Previously on The Alienist, “Ascension”
I love serialized drama. Give me a ten- or twelve-episode season anytime, or even shorter (Peaky Blinders tells more story and offers better character depth in six installments than most longer seasons I care to think of). I think it’s because writers and creators have to focus on one main plot and fewer characters, and this lends to leaner story-telling and overall viewer satisfaction. The Alienist is seamless; the writers and directors are singing from the same hymn sheet; and so there’s a natural flow from one episode to the next, no matter who’s holding the pen or calling the shots behind the camera. This show is a novel brought to life, and the richness of its production is like a love letter to fans of period dramas. It’s intense, vivid, and at times, brutal in execution. It’s a joy to watch, even if you’re watching behind the fingers of your hands.
The aftermath of last week’s episode is felt by everyone. Moore is impatient at Stevie because the boy can’t quite get across to the illustrator what the man who attacked and killed Eric/Rosie (it wasn’t Joseph who died, as originally I thought) right under their noses looked like. Roosevelt feels the heat from the banker JP Morgan, who threatens the commissioner’s job unless he brings a quick end to the case. The brothel owner, Paul Kelly, confronts Kreizler and Moore with a similar issue, saying he’ll continue to organise more riots across the city unless his brothels are reopened. Former Chief of Police Byrnes rips Connor a new one for “accidentally” killing their prime suspect, knowing that because there’s been a fresh murder, Willem Van Burgen was entirely innocent. Byrnes is afraid of losing respectability in the eyes of the great and influential New York City elite. For Connor, who’s career is now in the toilet, the only way to get back in the good books is to, once more, torment the “handsome but indolent” Moore.
Kreizler, for his part, appears to be cracking at the seams. His aloof façade is in danger of exposure, his childhood secrets seeping out from his very pores – even Moore has had enough of his behaviour. Sarah tells him what the alienist did to her and his immediate response is to confront his friend with the reality that he’ll be left with no one if he continues to lash out at those who care about him. Meanwhile Kreizler is using a scalpel on Rosie’s dead body, post autopsy, as if to release the boy’s spirit. He’s hurt and damaged, and in return, he’s hurting those around him. Stevie and Cyrus’ near escape from death at the brothel on Ascension causes him problems. Cyrus’ niece, Joanna Crawford, takes the alienist down quite a few pegs. In no uncertain terms, she tells them that her uncle is not a means to an end, but an end in and of himself (Immanuel Kant would love this), Kreilzer offers awkward apologies to all concerned. Little by little you can see the veneer losing some of its lustre. Only his relationship with Mary offers him anything close to comfort, even though he’s in danger of messing that up too. Mary fumes at the idea it could be time for her to “strike out on her own.”
I’ll say one thing about Sarah Howard (Dakota Fanning continues to mesmerize week after week): she’s an expert at compartmentalizing. One minute she’s chastising Kreizler for his perceived cowardice, the next she’s showing how much of a detective she is. Working on a clue garnered at Rosie’s autopsy, she’s puts herself in an uncomfortable situation by visiting a mental hospital and talking with an administrator that doesn’t want her there. But she does it for justice and truth, and in doing so gets valuable insight into the mindset and history of the killer. Sarah suspects their suspect could be a former soldier, a veteran of Native American attacks. Traumatized by what he’s seen and experienced, his modus operandi is strikingly similar to how Indians attacked and killed their oppressors. A trip to the National History museum confirms the wounds on Rosie’s bodies compare with those of dead soldiers from the West over twenty years ago, particularly the Battle of Little Big Horn.
Aside from all this, there’s a very intriguing scene halfway through the episode. Kreizler and Moore are taken suddenly and with some force to a meeting of “many sainted men”: namely Bishop Potter, Chief Byrnes, and JP Morgan. Morgan (Michael Ironside, giving his all) takes charge of the situation, ordering Byrnes and Potter to inform the Van Burgens of their son’s innocence. He doesn’t know the man is dead, not yet anyway. He then offers to help finance the case, knowing full well that it’s for the good of the city and not for justice. Kreizler turns him down flat. He doesn’t want to owe the banker any favours.
The episode ends with a timely reminder – as if we needed one –of the perils facing the team. Moore goes on a bender after a tense conversation with Kreizler, only to be set upon by Connor and his goons. This time the Irishman won’t show any mercy.
The Alienist S1E7 Review Score
"Many Sainted Men"
The Alienist - Episode 7: “Many Sainted Men” | Starring: Daniel Brühl, Dakota Fanning, Luke Evans