The Knick 1.06 Review: “Start Calling Me Dad”

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For the first time since the second episode, The Knick had a powerful character episode. This time, all the random slapdash sequences actually taught us something real about the characters. The time, The Knick has some justification about why the plot holes and the rapid changes—

Okay, I was trying to be positive. The Knick did have a few really great character moments, but they were interspliced with the usual amount of mediocrity. The writing still isn’t befitting a show of this supposed caliber; if Clive Owen and Andre Holland and Juliet Rylance weren’t so good at their jobs (as well Eric Johnson, Michael Arangano, and Eve Hewson) this show would be little more than conceptual foundation in which it resides.

The dialogue, especially, is getting worse and worse. It’s six episodes in and yet its still stilted and obvious. The health inspector character is a good example of this. Nearly every time he opens his mouth, it’s unconvincing. And it’s not the acting! The words he says are supposed to be jaunty and authentic to the time period but they sound like someone tried to write authentic dialogue. It interrupts the “continuous dream”.

Some good moments:

Sister Harriet and Cleary are still in the abortion business. After a successful operation, Harry and Cleary walk together. They have a really good back-and-forth now; the dialogue is still meh but the actors sell it well (I say that too much; but its truuuuu). From the terrible start in which the relationship began (terrible in the idea of the show, not the actual start [though that was pretty bad {SO MANY BRACKETS}]). I just like how it’s progressed.

Thackery invents a way to put pressure on the bleed inside of a patient with placenta previa. He puts an inflatable bladder inside of the uterus and puts pressure on the wound from the inside, giving the doctors much more time to stitch it up and save both mother and child. But they struggle with consistent pressure, so Bertie (who assisted Thackery in the initial experiments) suggest water as a way to inflate it, to give it weight and help make the shape more natural. After it works, and they save a patient, Thackery names the device the Christensen-Thackery-Chickering Repair. Bertie is about to be a published surgeon because of the ensuing paper. Thackery and Bertie’s relationship is one of the high points of the show; Bertie only wants to be a good doctor, and Thackery rewards him for that.

This moment leads to the best one of the entire series: Thackery discovers Algernon’s secret clinic/surgery. Though he discovered it under suspicious circumstances (since when has Algernon routed patients through the hospital?), Thackery finds it and chews Algernon out. He calls him every name in the book (no outright racial slurs [progress!]), but is eventually distracted by Algernon’s setup. He looks over the vacuum and the hernia procedure and the booklet that Algernon made. He realizes that Algernon actually has some worth (and has proven it to him). We see, finally, who Thackery is: a man of science and humanity, and we see it without the trappings of a lover kissing up or some worshipful praise. Thackery treats Algernon like garbage until he realizes that his doctoral skills can help him grow.

And we learn a lot about Algernon as well. He’s playing the politician again (still don’t think this was properly set up) but its much more believable. He just wants to be able to practice medicine, under the best doctor available. Finally, FINALLY, a good character moment emerges from the pile! This show, when it allows its characters to show their bones in a forum of truth, shows them to be solid and strong.

Cornelia had her moment, too; she stops “Typhoid Mary” (a really boring conclusion to the typhoid storyline) from infecting anyone else. She tackles the woman to the ground and saves the day. Then, when she gets home and expresses her joy at her achievement, her father, her husband and her father-in-law treat her as a little girl. She goes to her room, discouraged.

Then, her father-in-law comes in and basically tells her that he’s going to be enjoying their “union”. Its really gross. I really hope he dies from typhoid. I hope this signals a focus on Cornelia that doesn’t end so dramatically boring. Her character development in a world that hates women is really important for the shows future.

See you next week.

[Photo via Cinemax]

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