The Knick, Season 2, Episode 2, “You’re No Rose”
Written by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Airs Fridays at 8pm (ET) on Cinemax
As The Knick entered the second episode of its second season, it seems fitting that this is an hour which barters for the notion of second chances. Most notably in the case of Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen), who makes a (somewhat) triumphant return to the Knick after his unorthodox treatment, but also in the cases of Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) and Cornelia Showalter (Juliet Rylance), the former of which might escape the legal system yet, and the latter of whom has only just returned to New York herself.
However, with all of that said, it is Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) who shines best in The Knick‘s sophomore effort. While his idea to upgrade the Knickerbocker’s ambulance service may have initially seemed like a solid one, it has presented a new layer of challenges in and of itself. Whether due to the cold or its high level of required maintenance, the new service may be more trouble than it’s worth, but it does lend itself to some of the best comedic moments The Knick has ever produced (His repeated jabs of “Fuck off!” to a rival ambulance driver are an episode highlight). Bonus points come in the form of graveside-digging quips (“I’ve done my share of petty crimes to get by in this city, but the only folks who have brought me close to serious malfeasance are a society woman and a fuckin’ nun.”) and a comically insensitive comment upon finding out Sister Harriet’s birth name was Rose, which gives the episode its name. To her credit, Cara Seymour’s delivery in response (“Thanks for the compliment, Tom.”) is also deliriously funny.
Elsewhere, Algernon (Andre Holland) is a touch ruffled by Thackery’s untimely return, particularly as Thackery bristles immediately at the new chart system, telling Edwards to simply “Fix it!” before storming off. The two do manage to make nice, at least briefly, as Algernon trusts Thackery to tackle a clandestine surgery on his failing eye, but when the apparition that’s been haunting Thackery reappears in the surgery theater, Thackery’s hand shakes so dramatically that Algernon leaps from the operating table. The moment is one of incredible tension, especially the shot of Thackery’s uncertain scalpel hovering over Algernon’s eye. The scene highlights the unique aptitude for body horror that The Knick‘s setting and time period allow for, that even the mere suggestion of a sloppy cut to an eyeball can be so terrifying. The makeup and effects team deserve praise as well for somehow managing to fake an injection to an eyeball prior to the surgical fumbling.
Cornelia’s story gets a much needed shot in the arm with the reveal of the Speight’s body during the opening, and her subsequent investigation into his death. The later revelation that his casket is actually empty only adds further intrigue to this new development.
Returning to Thackery, he is reinstated as a surgeon, albeit with a few conditions. When Nurse Elkins (Eve Hewson) rushes to his office to declare her love and inspect him for puncture marks, both emerge as unwelcome surprises. It’s hard to invest in this relationship at this point, as the development from infatuation to love seems to be a bit rushed, and its denial now comes across as a bit of a clichéd trope to delay them into the “will they/won’t they” type of romantic scenario that so many weekly dramas cultivate. What follows this is a highly indelicate conversation with Bertie (Michael Angarano) in which, instead of deflecting Bertie’s resignation, he merely cements it when he reveals that he and Elkins have indeed slept together. It’s the kind of cringe-worthy delivery that shows Owen’s talent in even the most tepid moments, especially in the look on his face when he realizes he’s just dropped a bomb rather than averting one.
Finally, Elkins’ father, a preacher, arrives as a new character, including a scene where he delivers hokey preaching while speaking in tongues. The theremin-like score during the scene, generally a sound reserved for older science fiction films, suggests that the character may be a fraud, or at the very least mentally unhinged, but viewers don’t know enough about him to decide for certain just yet.
The episode ends with a prostitute proposing to Thackery just how wonderful the dangerous combination of cocaine and heroin can be. Is one to intuit that Thackery is going to slip back into his old habits so quickly, or will his new study into the principle of addiction allow him to keep it at arm’s length? It’s yet another question that hovers over this season.
Rife with juicy plot elements, “You’re No Rose” doesn’t quite pack the dramatic punch that last weeks “Ten Knots” delivered, but it does offer viewers just enough new information and creative levity to leave fans wanting more as they wait for next week.