Steven Soderbergh's UNSANE explores society's dangerous inability to believe women and victims.
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.
Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 1, Episode 6: “Start Calling Me Dad”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
* For a review of the previous episode, “They Capture the Heat” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Get the Rope” – click here
This episode begins, again, with a ringing phone. Now, it is at the Chickering household and the call comes for Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano). At a very early hour. Just so happens it’s Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen). But then Dr. Bertram Chickering Sr (Reg Rogers) isn’t too pleased with the early calls. Even less impressed with Thackery and his early morning experiments.
When Bertie gets to the lab, there are naked Asian women sitting with Thack. They’ve been there a couple days straight: “We took a few small breaks,” John says with a saucy, sly grin. He has lots to show Bertie, hoping to improve on the placental problems they’d encountered when Dr. Christiansen was still around. The plan, says Thack, is to put pressure on the wound while performing a Cesarean inside the wound, rather than outside. Watching these innovations on the part of Thackery is amazing, almost like witnessing a piece of history. The excited way in which Clive Owen delivers these lines shows us both Thack’s own happiness to push forward into the future of medicine, as well as his raging cocaine addiction. Furthermore, the way he employs the prostitutes to help with his new experiments is sort of hilarious, especially the way he reels Bertie in to the entire thing. Well written opener to the sixth episode of The Knick‘s Season 1.
In less exciting and sadder news, Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) and his wife Eleanor (Maya Kazan) are all but watching their child perish from meningitis. She is upset that Everett “brought this into our house” while he is devastated. Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) tries to tell Eleanor there isn’t much to be done, at all. Though, Everett mentions a slim chance bloodletting procedure, and the mother wants anything, everything to be done in order to try saving their child.
Inspector Speight (David Fierro) and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) are still trying to figure out the typhoid outbreak. He has a fairly well connected map of the disease spreading around New York City, so they’re merely trying to discover the link: ice cream. Or “what‘s in the ice cream“. Turns out a woman named Mary Mallon (Melissa McMeekin) made all the ice cream which got everyone sick; Typhoid Mary.
Meanwhile, Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) is trying to acquire an x-ray machine that doesn’t cost $3,000. The salesman of a second hand unit introduces Herman to the machine and takes an x-ray for him. “This should take about an hour,” the man tells him. Incredible how advanced we’ve become since.
Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) and Cornelia sit together for a talk. He seems pensive, perhaps depressed. His life at The Knickerbocker Hospital isn’t what it promised to be at the start. Here, we get insight into the young life of Algie, as an almost additional member of the Robertson clan, having played with Cornelia and her brother Henry as children. We can tell there is more to the relationship between Algernon and Cornelia, so it’ll be interesting to watch more of that come out as the season progresses.
Abby (Jennifer Ferrin) and her syphilis treatment is coming along. The poor thing is strapped constantly into a contraption which keeps her arm over her head, the skin from her inner bicep stitched to her nose. “It‘s always looks like rain,” Abby tells John, “if you only look at the clouds.” Her spirits are high, though, it’s probably only because of having to deal with her illness so long. She has become accustomed to it, sadly.
Then there’s Thackery dealing with the greasy salesman, Luff (Tom Papa) who hawked a second hand x-ray machine off on Barrow. He comes in with a liniment oil already emblazoned with Dr. Thackery’s face, ready to sell. Essentially, Luff is only concerned with his share of the “booming market” in medicine. He even talks about Dr. Pepper, whose “brain tonic is doing so well they’re serving it at fountains all around the city; as much a beverage as it is a remedy.” John doesn’t have much time for it, shooing Luff out and calling him a “moldy rogue”. Already in 1900, the vultures of capitalism are peeking their heads out and trying to make money from whatever they can in the burgeoning field.
Bertie is taking Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) out on a date. They have a pretzel and walk together, enjoying one another’s company. Smiling, talking. A new relationship is beginning here, but will the small looks between Lucy and Thackery become anything? Will that further cause tension between John and Bertie? Either way, for now Bertie clearly likes being with Lucy, and she seems to, as well.
In an African-American bar, Algernon is having a drink. His eyes are dangerous and his face looks almost vacant. The bartender talks about “the Big Nig“, someone to whom Algernon should not go looking for a fight. He does, though. And afterwards we watch him ice down his side, clearly after having gone for a fight with the man. Glad we didn’t get another scene of Edwards fighting, but that it’s merely alluded to heavily. Nice editing in this particular scene.
More sadness now, as the Gallingers finally lose their child to meningitis. Eleanor is apparently lost in her own mind, not thinking straight. She can’t accept the death of their daughter. Sister Harriet and Everett are both equally concerned. Of course, “the powerful wave of melancholia” is coming, and Harriet suggest perhaps they ought to adopt a baby that was left on the church steps recently. A way to get through things. Everett’s left to consider whether or not they ought to take the child in.
Such a juxtaposition to see Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) waiting outside for Harriet: “We‘ve got work to do,” he says. She goes from caring for children to abortion so quickly. Not that I have any issue with it, just an interesting parallel.
Inspector Speight and Cornelia finally track down Typhoid Mary. She is at a new home serving ice cream again. Once the news of her typhoid is let out, everybody at the table eating drops their spoons, afraid they might contract her nastiness. Awesome little scene where Mary tries to run away and then Cornelia tackles her – “Definitely a new century,” Speight laughs remarking he’d “never seen a society girl join a fracas that quick.” This part had me laughing, in the best sort of way. Cornelia is a tough cookie.
At The Knick, another pregnant patient comes in and Thack gets himself ready by shooting up a good dose of cocaine. Bertie is along for the ride, once more. “Are you sure we’re ready?” he asks Thack. But John is all ready, he wants to go and figure things out. He wants to move forward and try getting the procedure right, on the table, in the operating theatre. No more experiments. So they used their new contraption to enter the vaginal canal and attempt to succeed where they’ve only managed to fail until now. Thack cuts into the stomach and forges on. Their new technique helps to slow the bleeding, allowing the successful delivery of the baby. The placental repair is named after all three men who influenced its development: Christiansen-Thackery-Chickering. A new step into the modern world of medicine and childbirth.
Late at night, Thack is working. He hears something downstairs and eventually comes upon the makeshift black emergency room which Algernon has been running. John wants them all out, so the gig is up. So it seems. This could be bad for Edwards, as well as the patients he will no longer get to service. He shows Thackery the extent of the little clinic, what he’s been doing down there with limited resources and under the virtual cover of darkness: “Are you out of your fucking mind?” John asks sternly. Things change slightly when Thack sees the blood pump Edwards made out of a vacuum cleaner: “That‘s not the only thing I‘ve come up with down here,” Algie assures before introducing his solution for the inguinal hernia. John agrees not to say anything for now, as long as the door stays locked and nobody else wanders in. Even better, Algernon’s hernia treatment is heading for the big time and tenuous agreement is struck between the two doctors: “Dr. Edwards,” begins Thackery, “may I officially welcome you to The Knick?”
Cornelia is being readied to marry Phillip Showalter (Tom Lipinski). He believes she’ll be a perfect little housewife instead of continuing on with any business after their marriage. A tense, sort of creepy scene sees Phillip’s father Hobart Showalter (Gary Simpson) confront Cornelia in her room, as she happens to be undressing for the day. The name of the episode comes from these moments. He’s got lots of ideas about what needs to happen after Cornelia is hitched to Phillip. It is an unsettling and nervous scene, but sets the tone for Cornelia’s further relationship with Hobart and the Showalter clan. You could feel something more almost breaking through, and yet the episode finishes her on a strange, awkward note. Very interested to see where it all goes from here.
The next episode is titled “Get the Rope”. Stay tuned with me for another go round.
Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 1, Episode 5: “They Capture the Heat”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Steven Katz
* For a review of the previous episode, “Where’s the Dignity?” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Start Calling Me Dad” – click here
“They Capture the Heat” starts with Bunky Collier (Danny Hoch) bringing a man of his into a shady old doctor. He’d rather not go over to The Knickerbocker Hospital, as it might put him in debt to Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb). I’m sure he’d love to keep an edge on Barrow, as much and as long as possible. Meanwhile, Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) receives a phone call and only mutters: “Whoever the hell this is – go to hell.”
Other medical work is taking place, but in the basement while Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland). The man in front of him has a brutal hernia, extending from the groin down right into his scrotum. Rough stuff. Edwards is also scolded by the patient for using such big words, not treating him “like a man“. Afterwards, they come to better terms after the man is clothed, they talk of heritage seeing as how the man is Cuban. Edwards levels with him and further talks surgery, an obvious treatment for the hernia. He wants to use metallic wire on the operation because other uses have proved to fail later on. Love to watch the medical advancements happening almost on the fly with these doctors.
At The Knick, Bunky’s brother-in-law – the shot man – comes in for treatment. Thack is a little confused, wondering how Barrow is related to Collier. In a little twist of fate, Algernon appears right as Thackery needs someone to scrub in on the surgery. There’s a tenuous bond between the two doctors going in, though, I can slowly see John warming to Edwards; first there was the co-authored paper, now he’s there to assist Thack on this tricky gangster surgery. Herman’s still trying to worm money out of Bunky for the assistance, too. Bunky is not too happy about the “black bastard” working on his brother-in-law. Watching Drs. Edwards and Thackery in surgery together is something else. They have a good back and forth together, working alongside one another like old colleagues, no bickering simply doing what they were trained to do. All works out in the end, and nobody gets shot, as Thack figures out exactly what to do.
Dr. Thackery: “Funny thing about Darwin – he wanted to be a doctor, but couldn‘t stand the blood.”
Inspector Speight (David Fierro) and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) are still trying to get to the bottom of the typhoid outbreak, searching through upper class homes, questioning the homeowners and their help.
