The Knick, Season 1, Episode 8: “Working Late a Lot”
Written by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Airs Fridays at 8PM EST on Cinemax
This day was always going to come on this show. The moment we saw Thackery use cocaine in episode one it was clear that one day he’d be faced with the challenge of no cocaine at all. Soderbergh is right there with Thackery in the direction of each scene of his, often opting for long takes focused on Thackery’s sweaty façade. Whether it’s in a board meeting or an examination of a patient, Soderbergh opts for a one take that’s marvelous in its simplicity, focusing on Thackery while others around him chatter.
And what a sight it is to witness, Clive Owen adopting the flustering posture of a powder keg in this episode. In each scene you see him striving to retain control over himself and stay attentive, and it’s very possible this could be the episode that gets Owen an Emmy nomination. It’s his own version of Mad Men’s “The Briefcase”, which similarly saw it’s protagonist at his lowest point battling to get back on top and in control of himself.
It’s not all one takes, as Soderbergh knows how to quietly crank up the tension through simple editing. There’s something anxiety inducing in the frantic editing when Thackery watches a presentation at the conference, cutting back between the two with little rest. It communicates the restless fidgeting underneath Thackery’s exterior well. Simplicity hasn’t looked this well crafted on TV in a while.
Bertie’s father going head to head with Thackery about wanting Bertie out of the Knick feels like added unnecessary drama at this point, as he just seems to be a disapproving father for the sake of it. This show has 2 more episodes to prove me wrong about it though, as I’m sure it will. This is the episode where Barrow as a character finally begins to shine. Watching him suck up to various investors really showed how much dark comedy his character can bring to an otherwise bleak episode.
With the last episode ending on a more romantic note, we see the fallout of the two new couplings. Thackery and Nurse Elkins give the audience cause for concern, as she serves as his enabler for his cocaine habits while he in turn begins to get her hooked. In the opening scene she asks him to use the last of his personal stash on her. As he looks into her eyes, he sees the destruction he’s causing. But like she says to him later, there is a devil in all of us, and he can’t help but letting that devil win out.
While Thackery slowly erodes at Nurse Elkins, it’s very nice this show has given us a couple we can truly root for in Cornelia and Algernon. While you fear the worst for them and their inevitable discovery by others, you take comfort in their scenes. In a show that often revels in the grime of its time period and setting, these two stand as the only source of warmth as far as character pairings go.
With only 2 episodes left this season, this show is rounding 3rd and headed straight for home. There are still some ends left to be tied up: where will the relationships between Thackery/Elkins and Cornelia/Algernon head? Will Thackery confront his drug addiction before season’s end? Will Bertie quit once he discovers Thackery and Elkins are together? Is Typhoid Mary going to cause another outbreak? There are many moving parts to this show, and I’m excited to see how Soderbergh and company bring this exciting first season to its conclusion.