A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Knick’s second outing isn’t as strong as the first, mostly because the first was so deft at establishing a known world and the second episode is notably one of build-up. There’s nothing wrong with world-building episodes in the strictest sense and they do allow for big character upheavals that then work because of the build-up in the first place. It’s just that build-up episodes aren’t always cohesive units and often lack the additional punch key episodes often do. An effective episode, Mr. Paris Shoes takes a heavy look at the disastrous dangers of a 1900 hospital and more so the heavy racial reality of the time that turned away patients in dire need of help because of their skin color. The episode ends cloaked in irony, but we’ll cover that below.
Cornelia’s struggles running the hospital arrive at an uncomfortable juncture. As we saw last week, she truly has the hospital’s best interests at heart, hiring a black doctor in a period when almost no one would do so. She remains an interesting character even though her story largely deals with the reality of her being wealthy and at odds with the hospital staff, which in itself is not exactly riveting material. But it is an intriguing set-up for potential future conflicts. What is interesting is the angle of mysogny in relation to Cornelia. It isn’t just her being wealthy and making decisions as a boss that bothers the staff – some of the men chafe at the idea of being told what to do by a woman. Cornelia does not come across as a type who would tolerate that type of stupidity and I’m quite interested in seeing what the storyline could do with that angle.
Dr. Edwards uncovers an uncomfortable truth that in hindsight should have been pretty obvious. The Knick as a medical institution is composed of people who have taken the Hippocratic Oath to treat any patient and treat them with honor and responsibility. But the Knick conveniently forgot about that as many hospitals did and do. The Knick doesn’t treat black patients. The appalling lack of humanity in that decision is devastating to Dr. Edwards and despite the hospital’s struggling finances decides to do the right thing. He begins to treat patients who were turned away in the basement. The framing and lighting work wonders in these scenes, Dr. Edwards a verifiable angel with a conscience. He is walking a thin line, however, and I would love to see how long he can keep it up without it erupting into a massive scandal. I would love to say that modern-day hospitals are less corrupt and worried more about their patients instead of their bottom line. But that would be as fake as the Hippocratic Oath taken by many of the professionals at hospitals like the Knick. The most telling scene of the episode was when Dr. Thackery and Dr. Edwards were washing their hands in the same sink opposite each other. The invisible wall was so obvious it hurt.
Dr. Barrow received welcome character development in the second installment, even if very little was positively reflective. Presented with the difficulty of making the hospital more appealing while cutting costs, he opts for a quick decision that causes a patient to catch on fire in the middle of the operating theater floor and a nurse to get electrocuted. That would be tragic on its ow, but then it is revealed that he pocketing funds to get rid of mobsters. Dr. Barrow’s criminal hypocrisy isn’t the only hypocrisy on display. Drs. Chickering and Gallinger break into a library, searching to study some of Dr. Edward’s medical journals that he used when he pursued his studies in France. It’s a moment of levity almost if the despicable hypocrisy didn’t hang so sullenly over it all.
A solid outing for Cinemax’s medical drama, Mr. Paris Shoes sheds further light on the medicine and the characters with equivalent panache. A bit slower and more slightly disjointed than the premiere, the episode nevertheless delivers and makes me immediately want to catch the next episode, which is something. The insight into Dr. Barrow’s character is well done, even if we had to undergo a couple of casualties. The final sequence was breathtaking just in its irony alone. Steven Soderbergh’s direction continues to excel and remains the most technically proficient aspect of this brilliant show.
Episode Title: Mr. Paris Shoes
Writer: Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Image Courtesy: EW, Baller Mind Frame, La Review of Books, HBO Watch, Gilbert Curiosities @ Blogspot