The Knick: Start Calling Me Dad
September 20, 2014 3:17 PM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

After a few (very well-done) episodes‎ where he's off-center, Thackery takes center stage to deal with a drug rep, a radical invention, and coming to terms with Dr. Edwards. 

I have to start where this episodes ends: the chilling pass Cornelia's future FIL makes at her. In her father's home. In her own room. Where, as a lady, she should be utterly, unquestionably safe. Imagine how much more trapped she will be once married to the son. You want her to run from the room and from the marriage but where would she go?  Would she be believed? Would causing a scandal ostracize her and ruin her father? The scene is gut-wrenching. It came out of nowhere and yet the show has done well at showing how little true freedom she has on her own. 

Another climax is the showdown between Edwards and Thackery once the clinic and surgery is discovered. It's an interesting contrast to Bertie. Bertram works hard along side Thackery, endures his father's anger and disappointment, suggests a modification to Thackery's invention, helps save a patient's life with the new technique, and is rewarded with his name on a published paper and on the new technique. There's no question Bertie is doing the work expected of a surgeon, and doing it well.  

In the meantime, Edwards has been doing two jobs (running his clinic and sewing in the hospital), living in a terrible boarding house, spending his wages on the clinic, hiring and training his own staff, ‎caring for those in his makeshift ward, and making his own breakthroughs (three or four actually). It took that much for him to get publishing credit alongside Thackery. 

‎The scene with the wake for the baby was nicely done and the attempt by the nun, Harriet, to encourage adoption was engaging and appropriate. However, in the not-so-distant past, people had many children and some didn't even bother naming them till a few years had passed because infant mortality was so high. They even reused names if a child died. It would have been great to see the mother written as a stronger person. Then again, if motherhood is all you have, losing that is tragic. 

The nurse and Bertie take a walk in the park for no purpose. The scene could have been axed and it would not have made any difference to the plot. ‎Well, the episode would have been stronger. Contrast with the walk taken by Harriet and Cleary. You learn about his time in an orphanage, that he was left-handed, that he was severely abused by nuns, that the nun is worried about the choices she makes, and that they're developing a real, solid, strong, platonic relationship. 

Other great bits: X-raying someone's head, for an hour. The woman with her arm attached to her nose choosing to walk home. Edwards and Cornelia being friends. Barrow continues embezzling. Typhoid Mary!
posted by Ik ben afgesneden (1 comment total)
Cornelia's arc will take her right back to Algernon, mark my words. The social ostracism to which you refer will only be doubled given the racial prejudice of the era, which in an uncomfortably engaging way makes for high dramatic effect and therefore must be included in this IMPORTANT SERIES. For all the cinematography and great commentary on the social violence of one Gilded Age in particular (ours), some of the show's social arcs seem to come out of telenovelas.

Algernon's character itself is impeccably developed. It's hard to tell if the self-destructive drinking and barfighting are more barbaric yawp, explosive outlet for his seething rage, or passively suicidal nihilism given the nearly insurmountable social barriers that he has been hitting since his return to the US.

I also think that the scene between Nurse Elkins and Bertie is a much more important one than you give it credit. It plays up the ways in which Bertram's privilege are actively hurting him. High Society demands constant obeisance to the rules, so the date feels awkward and forced largely due to Bertie's tough work of connecting with other human beings. The only moment he can really communicate is when talking about Thack (strongly implied romantic interest from last episode's bicycle scene-- more telenovela stuff as the nurse is forced to choose between the oppressively stolid class strictures of Bertram's world and Thack's seemingly more human, progressive corruption.

Harriet and Cleary's scene was also brilliant, further developing the Cleary-Harriet relationship and their characters as well. This is one of the few relationships in the series that doesn't rely so heavily on archetypes from Frye's Anatomy of Criticism. It offering up a dramatization of the debates that I believe some of my more faithful Catholic Worker friends have-- there's real pain there, knowing that many believe the God you worship would sooner damn you than forgive you. Harriet's carousing are possibly a slightly anachronistic homage to Dorothy Day, and it will be interesting to think about the similarities and differences between Harriet's charitable work and Bertram's and the way they both relate to the populations they're serving.
posted by The White Hat at 9:58 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

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