After watching so many Fall pilots in which everything is spelled out and set up in sometimes excruciating “telling but not showing” detail, The Knick is a breath of fresh air from the other side of the spectrum. But for The Knick, it’s also not about style over substance (like, say, Boardwalk Empire‘s latest premiere) or telling vignettes that don’t seem to propel the story forward in any way (like much of Masters of Sex this season). Instead, it swims along, connecting everything back to the premise of early 20th century medicine in a number of different ways, while keeping them all interesting. Hit the jump for why “it’s a crying shame all those pretty silver stitches are going to seal up that fat man.”
One of the best scenes in “They Capture the Heat” (and it was, on the whole, a great episode), was when Thackery decided to take a spin on Nurse Elkins’ bike. It was simple enough in execution, but it told a complex story. Thackery has a connection with Lucy because she saw him in withdrawal, and had to find a vein in his penis to administer his favorite drug; that will certainly bond two people together. Lucy has a fascination with Thackery like almost everyone does, and interacts with him confidently (which he appreciates). But while Thackery checking her out when she rode in to the hospital seemed like it was about Lucy herself, really it was more about her carefree demeanor.
“I envy your freedom,” he admits, after toying with her bicycle. But she encourages him to try it, and Thackery looked almost whimsical riding around in a circle, singing. After a hellish day at the hospital, he was looking for release, as always, and found it in a most unexpected way. He longs for a freedom from the horrors of what he beholds and cannot control inside the surgery. After the failure of the same operation that killed a mother and child, that caused his mentor Christiansen to kill himself, Thackery finds distraction on a little blue bike.
There were many illuminating scenes in “They Capture the Heat,” starting with its first. Colonel Sanders’ drunk doctor/barber cousin was ready to cut off the gangster Bucky Collier’s brother-in-law’s leg without much provocation, which led Collier to the Knick. It was a simple and hilariously horrid moment that showed the changing face of medicine. During the Civil War, that would absolutely have been a fine response to a bullet in the leg: “cut it off!” But 40 years later, it doesn’t have to happen, as Thackery showed. For Barrow, it also helped him with his debt, and put him back on good enough terms with Collier that he was able to introduce a young police officer to him with a nose for business (to all of their benefits … except for those poor girls).
Meanwhile, money continues to be a struggle at the hospital, and The Knick, never missing an opportunity, makes it all about class. Though most of the other hospitals are moving uptown to retain their wealthy clientele, Cornelia makes it her personal crusade to keep it where it is, to help serve those who no one else is willing to help. Less altruistically, but still on the right path, Thackery pushes for the acquisition of an X-ray machine which, though expensive, will keep them on the cutting edge of industry.
What they don’t know is that Algernon has his own private surgical practice in the basement, tending to all of those the Knick, upstairs, would refuse to see. One great thing about Algernon’s character though is that he’s not without flaws. He’s arrogant, and he’s not always right. His Cuban patient makes him reconsider his bedside manner, and Thackery being right twice (about keeping the leg as well as with Algernon’s mother) shows him there’s still much for him to learn. On the other hand, he’s doing incredible things down in that basement, and documenting it all the while. And ultimately, his desire to advance the medicine and procedures aligns with Thackery, which will hopefully eventually unite them.
Elsewhere, Cornelia remains on the typhoid track (picking up on the clues, like ice cream being a commonality), while Everett struggles with the realization that his daughter has meningitis, and that he gave it to her because of his carelessness (hinted at last week). Barrow’s tales of financial mismanagement, as well as Cornelia’s father being in debt to Thackery for saving his life abroad, helped deepen the personal histories, expanding the world. But ultimately, it was “just another Tuesday at the Knick.”
Episode Rating: A
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Nice reference to shave and a haircut, two bits!
— My two favorite shots in this episode: the tracking shot that followed Thackery and Algernon into the surgery, and the clips of blood and bloodied hands to signify that the surgery on the mother and daughter were again a failure.
— Now that the show has mercifully backed away from focusing on Thackery’s drug use and sleeping in Chinese whore houses, he’s actually become a very compelling character.
— I worry for Bertie that Lucy is really not the right woman for him. He wants to take her to a nice dinner, she wants to go to a house of horrors. I don’t know that Thackery’s interest in her will turn sexual or romantic, but I’m ok with it if it does. They would make an interesting pair.
— 5th Avenue being “grasslands in the middle of nowhere” is bizarre to think about.
— The dinner scene with Captain Robertson and Barrow was great for several reasons. One, that Robertson snobbily embarrassed Barrow for not being up-to-date on the fact that the Delmonico’s is so last season, and secondly, that Robertson’s friend casually dropped that he gifted two X-ray machines to Manhattan General. Lifestyles of the rich and famous …
— I really appreciate the continuity of the fact that Barrow’s mouth is still swollen from his unwilling tooth extraction.
— Health Inspector: “For all his money, he’s not immune to this disease, unless he has a servant to wipes his ass for him.” Head Maid: “Don’t think for a moment he doesn’t.”
— “Whoever the hell this is, go to hell” – Thackery’s phone greeting.