Back at the hospital, Edwards and Thackery relax after the tense surgery. As does Barrow who takes a nice drink from his flask, without offering any to Algernon and passing it in front of him over to John. More of the subtle yet screaming racism hanging over The Knick as a series.
In this episode we’re privy to a presentation by Edison’s people – the new x-ray machine. Another incredible look at the innovation in modern medicine, circa 1900. Thackery talks with Cornelia, Herman and another of the money-men, none of which are hugely thrilled about spending thousands of dollars on the machine. Nobody is concerned with the future, only John. Everyone there is more concerned with money, donations, and so on; profit, profit, profit.
Cut to Herman, out in the whorehouse and making more possible deals. Hilarious to see him sit there sweating while Thackery and the others were previously talking money. He’s always stuck at the epicenter of the money woes. But just as often he finds himself in the right place to make a quick buck, as evidenced by the scene where he’s visiting his prostitute mistress.
Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) and Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) are out on the town together. They’re also doing business, of another sort entirely. And not all just to make a profit. Part of their deal is based on wanting to help young women; at least Harriet’s, anyways. Cleary would do almost any last thing for a buck.
Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) and his wife Eleanor (Maya Kazan) are having troubles of their own. Their little baby is presenting signs of meningitis, so off they rush to The Knick, fast as possible.
At a nice dinner, Captain August Robertson (Grainger Hines) discusses his willingness to follow the future, along with Thackery. He wants to buy the x-ray machine at $3,000, hoping to “discuss it over cigars“. Amazing scene here, as we see how far Barrow is from being in the upper class. He’s constantly berated, out the side of mouths, for going to a less than premium restaurant; once by August, again by a man August knows. The class division is clear, and perhaps this is why Herman is always scrambling to make money, any way he can. He wants in on the upper class, even watching closely as August tastes wine like a true connoisseur.
Dr. Edwards is going headlong into the surgery with his silver wire, hoping to help cure the herniated man of his painful nuisance. Turns out Algernon used his own pocket watch to get the wire. Probably his only choice, as black people might not have been able to access silver readily in those days, evidenced by one of the nurses asking where someone like himself could’ve gotten his hands on the goods. Watching them operate undercover like that is impressive, yet always sad and tragic.
Barrow brings new business over to Bunky Collier – a policeman. One willing to traffic in prostitutes. Herman plans on whittling away some debt through this new arrangement. Greasy little weasel of a man.
Things get intense when Cornelia fetches Algernon: his mother isn’t well, complaining of terrible back pain. When he arrives, Dr. Thackery is already there to help. He pops what’s likely a cyst, using a leather belt to do so, then all is right as rain. Edwards doesn’t seem thrilled about it all – another thing to be held over his head. But maybe this might bring he and Algernon together.
Sister Harriet brings a woman to The Knick suffering from placenta previa. Young Dr. Chickering is ready for surgery. As is Thack, who shoots up cocaine before getting scrubbed. Bertie is worried – the last time previa came in, it was when Dr. Christiansen killed himself afterwards. Except in the operating theatre the gruesomeness of the scene to follow is evident in short cuts; Thack looking into oblivion, blood all over his hands, all over the floor. And still, there’s nothing the doctors could do. Another pregnant woman dead.
Then there’s Gallinger’s little baby being treated for meningitis. So much terror for children in those days. It’s likely the infection came from Everett, after having the previous patient with all those rat bites. Hopefully, the child will pull through. If not there’s no telling what sort of pain and anguish this might cause Everett and his wife.
The final scene shows Dr. Thackery examining a bike belonging to Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson). “You chose blue to match your eyes,” John says looking at the bike. He likes her free nature, riding on the bike like some angel along the streets. There’s quite obviously a budding relationship between these two, beginning with John trying to ride the bike. Plus, we get more of that excellent history worked in, seeing the first rambler bicycles in circulation, people getting used to them. Even more, it’s a metaphor concerning Thackery’s own adjustment to the modern world. He’s willing to do anything, try anything, as long as it will propel him and the world into the future. Off he goes riding the bicycle down the block, singing a song to himself called “Sidewalks of New York”.
A perfect ending to this chapter.
Next up is “Start Calling Me Dad”. Stay tuned for another review with me.
Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 1, Episode 4: “Where’s the Dignity?”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Busy Flea” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “They Capture the Heat” – click here
The Knick‘s fourth episode starts with Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) playing darts, betting, drinking. He ends up making a bullseye and the place roars. Then from the corner, Tom has a little lookout boy signal him to the door. What I love about this opening, as is the case at many points through each episode, is the music from Cliff Martinez. I mean, does it ever give this period piece series an extra edge, or what? Insanely catchy, intriguing, weird.
Here, the score leads into a scene where Cleary brings a bag of rats from the lookout boy down to a tiny ring, lined on every side by drunk, loud men. Inside the ring, the rats are dumped out and a man in the middle tries his best to stomp them. One of those basement gambling rings that’ll host any sort of event.
At the hospital, Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) presents ashes to a widow. It turns out the pig he cut up at the end of the last episode was for the ashes, as the body clearly went to making money.
In the operating theatre, Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) scrubs in for surgery. Even while Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) says there’s no need. All the while, Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) fumes at being told what to do by Edwards, who orates the surgery for everyone present. At the ready is Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano), as well. But at one point Algernon refuses to tell Everett “what‘s next“. Worse, Everett says he has no time for “nigger games“. Finally, in steps Edwards to do the rest of the procedure and doesn’t miss a beat. He helps harden and clot the aneurysm with an electrical current, which prompts Gallinger to punch Edwards in the face; a dirty, cheap shot.
Inspector Speight (David Fierro) and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) head over to see Mrs. Hemming (Emily Bergl) concerning the typhoid outbreak. We see how frank and upfront Speight is, after refusing a handshake from the lady due to not knowing her “hygiene habits“. He further asks tough questions to the lady, wondering if there were any women “on the side” for her husband
We see Thack reciting lines for a crowd, an obvious flashback to a time before Abby (Jennifer Ferrin) lost her nose, and when Dr. Christiansen (Matt Frewer) was still alive. A Christmastime party at the hospital. Happy, carefree. Cut back to 1900, Abby sits ghastly in a chair with the skin on her arm grafted to her face, elbow bent back up over her head. Things have certainly changed. Tragic. And it seems their sad reunion does nothing to help John’s state of mind. As the two talk, Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) listens on. She hears everything at the hospital, but just listens. Taking it all in.
Herman has a new hush-hush agreement with Cleary, taking the ambulance for obviously nefarious purposes. Afterwards, Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) comes to ask Cleary to give up his fooling around. Only Tom isn’t fooling around. He tells her what he knows – the abortions, all the girls. Now they’ve got an arrangement since he’s strong arming the nun. I don’t like what he’s doing, though, I don’t exactly feel he’s on the level. It isn’t Christ keeping him on the moral side of anything: he’s in it for money.
Algernon meets his father Jesse (Leon Addison Brown) outside of the hospital. He is a proud man to have his own son, a strong African-American man a doctor at The Knick. They have a chat about the history of the building, the neighbourhood, bits about Captain August (Grainger Hines) and that crowd. When Dr. Thackery strolls out, Algernon makes a great quip about how good John is: “But I might be better,” he says to his father with a smirk across his face.
We get more of Bertie now, which I love. He’s a good character and Angarano plays him incredibly well. His father, Bertram Sr (Reg Rogers), seems out of the loop in his son’s life. He doesn’t approve of the circus that is The Knick. It’s interesting to watch their relationship play out, especially into Season 2. Great actors with a nice chemistry, as well.
Furthermore, we’re privy to Algernon and his family in a scene together in a scene. I’m excited to see more of his story; another solid part of why The Knick is well written, having Algernon tackle all the racism in 1900 being an educated black man in a fiery New York City. Even better, Algernon goes on to meet Hobart Showalter (Gary Simpson), future father-in-law of Cornelia. Hobart is a real greasy guy, a capitalist whose beady eyes are those of an absolute predator. But Algie gives him a nice saucy retort after listening about the “docile” natives of Ecuador. Nice scene to include here, which pits Algernon against the upper class racism of the early 20th century.
Down in Chinatown, Lucy finds Dr. Thackery laying in a haze of opium. Naked Chinese woman by his side. Naturally, she’s shocked and makes her way out quickly. Their relationship is headed somewhere. No doubt to a tragic end for one of them. Or both.
And so Cornelia is marrying Hobart’s son Phillip (Tom Lipinski). Everyone’s mingling at the party uptown. A few strange looks pass between Algernon and Cornelia, after talk – from Phillip – about them moving away. Is there more to the relationship between these two? Sure, they’re old friends; the Edwards’ have worked for the Robertsons years upon years. Only there’s something else there.
Algernon talks with a vacuum salesman about how one of his units might work with blood. So they tinker with it a little, and the doctor quickly buys it up. Should be fun to watch what he’s up to with this gadget. I assume perhaps a better way to pump blood during surgery.
At The Knick, Bertie Jr shows his father around while doing rounds with patients. An injured, sick man comes in with rat bites. He’s the one who stomped rats at the beginning of the episode; after he slipped, they got him a bunch. Algernon gets pushed out of the way mostly, called a shoeshine boy essentially, then Everett wrestles his way in next to Chickering. They’ll soon have to accept him. Particularly now that Algernon stands tall in Gallinger’s face, ready for a punch instead of getting suckered. I just want to see Everett get the smile wiped right off his face.
