The Alienist Episode 6 Review: Ascension

reviews, TV


As we’re getting to the back half of the season, I’m finding myself increasingly loving The Alienist for all the set pieces and characterization placed within this world. I am,however, starting to worry that the plot is still too slow for what we are being provided, meaning that as we reach the final episodes, everything is going to happen too quickly, and I’ll be left feeling unhappy with the result. Still, the show is much more positive than negative.

This episode mainly revolves around the team using Stevie as bait at a brothel, to try and get the killer to come out on the next high holy day. While I enjoyed watching the team work together (both Sara and Dr. Kreisler were annoyed when they were put on ‘watch’ duty as they are, “the weaker sex and a cripple”), I think special attention has to be paid to Stevie; knowing that male prostitutes are being murdered…being asked to dress as one and pose as beautiful bait is no small order, even if people are supposedly watching your back.

Stevie, despite being uncomfortable, does his best the first night, but it’s to no avail. Interspersed within this are character moments: John encountering the young male prostitute Joseph again, Sara and Dr. Kreisler discussing his “congenital defect”, and a very upset Willem Vanbergen being told that he’s to go to Argentina. Perhaps that’s why no one shows up to catch Stevie?

While no perpetrator was sighted, the lack of attack does lead Dr. Keisler to start doubting himself, and his methods–for someone who has been acting like he has no flaws, and refusing to acknowledge any doubt, to admit that he might be wrong is a huge step forward for him. The next high holy day is in nine days, and Sara, stalwart gumshoe that she is, is determined to press forward and sets up another sting operation.

Sara still seems to be one of the most interesting characters on the show; she is maintaining a lot of the more ‘traditional’ masculine personality traits (stoicism, reason, frankness), that her fellow compatriots do not. John’s interactions with Joseph have been kind and soft, and–in a more traditional show– might have been between Sara and Joseph, instead. The Alienist has chosen to show different aspects of both femininity and masculinity in a way that I don’t think I’ve seen before–at least not in a way that doesn’t blatantly call attention to itself. Instead, it is presented to us without much commentary, for us make up our own minds.

Teddy Roosevelt is warned by JP Morgan to stop delving into the case more than he already is–again, this is all leading more credence that the killer is Willem, which, at this point, you should all realize is a red herring. Because yes, during the next stakeout, our (now ex) cop Conner stalks a fleeing Willem and shoots him dead, all while the real killer approaches Stevie.

The scenes involving this second setup are incredibly well done. The tension is ratched up as John is distracted again by Joseph, and others lose sight of Stevie for a moment as he’s accosted by our killer. There is a chase for the killer as he seems to get away, shots in a darkened warehouse, and fear for some of our characters–

–but it seems that the killer knew the game better than any of our heroes ever did, and made off with a different boy, and left him dead by the feet of the Statue of Liberty.

So now we know who is not the killer, but we aren’t any closer to finding out who is. With four episodes left, I’m genuinely worried about how we’re going to finish this all up. Still, these characters are complex, interesting people, and I’ll stay along for the ride.


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