The Question for the Ages
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Damn, this was an amazing episode. Arguably The Knick’s finest hour, Where’s the Dignity’s ability to juggle a plethora of story lines and brim with energy is phenomenal. Sister Harriet, whom I haven’t mentioned in the short reviews yet (busy times I tell you), receives a plethora of focus from this episode and it becomes all the richer for it. The surgical complications continue to be a treat from the drama itself. Dr. Gallinger’s rivalry with Dr. Edwards deepens. Dr. Bertie’s life becomes more of an open book. Lucy catches Dr. Thackery in an opium den, whose hazy smoke was the first image of the series. AND THOMAS EDISON APPEARED ON THE SHOW. That’s right. Thomas. F***ing. Edison.
Sister Harriet has always been an intriguing character, even more so when it was revealed that she performed abortions for women in need. Cleary is hypocritical enough to shame her for what she has done and Cara Seymour’s performance as she stares into the ground is brilliant. Her eyes speak everything about the shame she truly feels for striking against one of the central tenants of the church yet a hardened understanding of the reality that surrounds her. She know what back-alley abortions can do, the pain and death they can bring. It’s tearing her soul apart but she knows she needs to continue the work she’s performing. She strikes a deal with Cleary, the latter always ready to make a quick buck. Her relationship with Dr. Thackery is an intriguing one as well. In time of need, she is the one he calls upon. It’s a lingering shot of Soderbergh’s camera that reveals that Dr. Thackery knows what Sister Harriet does. But that only creates a respect for her in his mind and he knows it’s her whom he can rely upon in tough situations, tradition and decorum be damned in this case. It’s a starkly wonderful relationship in this series and it should make for one of the more intriguing threads going forward.
Dr. Bertie’s father is a nasty piece of work. I’ve always had a tough spot for parental figures who make a visceral living through their children. This father goes a step further. His main issue lies with his son’s medical work at the Knick, which in his mind is hindering his financial prospects. His son’s progressive, kind attitude is in such sharp contrast one can’t help but feel an immense, immediately dislike for Bertie, Sr. “Poverty is poverty,” he remarks coldly. Empathy and conscience be damned. It’s an empathetic sequence for Dr. Bertie and I already have “Dr. Bertie kicks his father’s ass.” Soderbergh’s framing of equivalence and how father and son each other is masterful.
Cornelia’s engagement party is fun sequence in and of itself as an occasion where various actors get to interact in ways they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. Class and race are the underlying factor in the party itself. While Dr. Bertie’s father isn’t able to appreciate his own child even though he is a professional physician, Dr. Edward’s parents have the opposite reaction. Having come from very little despite the connections between their families, his parents are just happy to see their child succeed. Money is important to them, but it is not the object of supreme fascination so many others hold it to be. When they see their child as a black man holding some semblance of respect in a world that doesn’t treat them as human beings, it fills them with more pride and joy than any amount of money. It is also the first time in the series where we get to see Dr. Edwards in a setting where he is an equal. Even though there are members in the party that see him differently because of his skin tone, The Knick is intelligent enough not to overburden the audience with the contrast. Instead, the show opts for subtlety that speaks far more volumes than on-the-nose dialogue that’s hindered the show in the past.
Thomas Edison’s appearance threw an electric energy (pun intended) into the entire proceedings, bringing a meta force to Dr. Thackery’s tendencies of innovation and a brilliant reality to the entire series. Steven Soderbergh’s direction remains magnetic and the production values are consistently phenomenal. The further strengthening of Dr. Thackery’s and Dr. Edwards’s characters is making the show a much richer experience now that the introductions are in many ways behind us. The former’s visit to Abigail is a great little piece that allows for both characters to shine and visit a happier time in their lives without being melodramatic. Every frame was crackling with tension and character development across the board and I was earnestly bemoaning the end of the hour. Take a bow, The Knick team, take a bow.
Episode Title: Where’s the Dignity?
Writer: Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Image Courtesy: We Got This Covered, Spoiler TV, BNO Walk, Zap 2 It