The Knick, Season 1, Episode 7: “Get The Rope”
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Airs Fridays at 8PM EST on Cinemax
The Knick has set itself as the show to beat this week, with it’s most tense and taut episode to date. “Get the Rope” sets its sights primarily on race relations, an issue that has been sweltering underneath the shows sticky surface for a long time now, but this week, it boils into the spotlight with a cruel and ugly candor.
The episode begins with an altercation between a black man and a white man after the latter has propositioned the former’s wife as though she were a common street walker. The spat quickly turns deadly when the white man pulls out a club, and the black man counters with a knife which he handily uses to make short work of his opponent.
This event sparks riots in the streets, with violent beatings and worse becoming par for the course in regard to the city’s colored population. The epicenter of this madness percolates with increasing fervor at the doors of the Knick, where the stabbing victim has been delivered for treatment. With the man’s wife sitting in the lobby barking her ignorance at anyone who will listen, the situation only reveals its true gravitas when the police in attendance nod eagerly at her suggestion of a roving lynch mob.
When the patient dies shortly thereafter, it is done through a masterstroke of direction and misdirection. The scene starts with the patient being force-fed alcohol by his troubled wife, before breaking into fits of coughing up blood. Thackery arrives and orders Elkins to get him what he needs to save the man’s life. As the camera follows her outside of the room for a hurried 25 seconds, she returns to find him already dead. “We won’t be needing those supplies after all.” says Thackery with a droll solemnity.
As this news travels to the ears of the mob outside, things only get worse. The doors are pulled from their hinges by dozens of angry men, who then storm into the hospital in search of vengeance. While the staff of the Knick has had their differences in previous episodes, the speed and zest with which they pull together in this desperate time speaks volumes for the characters.
Sister Harriet leads a bold charge through the streets with as many of the disenfranchised as she can take, using her cross as a weapon and her religious status to keep the herds at bay. Cleary uses his own body to pull the horseless ambulance, with Thackery and co. in tow, pushing covered gurneys through the streets. Algernon, who refuses to leave his patients, hides on the bottom half of a gurney himself, and the group only avoids disaster by the slick words of Nurse Elkins, who readily dissipates inquisitive passers-by with lies about marching to the morgue with the corpses of lepers.
After some time and a bit of rain help to shake the city from its spell of destructive rage, The Knick makes good on the two romantic subplots it’s been building toward all season within a matter of minutes. First, Algernon and Cornelia share a moment of relief to find that the underground surgery wing is still intact, a relief that turns rapidly to affection, and finally to passion. Further down the way, Thackery has seen Elkins home with a gentleman’s honor, a notion he only breaks from when she twice invites him past the threshold of proper decency for the time. “Will it hurt?” she asks him as helps her undress. “I can make it perfect, and painless.” he responds.
The morning light reveals that Thackery has gone, and the floor shows two used syringes. While this initially seems to point to a cold dread for next week, this fear is quickly quelled by the joyful smile of Elkins, and her blushing cheeks when her room mate returns. It’s a sweet moment, but the fact that it will lead inevitably to complications is a foregone conclusion.
As an episode long arc which incorporates every major character, “Get the Rope” is set to easily stand as a front-runner for one of the finest episodes of television of the year. If The Knick‘s remaining three episodes can keep up even half of this injected level of intensity, the series’ first season should finish with an earnest and steadfast strength.