(Beware, spoilers below!)
Well, it’s not wrong to say that Steven Sodeburgh’s drama about a 19th Century hospital has been a rollercoaster ride. After a relatively slow start at the beginning of the season, the drama has hit its stride with several engaging storylines and episodes, “Get the Rope” being one of my favourites.
Sodeburgh isn’t afraid to get stuck into the action, as shown by the highly anticipated season finale. We start straight off with Cornelia’s abortion. The dark light of the scene between both herself and Sister Harriet makes the moment oddly moving, and a stark contrast with the bright white of the operating theatre scene following afterwards. We’re reconfronted with Dr Zinberg, a doctor that is oddly irritating, irrespective of the fact he’s meant to contrast with Thackery. Thackery’s resistance to cooperate with the pioneering doctor is symptomatic of the man’s intense pride, something that’s been toyed with all season. After Zinberg’s operation, his obsession with getting one up on the man consumes him completely, sending Bertie to spy on him – ‘until we win of those new Nobel prizes’. Thack’s paranoia (along with his cocaine addiction) reaches new heights: ‘Were you followed?’ ‘Are you a spy?’. However, it’s only when he’s killed a little girl that we see the full results of Thack’s hubris etched superbly over Clive Owen’s face. “Pulse is gone” says Lucy. It’s a horrific moment.
Algernon is the show’s constant reminder that The Knick differs from other hospital dramas not only given the time period, but also how much race and gender issues play into the role. Not only has he lost his child, but Cornelia, upon marriage will lose her independence. Algie willingly gets into a fight on Cornelia’s wedding day, whilst she tells her brother she has no choice but to go through with it. In this show, not only are the boundaries of science being pushed, but also the boundaries of societal change and tolerance.
The plotline with Dr Gallinger has reached the most devastating heights. The suffering doctor sees – in the most horrific moment – sees how his wife’s teeth have been removed as treatment for her mental illness.Thank goodness we’ve moved on from those days. The doctor is suspended, having lost both his family and his prominence. He’s a broken man.
Meanwhile, Herman Barrow is predictably in trouble with the mob boss, which culminates with a cock punch in front of his favourite prostitute. He requests a reference from Thackery to Ping Qu to be able to kill Bunky, and even when negotiating, Barrow’s a slippery man, but still, not slippery enough.
It’s been a most brilliant season. Both the music and the lighting are used expertly to evoke the grittiness of the period. I’d never thought I’d see a miserable looking wedding, but Sodeburgh pulls it off. The casting is brilliant, and props go to the character progression portrayed by Michael Angarano this episode: the expression in his eyes as he sees the downfall of his hero is greater than words. However, with The Knickerbocker hospital set to close and Thack in rehab dosed up on heroin, what will happen next season? I gladly await.