The Friday, Aug. 8 premiere of the newest Cinemax series "The Knick" is promising. It introduces us to the staff of the Knickerbocker Hospital (hence the series' title), setting up what is likely coming in the rest of the show's first season. (It has already been renewed for a season 2, so there's no reason to be worried about getting too attached, only for it to end in 10 weeks.)
"This is madness, yet there is method in it."
Like we stated above, "The Knick" is very promising. It's dark, it's gritty, it's raw, it's bloody and it's very honest about the time they're in and what that means for race, wealth (and lack of it) and surgical practices. It does get off to a bit of a slow start, but all it takes is one gunshot and the hospital board to get down to business for the show to do the same and take off. The premiere also introduces you to quite the list of characters, but so much of it is focused on Clive Owen's Dr. Thackery that it's hard to really formulate an opinion about any of them.
This is a series that doesn't shy away from the lack of medical advances at the time, meaning it gets bloody. In fact, the premiere begins and ends with blood and cocaine, which helps show that this is a time when it's so easy to give into the hopelessness in the medical field, and that's what Dr. Christiansen does. Continuing on with what works, enough cannot be said about the look of the show. It is simply amazing, which is one of the most important parts of creating a series set in another time. If the atmosphere, the location and the clothing don't seem authentic, the show won't either.
You find yourself rooting for Dr. Thackery in the surgical theater – in there, there is no one better – but that's about it. He uses his friend's funeral and eulogy to toot his own horn. He's a cocaine addict, and without the needle, he's about as useless as Barrow would probably be in surgery. He hasn't been set up as a character you're going to love, but he is a character you want to see more of, and that's because of Clive Owen's performance. He embraces the role, and
Because he must try so hard to prove himself simply because he is African American and Thackery just doesn't want to deal with what an integrated hospital staff would mean – he knows patients would object to being treated by him – Edwards is fleshed out a bit as well, as someone who knows what he brings to the table and isn't willing to waste his time somewhere he's not wanted. That said, he recognizes brilliant work when he sees it, and after seeing Thackery in surgery, he resigns his resignation and declares that he'll be staying until he learns everything he has to teach. They may be trying to get ahead of their time in the medical field, but it's not so easy when it comes to race in 1900.
As for the other characters, "Method and Madness" very clearly wants to show the audience that Cornelia Robertson is a woman who refuses to cave to the wills of men. She gets what she wants, and if the hospital wants electricity, they have to accept Dr. Edwards as the new Deputy Chief. However, it's Sister Harriet and the way she handles the loudmouth ambulance driver Cleary that stands out in the premiere. Gallinger has been set up as the one who will be the most upset to have Edwards around since he has been given the job he had been expecting – and that had very nearly been his after Edwards declared he'd resign. On the other hand, Chickering seems to be the almost too nice doctor, who tries to assure the new staff members and accepts everyone, regardless of skin color or experience.
In a show about the dark reality of their world, where the doctors can be almost too cold at times, like with Thackery calling Nurse Elkins out on her mistake and Gallinger and Edwards arguing about the right course of action for their dying patient in front of the patient, there is an innocence, and it doesn't come from the young daughter of a woman dying of tuberculosis. Instead, it comes from the new nurse on staff, Nurse Elkins, who is the most innocent character on the show, even more so than that young daughter, who must leave her mother's side to go off to work. That innocence doesn't stop her from being determined, just like every other character is about something, as we see when she climbs through the window to get into Thackery's place and injects him with cocaine to get him up and moving.
When it comes down to it, this isn't a show for everyone, especially the squeamish because in a way, the blood shown is worse than what's in series like "The Walking Dead" because there's a realness to it here that's not present when it involves zombies or some sort of supernatural creature. However, it is good television and it is something worth staying in Friday nights to watch.
"The Knick" airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on Cinemax. What did you think of the series premiere?