Cleary comes across a young woman covered in blood, laying in bed. He takes her in the ambulance, eventually ending up in Thackery’s hands. At his side are Bertie and Sister Harriet, watching on is a distraught Cleary and an interested Dr. Bertie Chickering Sr. The blood is leaking everywhere. The young girl didn’t want to be pregnant and massacred herself. At a time like this, we truly see that someone like Harriet is needed. But it should’ve been legal, instead of her having to do it backdoor secretive. So many young lives lost, so much horror. This scene is real gruesome, in a brief moment. We see John reach inside the woman, then Bertie; the first shot is raw, almost surreal. Lots of blood. A little later, Bertie’s father is not exactly impressed because he came from a worse place than The Knickerbocker, all so that his son didn’t have to go through the same. Except Bertie likes the way Dr. Thackery operates, the experiments he tries, and the methods which he attempts. He is like no other, certainly. Alas, family problems plague Bertram Junior.
Speaking of problems – Herman’s in a jam. Down in the morgue, he has a slight confrontation with Cleary who knows what he’s doing. Barrow talks about “the going price for a fresh body“. Cleary just isn’t having any of his nonsense. We find out he was a gravedigger. Doesn’t surprise me in the least. He must have done whatever he could after coming over from Ireland. He and Sister Harriet go see the girl who died earlier get buried. Along with a bunch of other bodies in a semi-mass grave. Harriet says a prayer before they head off.
The end of this episode sees Lucy riding off on her bike, as Dr. Thackery heads out – once again – to Chinatown. We’ll see what other interesting things progress in this shady relationship in the next episode titled “They Capture the Heat”, as well as where all the other tenuous, wild friction between characters heads. Stay tuned.
Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 1, Episode 3: “The Busy Flea”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
* For a review of the previous episode, “Mr. Paris Shoes” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Where’s the Dignity?” – click here
After an intense and wonderful second episode “Mr. Paris Shoes”, the third episode of Cinemax’s The Knick sees an old, familiar face to Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) come to visit at The Knickerbocker Hospital. It’s a woman named Abigail Alford (Jennifer Ferrin). She’s a friend of John. On her face, she wears a fake nose with her tiny blue glasses. The savagery of syphilis. “No one handles the unexpected like John Thackery,” she says. “It‘s where I live,” replies John.
They were together once upon a time. Turns out, he’s always been a bit of a wild card. Abby tells him: “I could never get used to what you called normal.” There’s a tender scene where John takes her fake nose off, revealing the missing one from her face where a gaping wound sits. Abby’s husband and John are the only two men she has ever been with, but her husband was less than faithful. Such a sad state of affairs, to see a woman cheated on, but worse – cheated on and then given a terrible disease, one which at this point in 1900 was yet to be properly dealt with (penicillin did those old effects in after 1928). Rotten. Glad to see Thackery is still a friend after all their history, and further, a doctor who’s willing to try and help her with everything he can possibly do.
I love that their relationship is evident, but not through a total barrage of exposition. Just goes to show the writing in this series is quality. Courtesy of Jack Amiel & Michael Begler, a fantastic team alongside Steven Soderbergh and his fascinating filming techniques.
Out with his tooth missing, Herman ends up not getting a corpse for Thackery. We’ll see how that plays out for him. Back at the hospital, Herman’s wife Effie (Molly Price) arrives for a little meeting. They don’t seem to have much of relationship. Clearly, Herman is a crook, he keeps her in fine clothing. However, she appears to be always looking for money. So is Herman doing what he does just to fund her activities, or is it that Herman puts himself out there as a man on the town with all kinds of cash? I think he overextends himself. Not to put all the blame on him, but when Effie asks about earring of hers that went missing it’s clear Herman is pinching any penny, anywhere, just to live a lifestyle that he wants.
In the basement of The Knick, Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) is doing his best to secure everything for his undercover operations. He’s bringing in any of the other black employees at the hospital, regardless of where they happen to work there, from the young men shoveling coal in the furnace, to a laundry woman who finds herself promoted to “surgical nurse“.
Sneaking about the morgue we find Herman take the tag off a body, labeled as a patient of Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson). Is this the body he’ll give over to Thackery? Later on, Herman comes up with the money for Bunky Collier (Danny Hoch). For now he’s off the hook.
Thackery is busy working on pigs. Across town, Herman is being a pig, obviously not interested in being home with his wife, so there he is with a young prostitute being tended to in bed. So, not only is Barrow funding his wife for every possible thing, he’s also promising all sorts of things to this young lady. Wow. I knew he was greasy, but here’s Herman getting greasier than ever. The name of this episode comes from the act the prostitute does for him, as he jacks off. So strange.
But back to the basement of The Knick. A young black man leads a slightly older black gentleman down to the makeshift operation Dr. Edwards has going. There’s even a sort of reception. In the operating theatre, we might call it, Algernon has a patient on his table and dictates his entire surgery to a girl taking notes. The older laundress from earlier is next to the doctor, ready to stitch things up wherever and whenever needed. Dig this so much, to see Dr. Edwards do everything in his power to help his people in a time when nobody else will.
Everett is a troubled man. At home, his wife Eleanor (Maya Kazan) sort of wastes away. He isn’t exactly neglectful, though, I don’t get the feeling he’s a family man other than in appearance. The child cries upstairs, off goes Eleanor.
Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) sits at home, listening to her father Captain August Robertson (Grainger Hines) go on and on. We find out Algernon’s parents work for the Robertsons – his father Jesse (Leon Addison Brown) drives carriage for them, Mrs. Edwards (La Tonya Borsay) serves them dinner and takes care of the house. August seems semi-genuine in his care for Algernon, wanting things to get along well at The Knick. But at the same time, I feel August is mostly a capitalist, so as far as Dr. Edwards is useful to him (re: profit), I’d bet that’s about as far as August is interested. We’ll see how all that goes. Even more, there’s talk of typhoid again. Possibly “the beginning of an epidemic“, as August hopes it’s not.
Thack is busy sawing up pigs when Cornelia visits him. She wants to smooth things out for Algernon, even if the man wants to tend to business himself. She cares, it’s very clear. Although, she wants to talk with Thackery about the possible start of a typhoid outbreak. The doctor suggests getting in touch with Inspector Speight (David Fierro). When he arrives on the scene Speight doesn’t care about “upsetting the apple cart” because, basically, that’s his entire job anyways. There is definitely interest in the case on his part, as well as the fact Cornelia wants to get digging on this whole thing. Interesting pair, these two.
Drs. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano) and Gallinger head to see Thackery. It’s very apparent Everett is a racist. Algernon is a co-author on the paper they ransacked another hospital to find, concerning their upcoming surgery. John is pleased, really, but most of all wants to get back to his “preparations” – a.k.a shooting up cocaine. Only there’s more and more trouble finding a vein: “Hello,” he says after locating one: “Welcome back.”
Called to his basement office Algernon receives the hernia patient he advised to rest. But the man didn’t listen, now his hernia is burst and paining bad. The resulting operation is a mess. Algernon can’t quite get a handle on things, using the amateurs around him to do his best. But blood is pumping, thread is running out. Nothing happens the way it ought to, naturally. Unfortunately the patient dies and it’s clear Edwards takes the entire thing to heart. Even sadder, they have to discard the body in the bushes somewhere, to let somebody find him. Brutal.
Dr. Thackery tries his best to do a procedure for Abby. An old one where they used skin from the arm to graft onto the face, keeping the patient’s arm raised and next to the head. John is clearly upset, he wants better for Abby believing that “she‘ll always be alone“. There is still a flame which burns in him for her. In other news, John does all he can for the friends of Cornelia who came in with typhoid; though a raging addict, he obviously has a true heart beneath it all. Somewhere deep inside is a pain that can’t be quelled.
At the end of the episode, Algernon is steaming. He sits at an African-American bar listening to someone next to him talk up a lady, saying he’s been all over the world; mostly America. Edwards starts chirping him, even calls the man “a regular Rudyard Kipling” and picking a fight. Ole Mr. Paris Shoes ends up going fist to fist, in an amazingly filmed sequence. There are a few things I like about this whole bit. Algernon is lashing out, and not because of any other reason than his oppression. Right now, the only thing he can do and is let to be done well is fight. That’s all. Because surgery has all but been yanked from his hands, he’s stuck in the basement. So at a bar, out in the open, Algernon picks a fight and absolutely destroys this other guy. All to prove he is top of his game, in any way he can. He is competitive, only because the white man keeps making him have to be. Anything else and he’d end up dead.
Excited to see more of this coming up. Next episode is titled “Where’s the Dignity?”. Stay tuned with me.
Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 1, Episode 2: “Mr. Paris Shoes”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
* For a review of the first episode, “Method and Madness” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Busy Flea” – click here
The beginning of this second episode gives a glimpse into the living of Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland), a doctor yet relegated to the virtual slums of New York City. We see the clash of culture between a black man like Algernon, and the other African-Americans living there with him. This episode’s title comes from this conversation, as Algernon has to explain he got his fancy shoes over in Paris; not impressing the man much. Just this one brief scene gives us so much insight into the low life an upper class man like Edwards must live, all because of the colour of his skin.
Meanwhile, Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) is butting heads with the patriarchal world in which she exists. Her father, Captain August Robertson (Grainger Hines), insists she keep up with it because, as he puts it: “If you were a man you‘d be running this damn city by now.” Seeing the stories of Cornelia and Algernon juxtaposed against one another, the contrast between African-Americans and women, re: status, is very present from the start. Excellent writing.
Over at The Knickerbocker Hospital, the new electrical system isn’t exactly running totally properly. This does nothing to quell the distaste in Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen), but I’m sure cocaine will do the trick. Then there’s Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) still trying to get every last bit of funds out of Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) and the hospital. He’s an Irish man, no doubt having come over from the Old Country, so it couldn’t be too easy in 1900 for people immigrating to New York for them to make cash. We watch him try and negotiate for a corpse, which ends in him lifting a ring off the body; to cover costs, you know.
