A monk goes with several unlikely knights to find where the BLACK DEATH has been evaded in a creepy little village, possibly harbouring witches.
Malcolm X. 1992. Directed by Spike Lee. Screenplay by Lee & Arnold Perl.
Starring Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee, Theresa Randle, Kate Vernon, Lonette MCKee, Tommy Hollis, James McDaniel, Ernest Thomas, Jean-Claude La Marre, O.L. Duke, & Larry McCoy. 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks/Largo International N.V./JCV Entertainment Networks/Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13. 202 minutes.
Sometimes I’m not a fan of Spike Lee as a public persona, simply because he doesn’t always think before speaking. However, I’m usually a fan of his work as a director. He has a big, wide mind and puts that to work usually tackling issues within the African American community. There are too many of his movies to talk of in an introduction, but suffice to say I do think he is a great director. One of the greatest in his generation, and certainly one of the best African American directors out there, period.
And that’s perhaps why Malcolm X is the film out of his catalogue which resonates most. It isn’t necessarily his greatest. Yet there’s such a poignancy and depth to the work Lee does to portray Malcolm X (played wonderfully by Denzel Washington), not just as a powerful black leader, but also as a human being; one not completely above judgement, one not perfect as some might idealise him. Furthermore, we’re able to get a look at the inside of the Nation of Islam, as far as fiction allows. Many prominent figures in the life of X and circling the NOI, as well as the Civil Rights movement in general, are included, from cameo roles such as Nelson Mandela, Al Sharpton and others, to the portrayals of characters like Elijah Muhammad (Al Freeman Jr.) and Thomas Hagan (Giancarlo Esposito), among more. The nearly three and a half hour runtime of Malcolm X may seem daunting. If you’re sitting down to watch a film, you’ve really got to be prepared for this one, though it’s beyond worth the effort. For me, the 202 minutes rushes by in a beautifully shot and directed, phenomenally acted story that jams a whole man’s life into one screenplay. Not everything gets covered, and there’s also plenty of story to be told after X’s assassination. Above all else, the character of X comes out, as does his struggle. For some this was a stepping stone to learning more about the Civil Rights movements that began raging during the 1960s and 1970s, and onward. I won’t ever forget my first time seeing this one. It’s a classic that stands the test of time, telling an important, crucial story about America during the early latter half of the 20th century, and examining one of the more turbulent times of race relations in the country’s history. Sadly, some of what happened back then is still much too alive and much too well in American society, and if X were still alive he’d likely still be as fiery and determined as ever.
The best aspect of Malcolm X is the fact Lee doesn’t attempt to make him above reproach. As a person, X was not perfect. Nobody is, so Lee never tries to make him out to be anything else. Some worried that he would include X’s life before he converted to Islam, and that’s exactly part of what makes this story interesting and intriguing. There’s no sense in ignoring that part of his existence. X himself never did ignore it, he always kept himself open and honest and raw. That’s a huge part of why many did, and still do(/always will), admire him. He was not like most other leaders. He didn’t admit every one of his faults – again, he is only human. But on the whole, he never shied away from his once criminal past, as that in a way led him to where he went after and helped him attain the enlightenment of Islam.
One of my favourite moments happens between Malcolm X’s speeches. A young white woman approaches him, admiring his work, and wondering what a white person without prejudice might do to help further his cause: “Nothing,” he says smiling before walking on. This is such a brief, powerful moment. I’m reminded of watching a recent documentary about the KKK, where they also spotlighted the Black Lives Matter movement and the shooting in Charleston; one scene shows a white woman, with a mixed race child, trying to march in solidarity, who’s told by a black woman to go home – she does in fact leave after, though the black lady gives her a hug and seemingly explains this is just not the time or place for her presence. There’s a stand-off element to X and his feelings for white people. Again, that changed once he went to Mecca on his Hajj, and then essentially transformed into a full blown humanitarian. Yet Lee never strays away from that inflammatory perspective X held towards white American society, and makes clear it’s simply about black people gaining back their power, or retaining what they have, not so much about hating white people. So in that scene where X shrugs the white woman off, it represents the idea that white people may want to help, but black people don’t need their help. They sometimes just need white people to stand back, let them do their thing and settle the issues on their own. That’s not always the case. Particularly in the time of X, there were tough things happening (not that there still aren’t in this day and age), so this was a stance he felt black society needed to take in those times of near racial war. Not long after X, once Elijah Muhammad was out of his life, he made clear the black community had to unite first, then they could work more on white-black relations. That scene with the white girl epitomises this concept.
