The Knick 1.03: “The Busy Flea” Review

Cadavers on Clearance

A Television Review by Akash Singh


This week Dr. Barrow bought a cadaver for $75 and then proceeded to get a strip-tease from a prostitute who was pretending that her quest was not for fleeting sexual satisfaction but instead for a flea. That happened. But outside of poorly executed fantasies (a flea? Really?), The Busy Flea is the weakest of the three episodes so far. It isn’t a matter of concern that the quality has been declining because there is enough good in the episode to keep your faith in Soderbergh & Co. The main issue with the episode is the amount of exposition it gives, which takes up nearly half an hour by itself. It’s not all terrible in terms of the actual content, but it can become monotonous. The second half is better but the events are largely placeholders but still entertaining enough to keep the overall rhythm humming along.

Dr. Thackery gets a love life backstory, his former lover played by the wonderful Jennifer Ferrin arriving in the role. Her nose was aflame with syphilis from her philandering husband. It’s an interesting relationship and I want to see more of it explored in the future. Perhaps it would provide some empathetic humanity to the character beyond his thirst for innovation and everyone frankly know that he needs it. It’s an interesting note, a character whose landscape is defined by innovation as seen clearly in the pilot episode can lead to lives being saved yet his blatant racism and regard for prestige can doom so many to death at the same time. It’s a wonderful dichotomy.

There is a twisted sense of perversion as to how everyone reacts to Abby ultimately losing her nose to syphilis. The immediate conclusion one could draw in such a misogynistic era was her philandering was punished by God. The reality of it being her husband’s unfaithfulness that brought her such tremendous pain is in many ways irrelevant. Her torture wouldn’t necessarily decrease by any means. But that moment when Dr. Thackery stood up for her and threatened the nurses with asphyxiation had me cheering for him was a great one. And I was kind of ready for the character to die at the end of the pilot. It’s astounding.

In an hour whose second half was really where the juices got flowing, The Busy Flea wasn’t as busy as it should have been but was riveting enough. The best moments by far belonged to Dr. Edwards and his underground makeshift hospital. His search for the missing thread that he then breaks off with his teeth is the sequence of the hour. I’ve always found sequences where there is little or no dialogue to be amongst the best scenes in narrative function. Allowing an actor to express the story and their role within it without overburdening them with dialogue has let to some of the most powerful scenes in memory. Think of Anakin and Padmé staring out at each other in Revenge of the Sith as John William’s brilliant score billowing about them. Or Harry going to meet his end at Voldemort’s hands. And the brilliance of Daenerys’s birth as the Mother of Dragons in Game of Thrones. The Knick is the best when it allows André Holland to express his terror, indignation, and triumph through his visage. In those moments, the show truly becomes something else.



Episode Title: The Busy Flea

Writer: Jack Amiel & Michael Begler

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Image Courtesy: Metro US, We Got This Covered, Three If By Space, Awards Daily


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