It’s been interesting in most of The Knick‘s run how Dr. Thackery, the star of the series (though not the lynchpin — that would be its style), has often played second fiddle, or at least, enjoyed no higher position of prominence among The Knick’s many stories. Ultimately, that has been a good thing, because despite how great Clive Owen is, and how well he delivers some of Thack’s best lines, Thackery’s story is one that’s not particularly new or interesting narratively (that is, the brilliant doctor who is both buoyed and crippled by his addiction). But, “Working Late a Lot” was his moment. Hit the jump for why you’ll always have a friend in Wu.
“Working Late a Lot” is one of those episodes where I can appreciate its parts without loving it as a whole. On the other hand, The Knick has been my favorite show of the season, so even one that dips slightly is still great. The hour was an acting showcase for Clive Owen, who brilliantly owned every minute of Thack’s withdrawals thanks to a cocaine shortage. Though he was able to ration out some that Lucy found for him, he wasn’t at his best. He was agitated and fidgety, and after consuming some strychnine, he had a headache that finally sent him home (after everyone else had commented on how badly he had been looking for days).
The idea of Thackery going through withdrawal on his own, which he did very early in the season, is kind of a bore. But him being forced to have less, unexpectedly, actually was a good way to approach it. His anxiety and addict’s frantic desire to find any scrap of it he could made for some great scenes, like when the camera stayed on him during the administrative meeting about the aftermath of the riot, where Thack kept making a louder and more urgent case about the need for cocaine. Later, as he waited as long as he possibly could before administering a dose in his ankle, the camera again stayed close on him before giving in, and then returned to him after his dosage, as he held himself together during Dr. Zinberg’s presentation.
While none of the patients have been harmed yet by his erratic behavior (though one nearly was before Algernon and Everett took over), Lucy is already starting to see the other side of Thack that I predicted last week would come to light sooner rather than later. There was (and still is) a worry that her association with him will get her hooked on drugs as well. But in the meantime, his dismissal of her because of his coke-focused working is a disappointment to her emotionally. Compared with the romance and danger of a relationship with Thackery, though, kind Bertie back at the Knick is a poor substitute, with his tamed-down museum visits and prescriptions for a large cup of hot coffee.
Just as doomed, though maybe not as quickly, is Cornelia’s relationship with Algernon. They’re living on borrowed time, but it’s a beautiful thing. Her wry confidence, but also girlish giggling, when in his presence is a chemistry no one else on the show has. Unfortunately, her lies to her family about her work and her social engagements can’t last for long, and her taking cabs directly from in front of the Knick to a black hotel is not going to go unnoticed or unmentioned.
Elsewhere, other losing battles were being fought, and not just in the Pacific islands. Everett takes Sister Harriet’s advice about finding an orphan to take in, but idiotically doesn’t consult his wife before bringing little Grace home and forcing her on Eleanor. At first Eleanor is reviled to see a child the same age as Lilian, as if she is a replacement (and in Everett’s eyes, she clearly is). While Eleanor does eventually hold her, Everett comes home later to a terribly soiled and screaming Grace (a.k.a. “who?”), who Eleanor is ignoring as she knits at hat for Lilian.
Cornelia and Speight also lose a court hearing regarding the release of Mary Mallon, a.k.a. Typhoid Mary, an irritating and clearly nasty woman, who — after her victory — has changed her name and is off to infect more people. As well-known as that storyline is, The Knick has found a way to infuse it with new interest by making the scenes around Mary, and her capture, some of the funniest the show has ever done.
Barrow, too, is losing his ever-present battle (which is partially of his own making) to collect funds for the hospital. Cornelia’s father has turned off his tap, not because his war profiteering is going badly (which, at the moment it is), but because he’s annoyed with Barrow’s groveling and presumptions. In a Hail Mary attempt (quite literally), Barrow approaches the Catholic Archbishop for funds, but he says they, too, are without available resources (unlikely).
And finally there is Bertie, who is so far is alone in winning his battle (against his father to stay at the Knick), and also has been shown increasing favor by Thackery. Also, Thack is clearly concerned about the kinds of inventions that Zinberg is developing at the Jewish hospital, so in addition to the paper he’s publishing with Algernon, he also wants Bertie to get to parsing through Thack’s insane notes so that they can present their previa procedure as well.
But truly this was Thack’s hour, and as most busy days at the Knick end, his was completed only by opium. Perhaps it’s better to float off into denial sometimes than acknowledge, for instance, there are only two more episodes left this season of this great show.
Episode Rating: B
— Thanks Steven Soderbergh for showing us just how gross the sound of people kissing can be.
— “I’m supposed to be making money on this war, not losing it!” – the borish Captain Robertson.
— Mary Mallon: “Go fuck yourselves.” Speight: “Go wash yourself, so your shit-filled hands don’t kill anyone else!”
— Barrow firing two of the four black men in the fuel room vaguely and then at random for things they didn’t do wrong was at first a little funny (regarding his cowardice) and then utterly shameful, because they had no recourse for such accusations.
— This episode made me worry for everyone.