‘The Knick’ Recap 1×9: Cocaine Blues

Eve Hewson on The Knick. (Cinemax)
Eve Hewson on The Knick. (Cinemax)

What happens when a show that’s already unremittingly gloomy and disturbing decides to go even darker? You end up with something like “Golden Lotus.” Which sounds like it could be the name of an ancient Chinese torture. It isn’t, but it should be.

Even the B and C plots this week were horrible to watch. Cornelia is pregnant with a mixed-race fetus, and she won’t consider having the child. She would love to have the baby, but she can’t pretend it’s her fiancé’s—not only because of the obvious but because she and Philip aren’t doing the deed. (Doctor Edwards can hardly conceal his glee at this).

So she convinces Algernon to abort it for her. He backs out at the last minute because he can’t bear to kill his own unborn child. So now they’re all kinds of stuck, and Cornelia is left sobbing on a filthy mattress in the basement of the hospital.

There is an obvious solution, of course—at one point, Cornelia and Sister Mary share a quiet moment, sitting on the steps of the hospital. But of course, the nun is keeping mum about her extracurricular D&Cs, and Cornelia’s pregnancy is equally secret, so they don’t make the necessary connection. (That’s what next week’s presumably less irredeemably tragic episode is for.)

Sad, completely unhinged Eleanor Gallinger has taken it into her head that her new, adopted baby is actually her old, dead baby. The first one died of “brain fever” (i.e. meningitis), so, convinced that the disease has returned, she gives it a version of the treatment they tried unsuccessfully before, a bath of cold water applied to the head.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that crazy drowned her new adopted baby in a bathtub full of ice water. And then wheeled the blue body into the hospital in its stroller as if she had just done the smartest thing in the world.

Needless to say, they (including a doctor inexplicably played by John Hodgman) get her right into a straitjacket and a nice dose of ether, and cart her off to the loony bin for the foreseeable future.

Amid all of these scenes of dead babies, we get the main plot, revolving around the biggest baby of them all: Doctor Thackery, who is definitely not taking his cocaine withdrawal like a man.

Increasingly, the main focus of this show has become not surgery or the operation of the hospital or the various tribulations of the many characters, but simply Doctor Thackery’s addiction. (It is beginning to become clear that at some point, whether in the original pitch for The Knick or during its development, someone said, “Hey, we should make him just like Dr. House—but in 1900!”)

So Thackery gets caught breaking into a pharmacist’s office, because he can’t even wait to get his stolen coke home and is trying to shoot up right on the floor of the place. He’s bailed out by Captain Robertson, who declares them “even” for whatever unspecified favor Thackery has been holding over his head since they met in Central America.

Now the cat is out of the bag about his addiction. Not least because the newspapers, after Robertson presumably bribes them, write it up as a story about how a selfless doctor tried to steal drugs for his patients. Everyone at the Knick knows immediately who it was and what really happened, because the dude has literally been stumbling around the hospital in pale, crazy, bug-eyed disarray for a week now. Well, everyone except Bertie, who is clearly in near-Eleanor levels of denial about everything involving Thackery (including the fact that he is clearly screwing his cute little drug-addicted girlfriend).

Anyway, instead of getting Thackery help, Herman Barrow’s characteristically shortsighted solution is to try to get him more drugs.

He goes, tail between his legs as per usual, to Bunky Collier, to make the rather brilliantly audacious argument that he’ll never be able to pay Collier back if his star surgeon is out of commission. Collier reluctantly agrees to give them some vials of the stuff, which Barrow gets to Thackery via Lucy. But Collier remains a gigantic asshole, and the drugs are just saltwater.

When Thackery discovers this—not able to get high off the stuff, he just takes an unsettlingly big swig—he throws the vial at Lucy. Her response to this is simply to to go off and try to find him real drugs any way she can—which says a lot about how hooked she is on Thackery and/or his coke-covered-dong.

And so the nice little preacher’s daughter from West Virginia goes and screws the owner of the opium den/whorehouse in some debasing way whose actual logistics are unclear to me but involve sticking her foot in the dude’s mouth during the act. [Consults handy copy of the Kama Sutra.] Nope, still no clue.

In exchange, he gives her some opium and $100, which is roughly nine billion dollars in 2014 money. She pockets the windfall, brings the drugs to Thackery and lies that she got them by selling her bike to Ping Wu. So now she has to hide her bike from him forever?

Downers only get him so far, though. So, overhearing that the German Hospital is donating all the rest of its cocaine to the war effort, Lucy cons her way in there, claiming to be a new nurse. But she gets caught rummaging around their drugs closet, and has to make a break for it down the hallways with a box full of cocaine.

And now Thackery is all sweetness and smiles, because true love is all about never having to say you’re sorry who can bring you drugs. He wastes no time after shooting up to rip off Lucy’s clothes, and then magnanimously offers to use their sexual cocaine directly on her parts, rather than secondhand off his own parts like usual. How fucking romantic. ‘The Knick’ Recap 1×9: Cocaine Blues