Before I get into the episode proper, I need to say straight off, that just because something happened in the book, doesn’t mean it has to happen in this show. The book came out in 1994, and times have changed. Some of us are incredibly exhausted of seeing certain tropes play out again and again on our television screens. This episode certainly reminded me that adaptation is important, and while I have truly been enjoying this show, sometimes staying true to source material can sour viewers.
The plot has truly picked up at this point, and we have finally discovered the identity ofthe killer. We’re learning his motivations (he was attacked by a man he trusted as a child), he rock climbed a great deal as it was the only time he found peace from his strange facial tics (which explains why he is such a good climber), but does any of that truly matter? By keeping the killer’s face completely from us, by not revealing him at all, I think the show loses something. Perhaps we aren’t supposed to identify with him, but in shows like these, we have usually watched the killer stalk their victims at least once or twice–we would have followed in their shoes, seen their perspective. To understand someone like that is to truly fear them–but so far we have seen him just once, while the other times have been following the red-herring of a killer.
I feel the show missed the mark when it came to telling this side of the story, and while I enjoy John, Lazlo, and Sara’s interactions…we are still trying to create a murder mystery, here. And I haven’t felt much towards that yet.
Our characters are scattered in this episode: John and Lazlo are working to find out more information about the killer by going to Washington DC, and then seeking out his surviving brother; Sara heads to where all the madness began, to see who knew the killer when he was a child; the Isaacsons head to the West to find the killer’s Commander and see the sadness and brutality of the Native American reservations themselves. It’s interesting to see all of our characters separated like this, but I think it shows that out of all the stories, the Isaacson’s is the least needed. While they gained some information about the sexual nature of the man’s killing, that wasn’t anything they didn’t know. Showing us the checkered history of America is a good thing to attempt, but it was time that could have been spent better elsewhere in the episode.
We learn that forces are now determined to make sure that an Alienist won’t solve this crime before the NYPD does. Some of this seems to be a contrivance; it would be easy to say that the NYPD hired Lazlo, so it was solved with NYPD help. However, that isn’t how they see it, and as this continues to be an idea of God vs Godless, people like JP Morgan and Conner will go to any lengths to ensure that our little group don’t win.
And what sort of lengths would this include? Well, attacking Lazlo and John, for one. The scene where their driver is shot and their carriage goes off the side of a bridge was a great action scene, and gave way to some great character moments. Lazlo admitting that he loved Mary, and John refusing to accept that they were going to die anytime soon, were both great little moments within the episode.
Which I’m glad we had, really, given what came next. Conner and two of his men descended on Lazlo’s home; he isn’t home, of course, so they find Mary, Stevie, and Cyrus, all unwilling (or in Mary’s case, unable) to say where the doctor is. Conner storms through the mansion, tearing through things, as the other men subdue Cyrus and Stevie. Mary takes things into her own hands and attacks Conner–
–but in the process, gets herself thrown off the balcony to her death.
It’s horrific, and I’m glad the show didn’t shy away from it…but at the same time, it wasn’t necessary. Yes, it happened in the book, but we’ve had enough women fridged. Mary was an interesting character, one that had barely been explored. Coupled with her newfound romance with Lazlo, everything about her death is going to be reduced to how this harms Lazlo–it’s furthering manpain. I’m frankly exhausted of seeing this, time and time again. Men can have their own tragic stories without having a dead woman in their lives. But apparently The Alienist doesn’t seem to see that.