I love the inclusion of the conk hairstyle at the beginning with Malcolm and his buddy Shorty. Not simply because African American culture at the time saw a lot of young black men styling their hair that way. What’s most interesting is that Malcolm X later spoke about conk and its double edged sword-like effect on the black community. On the one hand, conk – because of its threat of chemical burns and scarring, hair loss, et cetera – was seen as a ritual of manhood, going from a boy to a grown adult. On the other hand, he and other African American scholars came to see conk also as a way of erasing oneself in order to become more white. This latter idea is presented in the screenplay after the conk is put in, washed out, then Malcolm admires his new hair in the mirror and says to the men in the barbershop: “Looks white, don‘t it?” The whole concept of the conk plays into how we see Malcolm ultimately reject everything white. And yes, he said incredibly inflammatory things about white people. But things can change, people can. He didn’t turn into who he was later because of a hate for white people. Effectively, he hated injustice. The white man, the white culture, the white HAIR, it all comes down to representing the white world that he lived in and found himself subject to at every turn, on a daily, minute-to-minute basis. So the conk is simply one element of the white superstructure that Malcolm came to reject. A great inclusion on Lee’s part to show that. It could’ve been a basic scene that shows us where he came from, his beginnings. Instead the scene represents a microcosm of that influence white culture had (/still has) on black people that are brainwashed into feeling as if ‘white is right’ or any of that other sadness. Later when Malcolm is in jail, the conk becomes a sticking point when he’s confronted by an inmate who tries to help him, out of the life of a gangster and moving towards something better, which is the Nation of Islam; a huge influence in his life during prison, as well as afterwards. It may seem a superficial, brief moment in the 202 minute runtime of this epic biography. And it’s a drop in the pond, really. Although, it is highly significant to the overall themes surrounding the film and X himself as a Civil Rights leader.
This is one of the best movies of the 1990s, certainly one of Spike Lee’s best, too. Malcolm X is a dissection of a cult of personality. It is a film that attempts to get to the core of what X and his struggle represented. Without all the denial some insist on upholding in regards to X’s personal history, who he was, who he became. The movie is not totally perfect, though it is perfect where it counts. Likewise, Lee concentrates on not inflating X as a leader. Rather he takes an inclusive look at the man, not ignoring the good and the bad alike. He dives into the an era where things were different, and somehow not enough has changed as of this writing in 2016. Watching this movie again now, 24 years after its release and concerning a subject decades older, it’s almost sad to watch and think how hard X would roll over in his grave were he able to witness some of the scary racist madness that’s still going on in the streets of America. Love this movie, love Denzel, and Spike is near his best here. A positively entertaining piece of biography, history, all combining to make a well executed film in every respect.
Colonia. 2016. Directed by Florian Gallenberger. Screenplay by Gallenberger & Torsten Wenzel.
Starring Emma Watson, Daniel Brühl, Michael Nyqvist, Richenda Carey, Vicky Krieps, Jeanne Werner, Julian Ovenden, August Zirner, Martin Wuttke, Nicolás Barsoff, Steve Karier, Stefan Merki, Lucila Gandolfo, Johannes Allmayer, & Gilles Soeder. Majestic Filmproduktion/Iris Productions/Rat Pack Filmproduktion.
Rated 14A. 110 minutes.
The story of Colonia Dignidad – a.k.a Dignity Colony – and its enigmatic, terrifying leader Paul Schäfer is not a story many in the Western world know. Schäfer was German, escaping charges of child molestation and sexual assault, and founded the colony in 1961. Under Schäfer, the colony was immersed in eccentric religion, as well as an authoritarian rule by their leader himself. They were not allowed to see their loved ones, from parents to children to spouses. Above all else, Schäfer was a misogynist whose deep-seated issues with women is evident through how he ran his little cult. Even the Angel of Death hismelf, Josef Mengele, has been confirmed to have been at the colony during some point by both the Central Intelligence Agency, and also famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. So on top of the fact he was simply an abuser wrapped in the clothes of a father figure and a mentor, Schäfer further had ties with Nazi Germany and the SS, which only makes things more disturbing.
And so, with stories of people escaping, fleeing the brutal abuse and the authoritarianism, Colonia is based on true events. This is the story of one man whose disappearance at the hands of military men landed him in Colonia Dignidad, and whose wife never gave up looking for him. With a couple spectacular performances from Daniel Brühl, Emma Watson, and Michael Nyqvist, this is better than the average ‘Based On a True Story’ fare. Although, the film is not perfect. Whereas Schäfer was German, and many Germans were a part of the group, there feels to be a significant lack of Chilean actors and characters in general, outside of the military men and the brief appearances of General Augusto Pinochet. In a day and age where whitewashing films is all too common, and for a film that’s set in Chile, it’s hard to imagine why they didn’t include more of the Chilean people, as they were also very affected – not only by Schäfer, but by Pinochet, who used the colony as a secret camp for torture, murder, and much more.
