The Best and Worst of Our Souls
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
This was a lean episode, clocking in at a mere 41 minutes, but not a single second goes by wasted in one of the best episodes of television all year. But what offered The Knick its shortest episode yet also managed to provide it with its best material. The Riots that have been teased for the entire season in some fashion or another blew up this week, a verifiable powder keg that lit the fuse on a plethora of other story lines. Soderbergh wisely sets up his camera and allows for all the explosions to just occur right after the other, leaving our mouths agape. And to think there are still three more episodes to come this season.
The episode opens with a Dr. Thackery flashback that goes through his cocaine addiction roots. It’s a riveting beginning, considering we know where this is headed. By the time the episode cuts to black, I look back at my early views on Dr. Thackery and it’s incredible how The Knick evolved him from the resident racist into someone much more without letting the audience completely forget his sort of hideous origins on the show. It’s a complex growth of a man, indicative of how phenomenal the storytelling on this show is.
The propulsive beats of the episode largely revolve around the race riots that inherently turn Lower Manhattan into what resembles a war zone, such is the phenomenal scale of the chaos unleashed. It begins with police officer Phinny Sears attempting to find prostitutes for the mob. He mistakes a black woman on the sidewalk standing next to a black man to be a prostitute. The misunderstanding escalates significantly to the point where Sears gets stabbed. And all hell breaks loose. Soderbergh has arguably never been better on this show than when his camera is streakily following the tumult spreading throughout the streets. It’s utterly chaotic but the director finds those precious few seconds to establish clear shots of where our key characters are so the violence never seems to be violent and bloodthirsty just for the sake of it. Nor does the team abandon the racial elements to just the civilians. Police officers even join in the beating, unleashing their fury upon black civilians without any mercy. Cleary, who hardly was the moral center of the show, gets a great line as he shots at a cop “Whose side are you on?
The riots don’t spare the Knick, either. The pounding on the door is hypnotically spread over a few moments before suddenly it comes thunderingly off, unleashing the mob within the hospital. The riots have another effect on the hospital staff as they reveal the open clinic Dr. Edwards has been running in the basement for all this time. The series did a phenomenal job establishing the clinic and its various moments of nearly being discovered so when it is in the middle of absolute chaos, it’s a thundering revelation that can hardly be focused too much upon considering the mess that was being unleashed outside. Dr. Thackery, in his continuing revelations, is less concerned about the clinic itself as he is far more impressed with the mechanics of it and how Dr. Edwards used his ingenuity to solve the problems. The patients, who above all else are sacred, are rolled out of the hospital to the Negro Infermary. The thoughts and realities of what would happen to these patients if they remained inside propelled nearly everyone forward and what a sight it was.
They often say that a person’s true worth can be discovered when there’s a crisis and how they respond to it. In the case of the riots, everyone got their moment to show who they were at their very core or at the very least what side won in that case. Dr. Thackery protecting a black patient and giving up his cocaine due to lack of available anesthesia, Cleary pushing the ambulance through the streets of chaos, Lucy using her leprosy trick to protect the patients, Bertie’s holding down the Knick as a steadfast bulwark, Cornelia’s confidence and progressivism, all of these things give glaring snapshots into these characters and the best of them. Gallinger and Barrow remain as repugnant and petty as they’ve always been. Get the Rope does a magnificent job in giving these characters those moments that feel earned and true and it’s thrilling to watch. The episode has a plethora of brilliant moments. Dr. Edwards for the first time is an equivalent participant in a surgery, Bertie operated with a nurse reading from a manual, and Gallinger’s fury at Drs. Thackery and Algernon joking as they comb over the vacuum pump are all excellent pieces in this tight hour. Yet not all of Get the Rope is dark and gritty. The episode ends on a note of romantic hopefulness, with Cornelia and Dr. Edwards’s romance blossoming and Lucy having sex with Dr. Thackery and enjoying it. What a wild, terrifying, shocking, thrilling ride this was.
Episode Title: Get the Rope
Writer: Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Image Courtesy: MStarz