The death of Dr. Christiansen (Matt Frewer) still weighs heavily on Thack. He remembers moments in time with the now deceased doctor. Christiansen wanted to study the dead, in order to help the living, with diseases such as tuberculosis, syphilis, and so on. Little inklings of how Thackery got to The Knick come out, after he reveals having done work with Captain Robertson “in Nicaragua“. Interesting – we’ll see the rest of this come out in Season 2, giving us more backstory to the addicted doctor. John talks with Christiansen’s wife, Catherine (Melissa Errico), whose pain and suffering is also running rampant. She worries about John, that it all may take its toll on him, but he replies: “I have ways of getting through.”
More surgery now, with Thackery leading, as well as Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) and Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano) at the ready. Steven Soderbergh offers us a look into the modernity of hospitals now, with the electrical system starting to kick up a fuss. During a routine cauterization, a fire starts. Then a nurse gets electrocuted to death. This truly drives Thackery mad. He and Cornelia go to see Barrow who accuses the contractor of wrongdoing. Herman looks slightly nervous about it all, wanting to speak with the contractor himself instead of rushing right to the courts. I believe we’re about to see more on Barrow, who he is, and exactly where the money from The Knick is going.
Furthermore, we also see how The Knick isn’t providing much comfort for Dr. Edwards; no more than his nasty little apartment where he lives among the lower classes. Cornelia is fairly unimpressed with it all, though, Algernon takes it in stride while trying to keep his anger below the surface. “I expect these things,” Edwards tells her: “You‘re upset because you don‘t.”
Electricity still on the fritz, Gallinger brings Chickering, Edwards and Thackery in to see some new patients, one whose illness happens to be syphilis. The lights finally go out, and Thack gives Barrow a mouthful. Simultaneously, Edwards tries to put his ideas in the ring for Thack, but nobody is too eager to listen to him.
Finally, we see Herman meeting with the man who supposedly did the electrical work, Clarence Mulkeen (Andy Murray). Turns out, as I guessed, Barrow embezzled money meant to go towards the renovations, which prompted the bad work. Now he’s got to try and climb back up the hill. Will this put Herman in a bad way?
Plenty racism at The Knick sees Dr. Edwards being both monitored by Bertie, as well as scoffed at by a young patient’s mother; all because he’s black. Regardless, Dr. Chickering isn’t prejudiced, not that I can tell. He is simply doing the job assigned to him. Even more than that, Dr. Edwards notices a black woman trying to get medical attention, but The Knick won’t accept black patients. This is highly distressing to Edwards, naturally. Prompting him to start figuring out a way to accept African-Americans for service, albeit without anyone else knowing. I suppose his basement office isn’t so bad now, providing an inconspicuous place for him to begin seeing patients. Tricky, tricky, Algernon! I dig it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
In the operating theatre, Thackery is dealing with an aneurysm. No electricity for now, so at least they won’t find themselves electrocuted. Also, we start to see more and more how Bertie is interested in Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson). Thack might be, too, as Everett so eagerly points out. Unfortunately, another patient is lost. The morbidity of modern medicine in 1900 is always alive and well on The Knick.
Returning to his office, Herman finds a couple thugs waiting for him – on behalf of Bunky Collier (Danny Hoch), there’s Jimmy (Happy Anderson) to start putting the hurt on Barrow. They’re not impressed about the debt: “You’re never too busy for Bunky,” Happy advises. They threaten his life if Herman doesn’t go see Collier. Looks like Herman is really in a bad way. Plus, he has Thackery on his back needing human cadavers for experiments, not the pigs they’ve got sitting down in the lab.
Dr. Thackery meets with Nurse Lucy in his office. He talks about his “circus town” and how it’s “no place for a girl”. Mostly he tries to apologize for the state in which she found him during the first episode. But she seems pretty keen on not rocking the boat, at least in the fact she understands the need of his secrecy, agreeing to keep his wild state between the two of them.
Dr. Thackery: “There is a life we live within the walls of this hospital and one we live outside of it, and these two lives need not intersect, do you understand?”
Tom Cleary helps Drs. Chickering and Gallinger break into another hospital. They search for information while Cleary riffs hilariously about a man with elephantiasis. Afterwards, Cleary is out drinking like a king. At the same time, Edwards is down in the basement of The Knick treating the woman who’d been refused previously.
The most interesting moment comes when we switch back to Cleary. He spies Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour), out of her habit, dressed almost solemnly. She heads to an apartment where a frightened, bleary eyed young redhead woman is requiring her services. Seems Harriet isn’t only married to Christ, she happens to help girls like this one with unwanted pregnancies. In a time such as 1900, this is certainly a shocking story. While I agree with Harriet’s ethics Tom now has a bit of dirt on the renegade sister.
Meeting with Bunky Collier down in a room with the same thugs who’d come to find him, Herman is “in the hole nine grand” and sweating around the collar. In fact, he’s sweating all over. Bunky is not a man to be fucked with. He even slams Barrow against the desk, putting a small pair of pliers in Herman’s mouth and roots out a tooth. Nasty chap, this Bunky.
“Well, well – Mr. Paris Shoes,” says the man who asked Algernon earlier about his nice shoes. They have a slight confrontation, which at first seems to be going the way of the other guy. Until Algernon absolutely pummels the man into unconsciousness on the floor of their apartment building. Incredible to see Edwards display such brute force. Then, before going inside for the night, he puts a few supplies on the man’s chest; stuff to help fix him up later.
Cut to John in the opium den once more. He’s having a shave, both eyes bloodshot and weary. Ping Wu (Perry Yung) gets his money, then Dr. Thackery heads out with his medical bag in tow. The guy all but lives there. Strolling out, he’s headed to work I imagine.
We’ll see him again next episode, “The Busy Flea”. Stay tuned for another of my recaps/reviews.
Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 1, Episode 1: “Method and Madness”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
* For a review of the next episode, “Mr. Paris Shoes” – click here
The first shot of the premiere opens with a faded view of white shoes, no socks underneath. A prostitute wakes Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen). They’re in an opium den. Outside at the carriage, John asks to go the long way over to his place of employment: The Knickerbocker Hospital in New York City. In the back of the ride we see who John is – to come down off the opium high, he injects cocaine in between the webbing of his toes. No wonder he didn’t have any socks on; easy access.
What’s most interesting about the opening of The Knick‘s first episode is the style. Not only do we get rich, gorgeous looking cinematography immediately, the score from Cliff Martinez readily pounds you. The electronic sounds mixed with the period piece story and the cinematography absolutely engages you from the first scene onward.
At the hospital, Dr. Thackery sets about his work. He’s an innovator in his own right, but works under Dr. J.M. Christiansen (Matt Frewer), the leading surgeon. In comes a pregnant woman, and BAM – Steven Soderbergh, Jack Amiel and Michael Begler take us quickly back to 1900, only a little over 100 years ago, when even pregnancy was a possible death sentence, for both mother and child. On the operating table, Drs. Christiansen and Thackery attempt to do a C-section, along with Drs. Everett Gallinger and Bertie Chickering (Eric Johnson & Michael Angarano) helping at their sides. But things go from bad to worse, to terrifying. Soderbergh and his team show us exactly what it was like for surgeons in the early 20th century, going by the seat of their pants, not always successful in their efforts. The blood is very present, the practical makeup effects are at times gruesome, raw. An excellent way to start off a new series.
Most surprising, though, is later after the failed surgery when Dr. Christiansen decides he can’t take the failure any longer, he can’t be a part of medicine, nor the world either. I wasn’t expecting such an intensely morbid opening, yet here we are – in the thick of it. And really, it’s such an effective way to introduce the characters. Now, this obviously fragile man in Thackery is left with his mentor of sorts gone, the burden resting on him. Even further, at the outset (I’ve seen all the episodes of both seasons at this point) I expected Christiansen to play a large part in the first season at least. Amazing how the story lured me in quickly, then switched so brutally and fast. This whole opening ten-plus minutes was the grasp I needed. Every second, every frame hooked me.
Dr. Christiansen: “It seems we are still lacking”
An amazingly clear Thackery delivers a eulogy for Christiansen. It reveals his hope for the future, for the future of himself and of medicine.
Afterwards, we’re introduced to Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance), as well as Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb). Cornelia’s father owns the hospital, but she doesn’t get the deserved respect as a woman when he sends her to deal with the board. Barrow is a money man of sorts, running around worrying about funds for the building; worried over the “$30,000” deficit they’re tallying up. Little bit later there’s also Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) who drives the ambulance, and wouldn’t do too bad in a scrap either.
Things get shaken when apparently Cornelia’s father has ideas about who ought to be Deputy Chief of Surgery at The Knickerbocker. While Thack thinks Gallinger should have the position, Robertson rule says Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) is going to take it. We’ll see how Dr. Thackery sits with all of it. If he does.
The history in this series is already super interesting. Cleary basically has to fight people to get paid, so he can be the ambulance who takes the fares back to the hospital. Wild to imagine a sort of capitalistic struggle on the streets of New York between ambulance drivers.
Furthermore, there are lots more good makeup effects. We see Thackery, Chickering and Gallinger go see a patient whose wounds are still healing, stitches coming together, and so on. The early days of modern medicine are on display, from the method of the ambulances, the way the hospital works, to the procedures and surgeries themselves.
So much of the period comes through in each scene. When a Health Inspector named Speight (David Fierro) heads into an apartment building, the look of the place is pure 1900. Even the air itself hangs in front of you, foggy, dim, the lights barely giving any of the rooms the light they need. It’s impressive work on the technical side, as well as the tight writing and solid acting.
