One thing we can all agree on is that The Knick is goddamn bleak. Between the rampant classicism, racism, misogyny and shameless corruption of the era, it’s hard to find a beacon of hope amid the dark portrayal of an era defined by inequality and a rigid class system. However, amid a show where women are imprisoned by their marriages, a nun faces a 20-year prison sentence for helping women procure reproductive health services, and a mentally ill wife is “treated” via the removal of all of her teeth, every now and then The Knick delivers a well-timed laugh.
Sure, that moment of gallows humor comes at the expense of poor, incompetent Dr. Mays who is hitting on a surgical nurse by promising her a charmed professional future by offering to exclusively partner with her in surgery. Of course, as with every other procedure, Mays literally has no idea what he’s doing, and as such, manages to light his goddamn head ablaze. Sure, the result is tragic, but the comedic timing is so precise that it’s damn near surgical (sorry). Even the humor on this show gnaws at your soul.
Speaking of gnawing at the soul, Nurse Elkins is sporting fresh bruises from her confrontation with her dad, causing Thack to want to go on some white knight hero trip and avenge her abuse by kicking the everloving shit out of Lucy’s dad. Of course, her dad has already split town with his preacher profits and seems to have taken Lucy’s short-lived piousness with him. Still, Lucy tells Thack to save the macho chest thumping since, in her mind, his emotionally unavailable addict shenanigans have hurt her on a deeper level than one dust-up with her dad. Really, Thack and her dad exist on some kind of awful, Moebius strip of men withholding the affection she seeks. She finally realizes this, and as a result, Lucy is painfully aware of the fact that she’s nothing more than an afterthought for the men in her life. She likens herself to Harriet as a broken husk that gets discarded when she is no longer useful or convenient.
Thack’s white knighting isn’t limited to Lucy. He does manage to burn the syphilis out of his ex-lover Abigail, after damn near cooking her to death in the fever cabinet. There are hints of romance, as he imagines himself back on Gallinger’s floating rehab center, smiling warmly at his patient against the bucolic and endlessly blue ocean, only to have the daydream broken when she emerges from the highly experiemental and dangerous procedure seemingly cured. Like Lucy, Thack is broken, mainly by the demons driving his own insatiable addiction. Can Abigail redeem him, or will she be yet another one of this emotional casualties?
One woman on this show who isn’t taking shit from anyone is Opal, Algie’s estranged European wife. Her mere presence has poured cold water on Cornelia’s hopes to rekindle her affair with Dr. Edwards. Also, the way Opal scrutinizes Cornelia upon meeting seems to suggest that she’s sussed out that Neely is the woman Algie moved on with when he stopped writing his wife letters. However, in the meantime, Opal is dead set on reclaiming what is rightfully ers after Algie tries to politely and passively give her the boot back to Europe.
Now that she’s immersed herself back in Algie’s life, she’s starting to make waves, mainly by calling out the Robinson’s for sequestering Algie’s parents to the servant’s quarters during luncheon while throwing the event in honor of Algie and openly patting themselves on the back for their own progressiveness. The color drains from Mr. Robinson’s face as Opal’s dressing down is punctuated by Algie’s mother entering the room to ask if she can clear the table.
Algie is decidedly less frosty with Opal when they go dancing in Harlem, and he becomes playful and a bit flirty with his wife while they’re on the dance floor. Sure, she made lunch difficult, but she did come out and say the necessary truths he wavers over in the hopes of finally being respected and accepted by his peers.
In other news, Clearly blackmails the Upper East Side women who have secretly consulted Harriet for her services with the threat that the disgraced nun might talk if she is placed on the stand. This leads to her charges getting dropped and Tom showing up to take Harriet out for a warm meal and a slice of pie. Harriet turns down Cleary’s offer to become roommates in favor of a metal cot in some weird home for “fallen women” style halfway house. The friendship and allegiance between Cleary and Harriet is completely adorable and I really hope the show doesn’t fuck it up by making their bond romantic. There are so few great platonic partnerships between men and women on TV as it is.
Also, Bertie loses his virginity to the world’s most charming, warm, and charismatic prostitute. Mazel tov!
It should come as no surprise that all of the pieces of garbage on The Knick’s payroll and still behaving like sentient compost piles. Barrow has kicking his shameless graft up a notch by getting Tammany Hall involved and Gallinger made himself even more unlikable by punching a hungry child who made the mistake of being an Italian immigrant. Sure, the kid was part of the gang that rolled Gallinger’s fragile wife, but they were also starving street kids, so there’s kind of a Les Mis aspect to their crime. Gallinger’s contact with immigrants led to a light-bulb moment where in a discussion of eugenics, the doctor realized that so-called undesirable people could be prevented from breeding if they were surgically sterilized on a mass scale. Flash-foward to 30 years where Gallinger is in Germany teaching Dr. Mengele everything he knows.
As for Cornelia, things are getting grim. She can’t even feign interest in her society ball planning meetings and doesn’t bother hiding her bored yawns and eye-rolls. She’s been absolutely blindsided by the fact that Algie has a wife, let alone meeting her. Oh, and her husband skipping town to the Midwest for a month of so to see if he can save the family’s struggling kerosene business, leaving his wife alone with his lech of a father. The walls are closing in.
The only respite Neely seems to have is her DIY investigation into Speight’s death, which hit a dead end when she discovered that the late Inspector’s entire family up and left down immediately after his passing. Oh, and there’s some creepy birdlike man following her as she plays detective.
Nothing unsettling about that. Nothing at all.