In the last episode of The Knick, some of its narrative strands started coming together, bringing its characters together in ways they hadn’t bumped up against one another before (sometimes quite literally). “Get the Rope” took that even further, tying up some of the The Knick‘s more disparate parts into the show’s most linear and contained episode yet. And amid a great deal of violence, “Get the Rope” also managed to work in some humor, and even a little romance. Hit the jump if you are like a comet in the sky.
In “Get the Rope,” The Knick does an interesting and complicated thing with its racial politics. It began, of course, with the cop Sears (who was working with Barrow to provide the gangster Collier with prostitutes) approaching a young black woman, believing her to be a sex worker. Her outrage and rebuff takes a desperate turn though when the man she was waiting on assaults Sears, stabbing him repeatedly.
This being early 1900s New York, and Sears being Irish, tensions were immediately at a maximum. Irish rabble-rousers began to gather outside of the hospital, looking to avenge Sears. And, as Cleary points out to Barrow, there’s no point in waiting for the police to help solve things — they’re the ones instigating.
The outrage at Sears’ unnecessary death made complete sense — he wasn’t a good man, but he didn’t deserve to die. The situation then, of course, escalated to the extreme because the assailant was black. And, in typical mob fashion, that meant that any and every black man (and some women) became fair game for attacks. This illustrated something already well-documented and well-known about race, mobs, and a police force who were willing to essentially hang any black person to appease the crowd. But it also revealed more specific things about The Knick‘s characters on that spectrum, too.
Though Thackery is no champion of minorities (openly derisive of Algernon for most of the series so far), he steps in to help save an innocent black man from a beating the street. There’s a part of him that knows the mob is taking things too far, and that is at least something. While Everett tries to throw out the black patients in the clinic, Thackery suggests segregation instead (which, again, issomething). Him later leading them to Algernon’s basement practice was another interesting moment — while Everett and Barrow balked at the idea, Thackery and especially Cornelia were proud of what Algernon had accomplished.
Eventually, the two of them, plus Nurse Elkins and Cleary (of all people), risked their own safety to transport the weakest patients, even staying around at the hospital to offer their services and supplies. Cleary, who is usually on the self-righteous and staunchly Irish side of things, was more interested in protecting the Knick and his horses, and his volunteering to act as a horse to get the patients to the hospital was most certainly one his finer (and most unexpected) moments. Even Sister Harriet had a part to play, housing the other patients on the run, brandishing her cross and damning to hell anyone who dared interfere.
“Get the Rope” was a stressful and chaotic hour that had the mob destroying the exterior, and then the interior, of the hospital while the objects of their misguided hate were forced to hide or flee. Both hospitals turned into war zones, with glass being broken and limbs being amputated, and a strain of fear coursing through it all. Yet per usual, the smallest moments were some of the best: Sears’ mother trying to force alcohol down him just before he died, Barrow asking Algernon’s assistant if she was a laundress (“down here I’m a surgical assistant!” “God help me”), Barrow running to make sure his prostitute was ok, Algernon hiding underneath the gurney, and Nurse Elkins quickly thinking to tell one of the drunken mobsters that those under the sheets had leprosy.
And then, “Get the Rope” turned into a romance of sorts. Two of the long-teased romantic entanglements finally got their moments. Cornelia, after telling a hilariously-timed story in front of Algernon’s old Harvard alum Moses Williams (about having seen his bare bottom when they were young), starts seeing Algernon in a new light. He’s no longer the silly and determined boy, but an innovative and brave man. The attraction they’ve always had led to a late-night make out, and why should it not? Even if we all saw it coming, what’s wrong with that? It was the culmination not only of two characters who have an excellent and easy rapport (and a chemistry they don’t share with anyone else — they are not a couple we are forced to put together, but rather, it feels completely right), but it also broke down the staunch racial barrier that defined the rest of the episode.
Elsewhere, Nurse Lucy Elkins finally made her move on Thackery, inviting him into apartment and asking him to help her take off her work clothes. And, thanks to some cocaine, her losing her virginity wasn’t apparently all that bad (where’s that PSA?). There’s a mutual interest, but not to the same degree. Thackery will disappoint her, surely, and that could get messy. Plus, what of poor Bertie, laboring in the surgery all alone?
“Get the Rope” is the kind of episode in a historical drama that has been, thematically, done a hundred times over. But somehow, like everything it does, The Knick found a way to cast a new light on it, and approach it in a uniquely beautiful (filmic-ly speaking) way.
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Like Ray Donovan, I respect The Knick for not having a title sequence. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good one (Boardwalk Empire, Outlander, as two current ones, though there are many others), but some are just so forced, and so long. You don’t always need it, and kudos sometimes if you don’t.
— So William Halsted, who Thackery thinks about in his hazy reverie, was a real New York surgeon, and really addicted to cocaine and morphine. His habits, apparently, inspired Christiansen and his then-apprentice Thackery, as we have seen.
— Thackery’s drug-induced abilities are eye-roll-worthy, especially the overly-used TV construct of the Trach tube. But whatever, the rest is so good I generally overlook it.
— TIL that Eve Hewson, who plays Lucy, is Bono‘s daughter.
— TI(also)L what “running trains” means re: prostitutes.
— Everett Gallinger is handsome, but he’s a dick.
— All the feels: the Algernon and Cornelia exchange;
Algernon: “You don’t have to stay if this is too indecent for you.”
Cornelia: “What? I’ve see a buttock before.”
Algernon: “A black one?”
Cornelia: “Yes, yours. When we’d run around the garden with the water pail and you didn’t wear pants.”
Cornelia (to Moses): “And he saw mine.”
Algernon: “For God’s sake, Neely!”