Finally, Dr. Edwards arrives at The Knickerbocker. He meets with Dr. Thackery, who is busy putting together improvements for surgical instruments. Algernon and John don’t exactly get along. Not that I suspect John is racist, I just really don’t see him as a man wanting to take on the responsibility of innovating in racial relations. Edwards leaves, unimpressed, as Cornelia wonders what to do next.
Inspector Speight meets with Barrow. They talk of infectious disease; tuberculosis, in particular. The two make a deal, ensuring any further patients with the disease end up at The Knick. We get a good bit about tuberculosis here, as well as a dip into early doctor-patient relationships and patient rights. Cornelia has to give a woman terrible news, made even more terrible by the fact it has to be translated by her little daughter. Emotional scene, but also gives us more of that history I’m digging. Also, I can already tell Cornelia has a good heart and hopes to do good throughout the city, as best she can anyways.
We get confirmation of my theory – Thackery confirms he doesn’t want to “lead the charge in mixing the races“. He sees it as too progressive, a “social experiment” he won’t have in his life. So, maybe he has a little racism kicking around. Or lots.
Dr. John Thackery: “You can only run away and join the circus if the circus wants you, and I don‘t want you in my circus.”
Thackery reminisces of being introduced to injection by Christiansen. Then, he was bright eyed and bushy tailed. Cut back to his bloodshot eyes, his weakened state. It’ll be interesting to watch the progression of Thackery over the course of Season 1.
Meanwhile, Drs. Gallinger and Chickering examine their earlier patient, as Dr. Edwards is brought in and introduced. Bertie doesn’t have much issue with it, though, it appears Everett is slighted. Even more than that, Everett won’t have any of Edwards butting in on his patient. Lots of tension already starting, only bound to ramp up as time goes on.
Interesting scene sees Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) sent off to find Dr. Thackery. He’s at home, blunted to the bone and higher than any bird in the sky. She finds him in a terrible state, shivering, sweating in bed. Turns out he’s in withdrawal and needs an injection. This brings Nurse Lucy into the fold of his addiction, his dirty little secret. He was “trying to spend the night without it“, but obviously failed. This scene shows us the other side to John – there’s his brilliance and his determination as a surgeon, then there’s John the addict who rolls around in bed, sweaty and full of collapsed veins except for the one in his dick. There’s an intensity to this scene, which becomes quite personal, quite intimate, in a nasty way.
Flying back to The Knick, there’s Dr. Thackery in the operating theatre. They have to work on the aforementioned patient. He has bowel problems, specifically septicemia. Thack decides to inject a cocaine solution into the man’s spine. More intense moments, of a different kind, as the doctor goes about hi work. Very quiet, subtle bits here watching Thackery slowly inject the solution into this man’s spinal column. Great, great cinematography and wonderful writing, both bringing out the interesting days of early 20th century surgery. Fractured FX really give the goods here on the makeup effects, showing us the brutality of young modern surgical work in 1900. Even as a horror film buff, these scenes are some trying stuff. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
The finale of “Method and Madness” sees Dr. Thackery back in a carriage, full circle to the opening moments. He’s headed into Chinatown, Mott Street, apparently. At the same time, light is turned on at The Knick, the electricity up and running; all after Dr. Edwards was successfully welcomed into the fold, or well, unwelcomed.
Great episode. Looking forward to watching all these over for the second time since the original episode run. The next episode is “Mr. Paris Shoes”, which is another spectacular chapter in this first season. Stay tuned.
Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 2, Episode 10: “This Is All We Are”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
* For a review of the penultimate Season 2 finish, “Do You Remember Moon Flower?” – click here
And here we are: the Season 2 finale of The Knick.
Open on Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) headed into Chinatown. On the floor of a brothel, he finds Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) who doesn’t want to go to The Knickerbocker Hospital, but rather Mount Sinai – to see Dr. Levi Zinberg (Michael Nathanson). He needs a bit of work done on the bowels. Although, John wants to stay awake. Nothing to dull the pain. He and Zinberg are a little at odds, but something will be done either way.
Lots of condoms are being sold. Harriet (Cara Seymour) has them all packed up, disguised in boxed of vegetables, while Clear carries them to and from where they need to go.
Then we find ourselves with Henry Robertson (Charles Aitken) and Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson). He’s obviously torn up with the death of his father, the fire at the new Knick. He plans to take his mother to the country, away from the city and everything else. Henry offers Lucy to come stay at the guest house out there: “I don‘t know what I‘d do without you,” he says. Doesn’t seem she’s too eager to head out, though.
Many people mourn the death of Captain August Robertson (Grainger Hines). People attend his wake and funeral to give condolences to Henry, Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) and his wife. Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) arrives with his new lady, leaving fairly abruptly. Others such as Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) stay to grieve.
Outside, Herman is confronted by the police. He reels off his mouth a bit, calling the contractors down to the dirt to make himself look better. The cops, for their part, aren’t exactly interested in his bullshit. Herman further throws down a few insults acting all high and mighty. But with August gone, is he exactly in with the upper-ups? Not sure.
Back inside the wake, Algernon with his freshly beaten face talks with his father Jesse (Leon Addison Brown) about what happened between himself and Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson). You can tell Algie has had a history of fights. Not by his own fault, all the same. He is a properly defiant man for good reason. He’s always being thrown into fire, and also feels his father was essentially beaten into submission, “afraid to look up“. This scene comes off incredibly well, plus more perfect Cliff Martinez score works in to turn this into a spectacular moment between these characters. Dark, brooding, and intense.
Then the unexpected happens: Tom took the money he and Harriet earned. Except he took it to invest it in them, “in us” he says. Down on one knee, he asks Harriet to marry him. But then she rushes out, leaving him on the floor in a broken state.
At The Knickerbocker, in the operating theatre, John is getting things together to perform surgery: on himself. Alongside are Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano) and Dr. Gallinger. They’re not too eager at first to do what Thack wants. Eventually, he gives an ultimatum: help, or get out.
Barrow is trying his best to weasel out of responsibility for any part in the fire. Furthermore, he’s hoping things will work out for him going forward. It’s possible the city may take over The Knick. Of course, Herman doesn’t like that because it means bureaucracy, which in turn means not much chance for more money. He heads down and talks to Thackery, who’s ingesting turpentine to keep him going. Herman’s flaunting his full membership of The Metropolitan Club: “Bully for you,” John says sarcastically. It doesn’t look like he’s much too concerned about The Knick, not any longer. Still, Herman squirms hoping to come out on top in the end.
Cornelia’s having a tough time after the death of her father, regardless of the business in which he was supposedly involved. Her husband Phillip (Tom Lipinski) is attempting to cheer her up. Then he lets slip Henry has been working on the ports for years. Exactly as I thought. “Turns out your brother is quite the wharf rat,” Phillip tells her. Really, now? Perhaps Henry’s been up to more than anybody ever expected. The look on Cornelia’s face says it all. I knew that sly bastard was up to something nasty, more than just his pornographic pictures.
“I know what you did behind our father‘s back,” Cornelia confronts Henry, who acts coy and unassuming. She accuses him of all the rotten things first assumed to have been done by their father. Henry felt his father was doing nothing with his fortune, pissing it away. And so he tried to take the reins, steer things towards his vision of the future. He further tries to put some blame on Cornelia for apparently pressing his hand into doing what he did. Henry says she won’t do anything like go to the press, to the police, to their mother because it’s Cornelia’s word against his. Very eerie moment where he backs her to the top of the stairs, and we wait with bated breath almost already assuming she’ll go tumbling down backwards at any moment. He threatens her and assures that her “one–woman crusade is over“. On her way out, Lucy is heading in with bags in tow. The disgust on Cornelia’s face is powerful, staring up at her brother in all his hideousness.
Cornelia: “How could you?”
Henry: “How could I not?”
Barrow is all but unraveling. His new lady Junia (Rachel Korine) is worried, too. Afraid she’ll be put out onto the streets. He’s going just about mad, looking outside and seeing police camped, waiting to see what he does next. Things in his world are becoming less and less fun as the days go by.
In the world of Tom Cleary, he’s over at the Catholic Church looking for a confessional. Kneeling, hilariously with his feet hanging out the back, he talks with the priest on the other side of the veil. He admits to lots of wrongdoing, but also believes he’s “an all right fella” for taking the sick to the hospital “lickety split“. He believes perhaps confessing to God his sin may be what Harriet needs before she can accept his hand in marriage. This is probably the best scene for Cleary, ever. He reveals to the priest he set Harriet up for the abortion crimes, telling a police officer to get things going. But he further shows how hateful he can be, yelling at the priest who scolds him: “She was a fuckin‘ abortionist.” I like Cleary, though, he’s made me feel unimpressed at various times in both seasons. Then again, I guess it can’t be easy for someone like himself in America, at that time. So, kill or be killed, the motto of too many people forced out of their country and homes in the early 20th century.
More of the modern medicine man Dr. John Thackery. He’s practicing in front of a mirror for the surgery he plans on doing, on himself. What I love is the determination in his eyes, you can almost feel him willing the power to perform right there. An impressive, if not a bit reckless man.
Then we jet back to Harriet and Tom – she’s wearing his ring, as they sit at the table ready for a meal. He spies it and stops. Her smile speaks volumes, and they both have a chuckle. But is he ever going to reveal to her what he told that priest? Can he be cold like that? Perhaps it’s better off, yet I don’t think Harriet could ever bring herself to stay with him if she knew.
Barrow is still being followed by Dt. Tuggle (Joe Hansard). Only now, the detective is apologizing. Seems the reach of The Metropolitan Club has smoothed things out for ole Herman. Plus, even though he’s an embezzler, we certainly do know the source of the fire and so on. Worse – on Herman’s hands are what looks like lesions.