In 1973, Lena (Emma Watson) works as flight attendant, while her husband Daniel (Daniel Brühl) is a photographer and semi-activist. Joining protests in the streets against General Augusto Pinochet, Daniel gets abducted and separated from his wife by DINA, Pinochet’s secret police. He is whisked away to a secretive black site where they torture him relentlessly, at least until Paul Schäfer (Michael Nyqvist) comes to take him away after he’s almost been shocked into being mentally challenged. Schäfer takes Daniel to Colonia Dignidad, which is supposedly a charitable religious organization he runs. Only it is so much more. When Lena digs up the truth, she joins Colonia Dignidad. What she discovers ranges from sexual and physical abuse, to cult-like activities, as well as the fact Schäfer operates the colony as a black site where Pinochet brings various political prisoners for torture, and most often death. What follows is Lena’s desperate attempt to save her husband from Schäfer and the colony’s deadly grip.
In terms of directing, there’s nothing overly impressive other than a generally decent atmosphere and look to the film. What’s most impressive in this mediocre film is the acting. Both Daniel Brühl and Emma Watson are each excellent in their lead roles. Brühl’s role is technically smaller, even if his character’s situation drives the plot, but that doesn’t mean it comes as any less intense. Especially when DINA rushes him off to Pinochet’s secret spot in the colony, then we watch him get tortured into an almost regressive state of human behaviour. Even better, his character then puts on act to try and keep himself under the radar, which showcases Brühl’s ability to jump from one part of his range to another quickly. Most of all, it’s Watson who carries the cast. She is a happy-go-lucky-type at the start, but as Colonia wears on her demeanour is forced to change. Through the series of events that come down her character Lena becomes someone paranoid (and rightfully so), impossibly tough, and also hardened. I’ve always loved Watson since Harry Potter because she is charming and energetic, and like Brühl has an incredible amount of range. If anything, you’ll stick with the film strictly to watch her performance.
Also, I can’t go on without mentioning Michael Nyqvist. He is a huge talent. Of course most know him after The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the whole Millenium trilogy alongside Noomi Rapace. Me, I’ve personally been a fan of his from the time of 2005’s horrifically psychological/Hitchcockian Norwegian thriller Naboer. First of all, Nyqvist actually sort of resembles the real life Paul Schäfer, which is always a plus for an actor playing a real life person; not always required if their performance can transcend appearance, but here it helps simply because Schäfer was an eerie sort of man. Nyqvist appears almost saviour-like in his first moments, then gradually we’re introduced to his other persona, the one which hides behind the big gates and the militarized border of Colonia Dignidad. Over the course of the film he becomes monstrous, so much so that even his presence onscreen is enough to unsettle you without requiring dialogue. If it weren’t for Nyqvist, Schäfer could’ve easily been a copy of a copy. Instead he is highly terrifying from one moment to the next, and the angry, misogynistic violence inside Schäfer can emerge explosively, unexpected with Nyqvist in the role.
While director Florian Gallenberger doesn’t do anything wild in regards to directorial choices, he is successful at keeping Colonia extremely tense. Both Gallenberger and Torsten Wenzel have come up with a decent enough screenplay, despite not exploring the Chilean side of things/Pinochet enough for what the subject matter commands. Nevertheless, each scene is more tense than the last. And the finale is a particularly pulse-pounding experience, as you wonder whether the married couple will finally escape Chile, the colony, and above all Schäfer. But ultimately, Colonia is a 3-star film. If there were some better additions to the screenplay concerning the politics, the dark connections of Schäfer to people like the Nazis, Mengele, even Pinochet and DINA, then perhaps the story might’ve elevated things further. Yes, we do get bits and pieces of the Pinochet reign of power included, as the General comes for weapons, to check on those being tortured, so on, there just simply isn’t enough. Most of the story is focused on the day-to-day of the colony, and that’s fine. However, with a story that’s incredibly political, Gallenberger and Wenzel stick a little too closely to the smaller emotional story at its center. If you go in knowing this, expecting only a tight dramatic look at the married couple and their awful experience, then it may make the film better. There’s simply too much more in the real story that wasn’t told, and with only three solid actors to hold it up the film never reaches anything past being a decent historical drama with some romance and thrills mixed in for taste.
The Stanford Prison Experiment. 2015. Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez. Screenplay by Tim Talbott.
Starring Billy Crudup, Michael Angarano, Moises Arias, Nicholas Braun, Gaius Charles, Keir Gilchrist, Ki Hong Lee, Thomas Mann, Ezra Miller, Logan Miller, Tye Sheridan, Johnny Simmons, James Wolk, Nelsan Ellis, and Olivia Thirlby. Coup d’Etat Films/Sandbar Pictures/Abandon Pictures.
