The Knick, Season 1, Episode 5: “They Capture the Heat”
Written by Jack Amiel, Michael Begler & Steven Katz
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Airs Fridays at 8PM EST on Cinemax
Sometimes it’s the simplest things which bring us the greatest of joys. This is the recurring theme that echoes through The Knick as we reach the halfway point for its first season. From a first bike ride to a cold beer with a co-worker, it is the most basic of life’s pleasures that get our characters through another tough week at the Knickerbocker Hospital.
Thackery’s first scene, wherein he awakens just long enough to tell someone he doesn’t know to “go to hell”, serves as a stark counterpoint to the whimsical and optimistic moments that follow. We next see him smiling wistfully as Nurse Elkins cruises by on her shiny blue bike. Though the rest of the episode has its share of ups and downs for Thackery, particularly in the loss of a patient that parallels the season opener, Elkins is slowly emerging as a saving grace for the good doctor. The joy that shines on his face when he learns how to ride a bike for the first time is present even audibly, as a song he initially sings as a means to distract himself soon fills with the zest and ease that he himself is feeling in the final scene.
After a week off, the underground surgery unit has returned with a bit more promise for its patients. A Cuban immigrant is Algernon’s latest test, and, after a time, he seems to be successful both in saving the man’s life and earning his respect. At first the man chides him for diminishing his dignity but after Algernon drops the superiority complex that seems to be instilled in him by constantly trying to prove himself, he immediately gains the man’s acquiescence to try a new silver wire for his suture, as well as his good humor to boot. Before going under the knife, the man remarks that all clouds have a silver lining–and now he will too!
Merging these plotlines, the growing relationship between Thackery and Algernon is emerging as one of the strongest elements of the series thus far. With Thackery seemingly taking Algernon under his wing, one wonders what will come of the already strained hierarchy of the hospital, especially with Gallinger’s sick child piling further stress onto a man with no love lost for Algernon to begin with.
Cleary and Sister Harriet’s abortion subplot stretches its wings after the surprising turn it took last week. While the formerly antagonistic relationship between the two still has a few traces in the beginning, they quickly fade away when the two share a drink, and a bit of themselves, shortly thereafter. To watch these characters, a crass heathen with almost no scruples whatsoever, and a hardened woman of the Lord, shed their roles so naturally makes for an endearing scene that humanizes both characters substantially.
Lastly comes the thread of the weaselly Barrow. While still the The Knick‘s weakest link, his storyline is finally beginning to bear fruit. That “They Capture the Heat” takes the time to explain his outstanding debts and how they developed goes a long way to finally helping us understand this man. Between his opportunistic thieving and his fetishistic adultery, Barrow is still far from a sympathetic character but divulging the key pieces of a previously cryptic tale of corruption allow his scenes to go down a bit smoother.
As a sidenote, when was the last time a premium cable channel had two female characters disrobe for the script and neglected to exploit them as part of the deal? Though the moment where Barrow and his new business partners examined their new prostitutes was still properly unsettling, it was nice that Soderbergh took the charge in not allowing it to titillate the audience.
Thus, the upswing continues in one of Cinemax’s most promising serials to date. If The Knick can maintain this level of quality for the remainder of its premiere season, it will grow into a must-watch in no time.