Everett Gallinger is being offered an opportunity to spread the message of eugenics. From the board who reviewed his case, Dr. Phelps (David Pittu) says he would be the “prophet of eugenics“, planning on traversing the globe – of course starting in Germany; “As good a place as any,” says Everett.
But the main attraction – John’s surgery. Doctors of all sorts pile into the operating theatre, each of them eager to see what will happen. Then, Thack gets himself into the medicine locker for a bit of cocaine. We’re back to the old John Thackery. He bursts into the theatre hopped up on cocaine, mainlined to his veins. You can see that there’s a wildness in his eyes. He strips down naked and then gets ready on the table, wide-eyed and maniacal. In the audience, Dr. Levi Zinberg and others watch on with their own widened eyes. Into his spine goes the cocaine solution, rendering John’s lower body painless. And the surgery begins! Thack watches the mirror and cuts, only allowing the nurse present to cauterize and hand around the instruments, not wanting to be “accused of not performing the entire surgery myself“. It is a gruesome scene, and amazing all at once. He pulls intestine out, feeling around to look at the necrotic tissue and determining it worse than expected. Bertie and Everett want to help, though, he refuses any of it. The effects work in this show is at its PEAK here, with lots of nasty looking entrails on camera, a close-up view on the surgery itself putting us almost right in Thackery’s shoes. Soon enough, he nicks himself badly and starts to bleed a good deal. His visions starts to dull, making things a little more difficult. Though, everyone watches on quietly. Not wanting to disturb the mad doctor at work. “This is it,” John says almost passing out: “This is all we are.” Then he fades and fades, seeing images of the girl in his hallucinations. Then he’s out like a light. Algernon comes in from the crowd to help. John has no pulse. They’re all working now, blood pouring out of Thack and onto the floor. Rushing down to the office, Bertie flies like a bird: to get adrenaline. Into the chest goes the drug.
But now we cut to an empty Knickerbocker. At least the operating theatre. Algernon sits looking at pieces of rope on Thackery’s desk. He finds a book belonging to Abigail (Jennifer Ferrin), a diary. Has John died? Nowhere is he to be found.
Henry and Algernon have a meeting. The latter has problems with his eye, even worse now. He says he’ll need a “new profession” and it seems he’s looking to try furthering some of the work done by Thack: “I owe him at least that.” Sitting down on the addiction ward with Mr. Dominczyk (Eugene Poznyak), Algernon tries to continue his therapy. They talk of bad dreams, almost starting the idea Edwards will venture into psychiatry down the road, reminding us of a doctor and patient on the couch situation.
I loved the end. A true cliffhanger if there ever were one.
Excited to see more of The Knick next year. Season 3 ought to be highly interesting, wherever it goes. I don’t believe Dr. Thackery is dead, but perhaps he’ll be disfigured or permanently injured due to his surgery. Maybe he and Edwards will continue in the third season together, going into a line of psychiatry involving addiction, or something similar. Who knows. He could very likely ACTUALLY be dead, too. It seems that way to most.
Either way, stay tuned with me – I’ll be going back to watch Season 1 over and review it soon enough. Cheers!
Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 2, Episode 9: “Do You Remember Moon Flower?”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
* For a review of the previous episode, “Not Well At All” – click here
* For a review of the Season 2 finale, “This Is All We Are” – click here
Rounding out to a close on Season 2, the penultimate chapter “Do You Remember Moon Flower?” begins in 1894, Nicaragua. There, we see Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) a few years younger, walking along a dirt road with a donkey in tow. He comes to a tent where a breakout of small pox is happening, not yellow fever, as Thack supposedly thought: “I‘m equipped for the wrong disease.” Unpacking his things, Thack discovers Captain August Robertson (Grainger Hines) handcuffed to a post. Apparently, he’s had some trouble while navigating South America, all due to his having been responsible, possibly, for the latest outbreak. John is threatened a little, yet doesn’t back down. He wants August let go, or nobody will be treated. An ultimatum. Without the appropriate vaccine, Thack goes to work looking for the appropriate plants, roots and such.
Overall, this is one of my favourite sequences out of the entire second season. Just watching Thackery go to work with all the raw elements is amazing. He does his best to help the people of the village with cobbled together bits of makeshift medicine.
Cut back to present Knick timeline – Thack is mixing and doing similar things to the opening scenes, but in his office at the hospital. He concocts some liquid then drinks it, before puking most of it into a bowl.
In other news, the formerly conjoined sisters Zoya and Nika are walking separately, on their own for the first time in their entire lives. Surely an amazing and gorgeous feeling for them. Watching on, Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) and Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano) are all smiles, alongside Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) and more staff.
When Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) arrives at work for the day, Dt. Moorhouse (Tom Brangle) is there. He tells him the news: Cotton was poisoned by his own sons. Cotton actually pulled out his own sons teeth, much like Eleanor (Maya Kazan). Before the boys were arrested, they committed suicide. So, did Eleanor lie? What is happening? Regardless, Everett nearly collapses after leaving the detective.
Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) meets with her husband Phillip (Tom Lipinski). He’s off, again, on business. As usual. He wants her to go, too. More of his father’s business, all that. She isn’t interested in going obviously, wanting to hold onto everything in New York, from Algernon to her investigation into Speight’s death and all the involved elements.
Thack is wasting away in his office. Algernon arrives for a talk, asking how John is doing. To no reply. Edwards offers condolences about Abby, and also gives the good news about the twins; they’re healthy, no more pneumonia, and things are looking up more each day. A family from Missouri is in the city hoping to adopt both girls and give them a new, loving home. A great accomplishment overall for Thackery and The Knickerbocker Hospital. Though, as evidenced by the heroin vials in his wastebasket, John is taking things hard, and Algie knows it. Not like John’s hiding things, anyways.
More condoms are made. Harriet (Cara Seymour) is packaging them, as Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) tries to apologize for the kiss last episode; “A kiss I didn‘t even get,” he says. He isn’t some pig, though. He has genuine feelings. All the same, Harriet is unimpressed and makes him feel pretty low, which isn’t exactly fair.
Meanwhile, Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) is giving his $2,000 to the Metropolitan Club treasurer. His entrance fee into the world of high society, one his fishmonger father could’ve never achieved. Up in the smokey lounge, Barrow chats up a man named Corky (Brian Kerwin) and talks of donations.
With the twins leaving The Knick, a nurse wakes the sleeping Dr. Thackery. Down on the street, Drs. Chickering and Edwards put the girls into a cab and excuse the absence of John, who is otherwise indisposed. Then from the front door comes Everett, angered at Edwards for bringing him up on charges concerning the sterilization of those boys. Strolling from the hospital, Thack comes to see the girls who are already gone. Instead, he falls to the ground with stomach pains.
Cue a quick surgery. With Dr. Levi Zinberg (Michael Nathanson) working on him, Thackery has his abdomen explored. Algie and Bertie get to have a look inside. There are some necrotic bowel troubles due to the cocaine use. The others want to resection his intestines. Thack wants nothing to do with it, hoping to explore “other options“.
Bertie: “My lord…”
Thackery: “You do realize the patient is conscious – don‘t you, Dr. Chickering?”
With Herman’s situation, we’re seeing how laws in the early 20th certainly weren’t in favour of women. Effie is left out in the cold by her husband. Though, she has a record of steel deliveries concerning the new Knick renovations. Mistakenly she was given keys to another box Herman owns at the bank. She’s pulling blackmail on her disgusting little pathetic husband. Effie wants to “live the life I was accustomed to living” and wants everything back the way it was, the best of everything for her and their children. She intends to half everything between herself and Herman, to get all she deserves. Herman tries to emotionally abuse her once more before Effie leaves, but it’s a desperate attempt to gain some footing. If only for a second in time.
Eating a slice of watermelon, Jimmy (Happy Anderson) talks with Herman who is worried about his financials. “This is it for me,” Barrow whisper screams to him. He is watching everything slip between his fingers. Constantly scheming, I’m sure we’re about to watch Herman run down the drain figuratively. He’s up to see Henry Robertson (Charles Aitken), trying to weasel the new contractor out of operations because he obviously isn’t a snake; he is above board and all legal. Try and try and try – Herman won’t stop until he can find a new cow to milk.
Simultaneously, Henry and Cornelia are trying to decide how best to handle their father August. They need to know for sure, to find out more information in order to proceed. Is Henry on her side? Or is he playing Cornelia into the hands of their father?
Edwards is presenting his evidence about the “unauthorized vasectomies” performed on supposed idiot children by Dr. Gallinger. Yet Everett stands by his belief in eugenics. He wants to “spare the world” from addicts and degenerates. Algernon wants Everett’s license revoked, though, the latter claims everything was consensual. He even has Dr. Reid (Thomas Kopache) with him, who is the legal guardian of all those boys. “So this quackery is now sanctioned by the state,” Edwards sadly speaks aloud, half to himself. Everett and Reid try to make it seem as if eugenics is modern medicine. Again, I say it: they’re a few decades too early to join up with the Third Reich. The very heart of eugenics denies Algernon his own personhood – the board says it can help mankind, while Edwards knows the sting of vicious racism. And that’s what eugenics is all about, at the core of its being. Tragic, as the board of review sides with Everett. Out in the courtyard, Algernon rolls his sleeves, which Everett believes “proves my entire thesis“. A fight that’s been brewing finally comes, with racist vitriol spewing from Gallinger. He pretends not to be going for a fight, then blindsides Edwards: “Stupid nigger,” he spits before walking away like a piece of shit coward.
Everett: “I tamed the god damn beast”
Spreading the word about safe sex, Cleary pimps out Harriet’s condoms to a bunch of men drinking and smoking together at a table. And over at another table, Harriet is cleaning up, getting all sorts of women to take the condoms. One prostitute takes a condom over to Thackery, wallowing in drink on a dusty couch. But he only waves her away, unimpressed with something that’ll reduce the feeling on his knob, I’m sure. Love Thack. Deviant, though, that one.
