A Fruitful Partnership
We’re only into the second hour of The Alienist, but I can already say that I think this show would have been better served on a network such as Netflix or Hulu, where episodes could have been dropped in bulk for a binge session. While I’m truly enjoying the show so far–it’s clear that TNT has put a great deal of effort and money into this endeavor– the pacing of the show lends itself more to binge-watching, allowing a cinematic experience to take place over many hours without a week-long break in between episodes.
This episode delved deeper into the darker parts of New York City during the late 19th century, providing some gruesome if not interesting set pieces for our fledgling detectives to investigate. We open on Dr. Kreizler in a pauper’s morgue, looking for any bodies of poor children that may have been killed in a similar manner as the boy on the bridge. We see the mortician practicing an old method of ridding the body of gases that could cause it to explode or…do other things before it was interred: inserting a small metal pipe into it and lighting the gas on fire. These small little details aren’t always the easiest to look at, but I appreciate the show for including them, giving it a more authentic feeling. This scene also introduces a theme that is mentioned a few times this episode, and I am sure will continue throughout the series: religious/more conservative Christians find Dr. Kreizler’s work to be against God.
Captain Cooper of the NYPD is shown to be completely in bed with the mob, which had been hinted at in the previous episode. Here we see him beating up Mr. Santorelli, the father of one of the deceased male prostitutes, for even attempting to find out what happened to his son.
Cooper also openly attempts to intimidate Sara back at the station house, which fails; she instead notices the blood on his hands, pegging him as someone to watch. As our lone female protagonist in the show so far, I’m genuinely loving her portrayal. She takes matters into her own hands when it comes to the death of these children, coercing John into going with her into the slums to speak with the Santorelli family. She is doing all of this behind Roosevelt’s back, but for reasons unknown she is determined to help in whatever way she can. Through her own kindness and pressing of the family members, she finds out that there were other boys killed–which haven’t been reported.
She searches for files, even breaking into Cooper’s desk to find some cases that he’s hidden. Again, she is ingenuitive, stubborn, and level-headed. Dr. Kreizler wants her involved in the case, clearly, and works to make sure this happens, going even so far as to demand that Roosevelt make her his liason in the case, as he runs a parallel investigation. It’s interesting to see the doctor navigate circles he clearly could be more involved in, but simply doesn’t care about. He manipulates Roosevelt into allowing him to run the murder investigation after pointing out that the Commissioner can’t fix the corruption in the NYPD.
This episode also gives us our first brief glimpses into the fledgling world of forensics; the Isaacson brothers work on a cow skull to determine what knife made the bone marks on the boy’s skull, and they even bring up the idea of fingerprinting–something revolutionary in its time.
For all the talk of their long friendship, it’s clear that things are a bit strained between Dr. Kreizler and John. When John implies that the Santorelli boy was acting contrary to normal sexual behavior, Dr. Kreizler immediately calls him out; being gay isn’t ‘contrary’ or an aberration and Lazlo wants John to understand that clearly. John also disagrees with bringing Sara onto the case, and in a drunken pout he walks home after the group decides to join up in this investigation.
Of course, this leads John to attempt to ‘prove’ his use by going to the gay brothel and investigate on his own. The scenes in the brothel are just teaming with atmosphere, and the show does a very good job in making these young boys/men look sympathetic. It’s the adults/men in power who look disgusting.
John proves to be a poor investigator as he asks questions bluntly and out in the open, only resulting in getting himself drugged and in a compromising position (the show cuts away before we see if John is assaulted or merely made to look so).
He does gain some valuable information about the patron of Santorelli–he had a ‘silver smile’.