Rated 14A. 122 minutes.
There’ve been two other films based on the real Stanford Prison Experiment conducted by Philip Zimbardo, at least that I know of – the German film Das Experiment and the semi-remake of that starring Adrian Brody and Forest Whitaker, The Experiment. Many will tell you the former is the best. Certainly none will say the latter. But I’ll go ahead and give you my opinion: The Stanford Prison Experiment is the best of the trio. It is the most raw, real, honest version compared with true events. It showcases best the real results of the experiment Zimbardo setup. Here, we see the worst of the human condition, what people are capable of given power and the ability to judge as they see fit.
As opposed to the other two films, Kyle Patrick Alvarez doesn’t try to add anything extra to the story. Or better put, screenwriter Tim Talbott sticks mostly to the practical facts of the original experiment. Instead of getting too flowery, attempting to intensify themes, Talbott’s script brings out the moral dilemmas inherent in Zimbardo’s supposed experiment. We are thrown directly in the hot seat, both with the people behind the glass and the inmates on the other side. This film focuses best on the human aspect of what really happened, rather than ratcheting up the violence, the threat of rape, or any number of things. Not saying every last bit of this is completely factual. More that it attempts to stick with reality. And things get very raw. For someone who traffics in a lot of horror, many disturbing pieces of cinema, this can actually be tough to watch; it isn’t even graphic. The psychological torture of the men in this experiment bleeds through the screen.
Dr. Philip Zombardo (Billy Crudup) conducts an experiment at Stanford University in the early 1970s. Twenty four men were recruited. They were broken into groups of guards and prisoners. This experiment sees how both groups act under the guidelines of a prison environment in the basement of the university.
Except things start to get a little out of hand. The guards aren’t allowed to physically hurt the prisoners. But they do everything else possible. They psychologically torture the young men playing prisoners. Some of them rebel. Others comply completely. Allowed to leave at any time, a couple do, or at least try to. For Zombardo’s part he tries to keep people there, going beyond acceptable limits; certainly beyond ethical scientific limits. As some of the guards go a little wilder than others, the Stanford Prison Experiment gets further out of hand than even Zombardo could have predicted.
They had two weeks allotted to conduct the experiment. It didn’t even last one.
Many times we see Zombardo lose it. One key moment is when a member of the research/experiment team has to leave, due to a death in the family, and Philip doesn’t lose it, but the lack of care for his colleague’s dead family member is evident. We can see how Zombardo doesn’t care about anything else, anybody else. Nothing other than his precious experiment. So, in subtle scenes like that we see the fabric of his personality wearing away. He meets an older man, either a former mentor or an older colleague, who asks about variables in his experiment; Phil dismisses him in a mix between anger, resentment, and perhaps a small dose of doubt, guilt, too. The character is a loaded one and full of many complexities. We watch as the guy’s mind tears, right alongside many of the inmates and some of the guards in the experiment. Hard to tell sometimes exactly who is slipping most.
Then there’s Michael Angarano. He is a great actor, one I’ve enjoyed plenty on Cinemax’s The Knick. Here he plays the “John Wayne” guard, Christopher Archer. Watching him progress from the first scene where we see him, to the Napoleonic character he becomes later in the film, it truly is impressive. Some may get annoyed by his fake Southern accent – part of the character itself, imitating a character from Cool Hand Luke, and poorly (on purpose). However, I find Angarano excellent here. He plays a young man who is fairly despicable, just as bad as Zombardo, and certainly one of the worst of all the men playing guards. His youthfulness comes in handy because he portrays a guy who, in real life, went too far and thought it was all justifiable, as if being a terrible human being at the drop of a hat, as he was during the experiment, were a situation anybody would find themselves in. His character helps to call into question the individual moral dilemma of such an experiment, and displays exactly the type of behaviour any person in their right mind would be ashamed of if it were them. A few other good performances here, including Ezra Miller and Tye Sheridan plus more. Although, Angarano and Crudup clearly shine. That could also have much to do with their characters’ respective importance to the events in question. Still, they both do an amazing job pulling their share of the weight along the way.
This a dark and raw 5-star film based on true events. In the final fifteen minutes, The Stanford Prison Experiment devolves to madness and presents us with the regression of humanity, all represented in these men posing as the guards. The moment where Crudup’s Zombardo breaks is quietly intense, but it hits you hard. I do not admire anything about Zombardo. This moment just rocked me – especially with the line by Angarano afterward. There’s a despicable quality to the ending, and it lingered with me, yet above all a sense of relief. This film is a visceral one at times, it will get under your skin. Deep; if you let it. The bare human qualities of this movie made it one of my favourites from 2015.
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!