Back to A.D. Elkins (Stephen Spinella). Lucy asks about Moon Flower, the mule at their old farm who everyone used to beat. This whole story parallels the story of Lucy – similarly beaten, working all the time. She talks at her paralysed father who can only look on and take it all in. “This world offers too much,” Lucy says. “And contrary to what you think, I‘m too smart to let myself turn out that way. And if that means sinnin‘ to get what I want – well then, so be it. I won‘t be shamed by the likes of you or anyone else anymore. What I‘ve done, what I will do is nowhere near the deceitful life you‘ve obviously led.” Even more, she reveals all her nasty sins, including much of her former life with Thack, which goes into great detail. She continually reels off more sin for her father to digest on his way out of life. Best is when she comes to the story of the toe sucking. Then, A.D. goes out like a light into the darkness of damnation: “Enjoy your trip,” Lucy says quietly on her way out. Vicious. Dig it.
Cornelia finds herself at the construction site for the hospital. She looks for her father, who’s surprised by her visit. He talks of all the grand things that will be installed at the new Knick. “This is it,” says August, “this is my legacy“. Beaming, he is soon interrupted by Cornelia’s accusations. Not unjustified accusations. She reveals all her knowledge, at which he balks initially. He denies everything, getting angry with his daughter. Their conversation turns into panic quickly. August notices smoke and down at the bottom of the stairwell, a fire is beginning to rage. He sends his daughter down a ladder through a small space between floors, staying behind until she can send help.
As flames consume the building, Henry and Cornelia watch their father jump from up high, crashing through scaffolding to the ground.
Then, we cut back to August in 1894 being released from his cuffs and leg shackles, Thackery watching on. It’s no wonder John got involved with The Knickerbocker Hospital, after getting August out of such a jam. A great ending to an intense penultimate season finish.
Looking forward to watching and reviewing the Season 2 finale, “This Is All We Are”. Been a great season and I hear the last episode has got some teeth. Stay tuned with me for another one, fellow Soderbergh lovers.
Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 2, Episode 8: “Not Well At All”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
The immense talents of Cliff Martinez lead us into this episode. With one of the patients Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) has in his care, an alcoholic, sneaking down to get booze straight from a main line. Only it looks as if it were formaldehyde form which he took a drink. “Well he‘s already half embalmed,” Thack says. “Let‘s get him up on the table and finish the job.”
At home, Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) and his wife are rekindling their physical love once more. In other news, The Knickerbocker Hospital sees a man coming through the front doors wielding a gun, as Thack and Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano) are busy doing work in the office involving all sorts of things injected into a rabbit, including potassium chloride. When the animal dies, Bertie brings him back with a dose of what I can only assume is adrenaline.
Turns out the man with the gun is in fact Mr. Brockhurst (Fred Weller). He’s pissed about the girls being separated. He wants them back together, which naturally can’t be done. From behind Brockhurst comes Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan). He cracks him a good one, accompanied by a chuckle, and then the mood goes back to being light at The Knick once more.
In Chinatown, Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) meets with Ping Wu (Perry Yung). More money exchanging hands. It seems Barrow is finally moving ahead with the plan to purchase his mistress, Junia (Rachel Korine). “Would you like a receipt?” Ping asks, tongue firmly in cheek, no doubt. Reeling off a quote, Ping tells Herman it is not from Confucius, but from the Irish bad boy Oscar Wilde.
The mood is also light over at the Gallinger residence, where Eleanor (Maya Kazan) and Everett are in high spirits after their latest sex. A Detective Frank Moorhouse (Tom Brangle) arrives at the house explaining Dr. Cotton is dead, having been poisoned. Retracing steps, this leads Dt. Moorhouse back to Gallinger’s place, as he had dinner there the night before his death – is this what made his stomach upset? Did Eleanor kill Cotton? Perhaps that’s exactly why she invited him over, even with all the fuss Everett made which she knew would’ve been coming. Has the madwoman struck? Yes. Not too long after, we see she put rat poison in his soup. White knight Gallinger tries to handle things. But Eleanor spies the trash can where he threw the poison. I can almost feel it coming, as she brings tea back into the room for the unsuspecting detective. Back in the early 20th century, nobody would’ve ever expected people to die at the house of a respected doctor and his wife, would they?
Eleanor: “I‘m sorry, Everett. I didn‘t think they‘d catch me up so soon.”
More addiction therapy back at The Knickerbocker. Or, the admittance of nothing left to be done. Thack admits his addiction to the last remaining patient on the ward.
Cut to Harriet (Cara Seymour) who is making condoms. Tom is in the other part of the room, shielded, trying on the jimmy hats for good measure. A hilarious bit of dialogue between them, as Tom tries to “maintain” himself. I love how nothing has happened between them, even if it feels like it’s about to every moment. They’re two true friends, side by side in the hard times, both of them being Irish exports and all.
Toughing through another board meeting, Herman listens to the others chatting until he introduces a Mr. Raphael Warren (Ken Barnett), a man dealing with the blueprints and cost estimates for the renovation. Again, Barrow is put back in charge of the dealings. Will this give him more money to siphon off? Surely, if Herman can manage he’ll take what his pockets can hold. Kept back by Captain August Robertson (Grainger Hines), he finds out their exclusive club is granting him membership. He finds out $2,000 is required for a donation, plus for membership fees. This stresses Barrow out right away. He accomplishes getting the funds by selling his house off quickly. But what about his children and his wife? Uh oh.
Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) has received a patient who claims Thackery worked on her. In fact, he was paid in heroin. He fixed up her nose, back at the start of the season, using a gold earring. Seems the earring was not gold and is corroding inside her flesh. He plans to make things right, “on the house“. Then from the guts come a pain, racking John completely. Out comes more turpentine. Algernon wants to help, though, the foolishly brave and arrogant John Thackery refuses. Going it alone, as usual.
John is also readying himself to start fixing Abby (Jennifer Ferrin). He further wants her to talk with an addiction patient, similarly to how she talked John down when he called about the twins’ surgery.
On the phone, Effie Barrow (Molly Price) gets a call about a vacuum sweeping machine – the one installed over at the new apartment. Oh, wow. Things are tumbling down on top of ole Herman’s head now.
Romance is alive, among everything else. Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) is being fawned over by Henry Robertson (Charles Aitken). Interrupted after awhile by Corenlia (Juliet Rylance) who is still followed by a man Phillip’s father employs to watch her comings and goings. She tells Henry about the implications against their father, concerning Inspector Speight and his untimely passing. Will Henry use this to overcome his father? Or will he run to his father with the information? I can only hope the first will come to pass, as Henry seems to want to take things over for himself and steer their business into a new, brighter future. It seems Captain August Robertson has been responsible for bubonic plague outbreaks in Chicago and other areas.
Dr. Gallinger is trying to find a suitable place for his wife to stay, a comfortable spot to tuck her away. A Dr. Adolf Warner (Dieter Riesle) assures she will be looked after and given the best possible life, “under the circumstances“. Tragic, and I hate Everett. Yet something had to be done, or else more murders would happen, further bodies would pile, and Everett would sink with the ship, as well. Only later on, Everett starts to move in close with Eleanor’s sister Dorothy. Pretty damn low.
Some of the nurses around The Knick believe Henry Robertson is turning the nursing staff into a rack of centerfolds, believing Lucy won’t have trouble keeping her job. Called off to the telephone, Lucy gets a call about her father A.D. Elkins (Stephen Spinella). Rushing to some dingy place, lit red in a dark basement where surely a house of sin exists, Lucy finds a crazy eyed A.D. looking full of drugs and falling into the deep end head first. We come to find he suffered a paralytic stroke, as Thack explains back in a room at the hospital: “The best I can do is keep him alive.”
At a show in the city, Cleary and Harriet have a good time, eating candies and checking out the different sights including a horror-picture show that makes the image look as if a man swallows the camera whole. Hilarious scene. Tom misreads signals and goes in for a kiss on Harriet. She believes he brought her ought to put the moves on her, but he was only honestly interested and thought she was, too. Harriet storms off and advises Tom to stay clear of her at home.
In a darkened office, Dr. Edwards is poking around quietly. He gets into a desk drawer and produces a large notebook. Within, he sees something we do not and exclaims to himself: “Jesus.”
Cut to the following day. Thack is drinking turpentine for his rotting guts. Algernon slides the notebook he found in the previous scene across the table. They’ve discovered Everett and his “eugenics project“: boys between the ages of 15 and 18 have been sterilized. Too young to consent, the boys in question have obviously been preyed upon. Nothing technically illegal has happened, so says Thackery, and he doesn’t know what can be done on his end. This disappoints Edwards, clearly.
Placing his last remaining addiction patient in a room facing the wall, Dr. Thackery has Abby come in for a conversation. She asks about him, the patient, Mr. Dominczyk (Eugene Poznyak) first. Then she works into the first time he’d ever drank, which he explains happened when he “was a baby“. His mother apparently used whiskey soaked rags to keep him quiet as a boy. Great practice to turn him into a future alcoholic and lifelong addict.
Bad news comes to bear at the Barrow household. Herman comes home to champagne and treats from Effie, who toasts her husband: “To surprises“. Of course, he doesn’t have any idea about it all. Things are getting mucked up for the greasy little man now that Effie’s discovered the apartment on 74th Street. But Herman reveals who the apartment is for, that he will live in it “with another woman“. He rented an apartment for her and the children downtown, planning to run off. He appropriately gets a drink in his face to end the conversation.
