like an 1800s version of Clarice Starling in Buffalo Bill’s basement. She’s surprised when Libby sneaks up behind her, putting a gun to her back. Sara manages to throw some soot from the furnace at Libby, knocking the gun away. However, Libby slips away, though leaves a blood trail behind. Moore arrives to see Sara holding the Linares baby, safe and sound.
In the aftermath, Laszlo is impressed with Sara’s determination and willingness to see this case through to an end. Later on, John apologises to Sara for the way he acted recently, admitting to wanting her to feel the way he did when she denied his marriage proposal. Then the two of them embrace as they’ve seemingly always wanted, lovingly undressing each other for the first time and laying in bed together.
Yet what about Libby? She’s still out there. Still dangerous.
An intense episode. So glad to see Sara get the big win here by finding the baby, and I absolutely adore that whole sequence where she’s at Hudson Street in the dark building. Spooky stuff. Excited to see where the rest of the episodes go from here!