“Nothing Breaks a Man Like a Good Cock Punch.”
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Crutchfield is a sublime hour of television, encapsulating more cinematic storytelling than any other hour of The Knick this year. By the end of the hour, the Knickerbocker hospital is gone as we have known it for the past nine or so hours of the narrative. When a board member of the Knick screams “Our chief surgeon is gone, his predecessor killed himself, and the only surgeon left here with a scalpel is a Negro!”, it’s a racist epithet to where the hospital now finds itself. There’s a degree of truth to his statement, as much as it leaves a disgusting taste in one’s mouth. It’s an hour of reckoning that pulls so many of our characters closer but rips most of them apart from one another. And in this sublime hour Steven Soderbergh outdoes himself with his direction. Every camera angle, especially the ones that arrive closer to the episode’s denouement, is shot with such perfection it’s almost hard to believe. Soderbergh might just have written his name all over the Emmys for next year on this one.
Everyone on The Knick has been hiding something or another and certain veils have been lifted over the course of the entire season. But none more so than perhaps this hour, lit under the soft, golden glows of the electric lamps that signal a new age of innovation. Innovation, what arguably drives Dr. Thackery and this entire show forward. But even in this case Dr. Thackery’s light of innovation that he was so sure was so close if not correct was, as Dr. Bertie calls it, “off by a mile.” He was sure that blood types were determined by the size of the blood cells. But as he discovers, the critical component of deterring blood types comes from agglutinating antibodies. Dr. Thackery’s ego is completely torn apart, the sort of madness that resulted in homicide. He was so convinced that he was right that the presence of an anemic patent was the last sort of information he needed to test his theory out and be declared a victor. Unfortunately for basically everyone involved, Dr. Thackery has this brilliant idea that basically involves him transfusing his own blood into the patient. Shockingly enough, that doesn’t work out as well as he had hoped. She’s dead. The Drs. Chickering take him to a physician, where he is listed under his mother’s maiden name, “Crutchfield.” “Time to start getting better,” the physician quips spritely, right before the camera cuts to a shot of Bayer’s heroin pills.
“Go home to what? You were all I had left—now look at you,” Dr. Gallinger spits after Dr. Thackery suspends him for assaulting Dr. Edwards and before he storms off. And certainly the same can be said for everyone else. Cornelia’s wedding is hardly any sequence of marital bliss as the union that she had with Dr. Edwards comes crumbling down. “It was our child,” she quips mournfully. But it was more than a child. It was a symbol of the love these two shared and the crumbling society that brought everything down. If she had a child out of wedlock with a white male doctor, it wouldn’t have been the scandal she just prevented. It’s base, despicable how their relationship was torn apart by the color of Dr. Edwards’s skin, something that was far beyond his choosing. They had something, and now look at them. It’s a loss systemic to the societal constructs as a whole, built by archaic authority figures who consistently betray the trust of all those whom they are supposed to be protecting. Two fierce, brilliant, independent lovers thrown out into into the winds like disparate weeds cut from an austerely built lawn, perhaps never to meet again. And the same could be said for our young Dr. Bertie and Nurse Elkins, torn apart by a drugged Dr. Thackery and held together by the simplest of threads spun by cocaine, cotton, and confusion about what they truly want from each other, if anything at all.
Crutchfield may be a beautifully constructed episode, but it is chock full of misery and woe. It makes sense for this season not to end on a happy note and that’s not just because it’s reappearing for a second season. The characters of The Knick, no matter how beloved, despicable, or somewhere in-between, have consistently been digging themselves into various holes. They might have done so out of misery, honor, guilt, vindictiveness, or some random mixture. But they have done so and it’s a series of woe that closes out this final chapter of the series’ first outing. Dr. Thackery finds himself woebegone over the lack of his beloved cocaine, but not to despair, Bayer is here to save the day. Only it’s not aspirin, it’s heroin. Cornelia is going off on what is seemingly going to be a less-than-cheerful honeymoon, the first of her payments to Cleary to cover of her abortion just recently paid. Dr. Edwards foolishly challenges the boxer, the unrequited lover lying forlorn in miserable repose. Collier is murdered by Wu in what is surely one of the most wonderfully choreographed displays of badassery that has ever been filmed. Barrow, initially elated at the news of Collier’s death, finds that he now owes Wu $9,000. And Wu is certainly far less patient. As the season goes out, it even manages to find some sympathy for Dr. Gallinger, suspended from the Knick and torn apart by Eleanor’s madness. And Dr. Bertie, poor Dr. Bertie, realizing the affections Nurse Lucy Elkins has for Dr. Thackery. As for the Knick itself, the ubiquitous talks of moving the hospital uptown seem to be coming to fruition. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen, but The Knick has been changed forever. To be sure, I don’t know what the future of all these characters is goings to be and how many of them will return. But perhaps behind all of those curtains, some light may shine through yet.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“You know, it’d be nice if just once in my life a lady wasn’t disappointed to see me.”
+“Everyone gets hungry.”
+“Oh … ow! Yes.”
+“Dreaming is for folks not smart enough to get what they want.”
+“How much more evidence of your absurd behavior do you need?”
+Dr. Hodgman: “My research has shown conclusively that all mental disorders stem from disease and infection polluting the brain. So the teeth and gums are havens for bacteria and sepsis. I believe in this treatment so strongly that I’ve removed my own children’s teeth as a preventative measure.”
+“But you’re …”; “but you’re a pretty, young virgin on the verge of your wedding night.”
+“Bertie the wise!”
Episode Title: Crutchfield
Writer: Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Image Courtesy: Spoiler TV