Switch to Herman, now happy and lively. He’s in Chinatown to collect Junia. They embrace with a kiss, each of them looking pleased. Out they go, away from the brothel. But will this new life treat Herman the way he wishes it to? I don’t particularly see much happy ending on his path, though, I may be wrong.
The finale of this episode sees Abby take in a bit of laudanum. Then, she’s off to surgery in the theatre with Dr. Thackery, Dr. Chickering, and the assistance of Nurse Elkins. She is sedated, but then her heart rate drops almost completely; no pulse. Rushing about, each of the three attempts to save Abby’s life. John is racing from one spot to the next, hoping not to see the love in his life die. Except she does. She slips off the mortal coil, as Thackery eventually stops his rush, slowing to a stop. What does this mean for John now? A plunge into addiction, further in I should say, is likely coming for him. Although, I’d like to think he’s getting stronger. Unfortunately I know the weakness for drugs runs high in his mind.
Right before the finish, Everett’s sister-in-law Dorothy enters his room. He does’t want her to leave. He wants her right where she is, moving towards his bed, and finally in his arms. Bad, bad Everett. I expected no less.
The next episode is titled “Do You Remember Moon Flower?” – the penultimate Season 2 episode. Stay with me for another review soon, folks.
Cinemax’s The Knick
Season 2, Episode 7: “Williams and Walker”
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
* For a review of the previous episode, “There Are Rules” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Not Well At All” – click here
Back at The Knickerbocker Hospital for another round of surgery and experimentation in the early 20th century.
This episode starts with Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) and Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) pouring up liquor, again trying to hypnotize a patient into becoming sick at the thought of his former addiction. It seems to work on the man in front of them, exciting Thack to no end.
At the front desk, D.W. Garrison Carr (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) shows up saying he’s giving the go-ahead for the surgery himself, as if on a rogue mission. Feeling as if his wife is a little too involved, Algie gives Opal (Zaraah Abrahams) the tough eye.
In another part of town, Dr. Bertie Chickering Jr (Michael Angarano) is seducing Genevieve (Arielle Goldman) with a funny top hat routine, naked save for a towel. He’s charming, that Bertie. Finally in bed together, they appear a very sweet couple. Each of them are nervous, which makes it all the more gentle and beautiful. It’s nice to see two people like them in a relationship, instead of so many nasty, base relationships that happen throughout other parts of the story and its various plots.
Ping Wu (Perry Yung) is having sex with a prostitute, then says “give it to me“: Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) puts out her foot, letting him suck her toe. Then she’s back in her apartment with a new dress.
The weasel Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) is skimming and being called on it by his contractor. Apparently, Herman’s indiscretions aren’t exactly quiet around town. But as is usual: people talk.
And back to Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson), whose racism knows no bounds, treating Carr like a regular animal, as I’m sure he sees him.
Thack is in his office, snorting on drugs and charting his findings. A pain in his gut prompts a swig of… turpentine? Then Everett bursts in: “Have you seen what’s in the ward?” Though John is not a racist like Gallinger, he was trying to help Algernon and feels betrayed. Giving him shit, Thack still doesn’t understand how things are for Algernon and other people of colour at that time.
Algernon: “It‘s the future; you think it‘s here too early, I think it‘s here too late.”
Cornelia Showalter (Juliet Rylance) is down at the docks once again, snooping around for more information. She meets with an Inspector there. Turns out, there’s a “usual deal” for the Robertson family that takes place at the end of the month. Cornelia lies her way into accepting a file full of interesting stuff. This leads into information about Inspector Speight and possible things he may have discovered, or may have caught. She further catches wind of lots that’s happening at the docks and Ellis Island.
In the operating theatre, Dr. Thackery is laying out the procedure he’ll be conducting on the conjoined twins. A bunch of nurses, Dr. Gallinger, Dr. Edwards and Dr. Chickering Jr are all in attendance. Then John announces he wants to capture the surgery with the new motion picture camera, to which Nurse Daisy Ryan (Emily Kinney) replies Henry Robertson (Charles Aitken) has one; Lucy’s eyes perk up a little at this comment, a bit of jealousy flaring possibly.
Former Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) is living with Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan), in a respectable situation for an unmarried man and woman sharing one apartment. Things seem to be going along smoothly. Then in other man-woman relations, it appears Thack is still sleeping over with Abby (Jennifer Ferrin), which hopefully will keep him grounded, as much as possible while he’s all but literally flying high.
Out in the dim light of the morning, John is off at a grave for a young girl. Surely, the one in his fever dreams so often.
Finally, we’ve come to the surgery of the conjoined sisters, Zoya and Nika (Miranda & Rebecca Gruss). Bertie and Thack start to get things prepared; the former notices something on the good doctor’s breath, though, John assures it’s only turpentine. Still, I don’t think the younger of the two is too worried. At the same time, Thackery is on edge. Back in his office he stands as if trying not to fall over. Before taking a bump to dull the edges, John calls Abby instead: “This used to be easier,” he tells her.
Abby: “What do you need?”
John: “I need you to tell me that I can do this”
Abby: “Of course you can. If I hadn‘t believed in you, I wouldn‘t even be here.”
Down in the theatre, John explains to those watching he is hoping to help these girls out of freakdom, to help them lead a “human life” of which “fate robbed them“. With Henry filming, Thack begins to cut into their connecting tissue. Later, the theatre is full of people while Thackery runs through the motion film of the procedure. He even named a new suture after Everett: “The Gallinger Knot” based on his time with fishing knots in the Season 2 premiere. He is a true innovator, regardless of whether or not his mental state is always stable.
Cornelia is given jewelry by Mr. Hobart Showalter (Gary Simpson). They have a chat about her “running around” and their agreement, which brought her back to New York in the beginning. He knows she’s been “sneaking around like a thief in the night“. Hobart is the one who is having her tailed, as we recently saw. With Phillip (Tom Lipinski) she talks later about leaving, though, he has other plans.
At the apartment, Harriet has a few young girls over to teach them how to protect themselves. Tom shows up and I’m inclined to believe he has a bit of a thing for Harriet. We’ll see.
The big ball for The Knick is in swing, with Algernon and Opal in attendance, as well as Bertie and his new lady Genevieve, all of them looking wonderful and ready for a civilized dance, a few drinks, and so on. Others such as Captain August Robertson (Grainger Hines), Philip Showalter and those types are talking money, awards, plus everything else other than medicine which truly drives the hospital.
Having their own fun at home, Tom and Harriet eat a big meal, followed by a nice cobbler. Afterwards, Tom starts talking about getting condoms for people like the young girls there earlier, the men having sex with them. Even though he wants the money, part of him also wants to see people not have to go through hardships he’s watched others go through up close and personal. He and Harriet come to an agreement with a nice spit handshake.
At the party, Lucy begins to exert a degree of control of Horny Henry. First, it starts with him fetching drinks for them both. I have a feeling she’s finding her feminine power through sexuality, and at a time like the one in which The Knick is set I can’t say I blame her; the world she’s in doesn’t look well on a woman, so she has to do whatever she can to pull ahead of the game. Meanwhile, Cornelia warns Lucy about getting her hopes up over Henry, about the family and such. Although Lucky doesn’t feel too happy about standing around listening to any of that.
And then, we see Thack show up with Abby. Everyone stares, of course. But John assures her: “You‘re beautiful.” Around the party they stroll, even introducing Abby to the Edwards’ and toasting drinks.
The most shocking event of this episode comes when the titular Williams and Walker are introduced, two supposed “coons“. A minstrel show-style act follows. In the audience everyone watches on. But even Algernon and his wife don’t look too taken back. Is it mere appearance, or do they not care?
Simultaneously, we also see the dark shadow of Everett standing in the door of Carr’s hospital room as he sleeps. While people dance away in the ballroom, enjoying their night out to various degrees, chemicals are being mixed in a vial. Is it Gallinger? Medicine is being replaced in tiny bottles. Is this what I believe it to be? Certainly. Gallinger doesn’t want Carr there, and even further wants his whole race essentially exterminated, stunted, sterilized and bent from procreation. Are the switched drugs meant to kill Carr, or simply sterilize him? I believe we’ll figure it out soon, and the former might be the right answer.
On the steps outside of the ball, Captain Robertson chats with Dr. Edwards and his wife. Opal is forward and wants to know if Algie will have a permanent position at the new hospital, though, her husband is reluctant. Yet she presses. August makes it apparent the position may not be guaranteed, which does not sit well with either Algernon or Opal.
Heading home for the night, Abby and Thack talk about her nose. She loves the way he compliments her, but asks if anything else can be done about her face, to make things look better. Nevertheless, Thack says: “I like this one just fine.” It’s apparent he loves her.
The contractor Herman came up against earlier is getting a beating at the hands of Jimmy (Happy Anderson), and now obviously it leaves Barrow to keep skimming for himself and Tammany Hall.
With Carr under the knife, Dr. Edwards begins his procedure. Everett shows up claiming he’d already missed one minstrel show and wouldn’t “want to miss another“. The curare to be injected has been messed with by Gallinger, and of course Algernon goes ahead and injects it, meaning to help Carr. Continuing on, the nurse says Carr’s heart rate isn’t right. He’s stopped breathing. Thack and Everett move in to help. It’s all stacked against Edwards, with Everett pocketing the vial he tainted while no one is watching.
Embarrassed and beaten down, Algernon is forced to rethink everything he’s done to that point. It could be a devastating blow for him, his confidence, his entire career. Luckily, Opal stands by his side in such a rough time assuring “there are better days“.
Loving the progression overall in this season, from characters to subplots to giant events intersecting with history and its various issues, problems, et cetera. Looking forward to watching/reviewing the following episode, “Not Well At All”. Stay tuned, fellow fans.