The Knick 1.09: “The Golden Lotus” Review

The Predicaments That Arise in Search of a Fix

A Television Review by Akash Singh

NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!

The penultimate hour of The Knick is largely about the women and rightfully so. After eight episodes of sharing the limelight but being sidelined, the show takes these characters, pushing them to the forefront of the terrible ordeals they are living through. Even though Dr. Thackery, as is apt, is basically in the overwhelming majority of the narrative, it’s less about his own actions and more about how Lucy is pushed through the ringer because of it. The lack of cocaine that was slightly laid out last week  explodes out into an all out debilitating hour for Dr. Thackery, whose brought to the lowest of the lows and almost hits rock bottom. He becomes utterly pathetic throughout this episode and it’s almost hard to watch.

But where this episode stops short of perfection is the end, which is sort of saved from becoming an outright deus ex machina, but barely. Throughout the episode we see Dr. Thackery at his absolute lowest. The most pathetic part of his arc was when in the dead of night, completely torn apart by his addiction, he breaks into a pharmacy. It’s a terrible sequence for the innovative genius, only made worse by him begging the tonic salesman to reconsider his position on the medicinal drink that he had been working on. And Clive Owen owns the hell out of it. He’s utterly fantastic in this episode, making the audience feel an incredible amount of pity for a man that a few episodes ago had told a black doctor he couldn’t be hired because he was black. I’s astonishing, to be perfectly honest.

Lucy. Oh, Lucy. Dr. Thackery’s addiction throws her into an absolute whirlwind. She outright does a plethora of things that we would never have expected from her, but the layers of conniving and ingenuity that she uses to grab the cocaine and opium for him ultimately add layers of shading to her character that are incredible. That it all works within the hour and we buy everything she does is a testament to how well the show acutely understands its characters and extrapolates that understanding to the audience. Lucy outright steals medicine from the German hospital, gets opium from Wu (does she participate in the golden louts act? I assumed she did), and it all works. She comes at the end of the episode bearing a gift of cocaine for the man she sleeps with, the near deus ex machine mentioned earlier. “You are the most resourceful, wonderful, beautiful girl I have ever known,” he says to her, barely croaking. It’s a sort of moment of triumph for Lucy as it is a nadir for her lover.

Cornelia and Dr. Edwards’s situation got quite a bit dicier. It was risqué enough for the period that a black man was sleeping with a white woman, a wealthy one at that. But she is now three weeks pregnant and that throws an incredible wrench into the entire affair, pun intended. For Cornelia, the shame of being pregnant out of wedlock is enough to be overwhelming. But the shame of being pregnant by a black man before wedlock, no matter how successful, is another thing entirely. It’s unfortunate that that was the reality back then, even if that hasn’t entirely gone away even more than a century later. Dr. Edwards couldn’t bring himself to commit the abortion by his own hands, despite understanding the situation the two have placed themselves into. He loves Cornelia and he loves their child, even though he has no idea how to bring their circumstances around in their favor.

It should have been no massive shocker that the idea of bringing baby Grace to Eleanor was a terrible one. Thus Grace’s tragic demise in an ice bath was almost clearly telegraphed from the moment this entire plot kicked into gear. It doesn’t make it any less chilling, however, when Gallinger places Eleanor in an institution, a soft lullaby sort of humming around. It’s a terribly tragic sequence and certainly the most empathy I have ever felt for Gallinger, whose vile, entitled nature has almost been stifling. But before I close the review, I have to give a shout out to the way this entire episode was shot. Each scene was either cloaked in a dark blue, a golden glow, or a specific mixture between the two when there are two characters coming together in some fashion. It enhances the entire hour to something beyond standard television fare and inherently makes it compellingly cinematic.

Brilliant

9/10

Episode Title: The Golden Lotus

Writer: Steven Katz

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Image Courtesy: IGN

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