The Knick, Season 2, Episode 6, “There Are Rules”
Written by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Airs Fridays at 8pm (ET) on Cinemax
After a veritable barrage of bad news over the last few weeks, The Knick seems to be on a more redemptive arc this week, and it’s a nice change of pace. This season has undoubtedly been stronger than the first, but it’s also been a lot rougher. “There Are Rules”gives us a small break from that kind of punishment, as it mixes in a bit more good to go with the bad.
The episode opens with Thackery (Clive Owen) trying to broaden his horizons at a sort of carnival-bazaar, where he bears witness to the thrills and thralls of hypnosis, as well as the rare medical occurrence of Siamese twins. While the hypnosis track leads to another great comedic touch when Cleary feigns being under Thackery’s thrall (Chris Sullivan’s comic timing cannot be understated), it is, of course, the story of the Siamese twins that bears the most fruit for the narrative.
As Thackery examines the girls, he begins to learn more about them. Unsurprisingly, their story is troubling, but the level of horror that is explored in their revelations is dark even by The Knick‘s standards. Grim tales of men having them, or paying to watch them with each other are enough to churn anyone’s stomach, and a comeuppance for their slimy caretaker will hopefully be forthcoming (back to Cleary, it’s always good to have a friend who’s so adept with a crowbar). Still, with Thackery’s plans to separate the girls, this might be the best new storyline on this season of The Knick, and its taboo subject matter could potentially lead to a lot of interesting places. It’s strange to think that, even in our more enlightened time period, this is something most of us know so little about, and outside of shows like Carnivale, this is still largely uncharted territory. This plot also shows what might be the first experimental canine surgery scene in any media format, a sight that some may find more troubling and ethically challenging than the pig surgeries, which have become mere par for the course.
Elsewhere, Nurse Elkins (Eve Hewson) appears early on with an out of the blue erotic scene involving her new suitor, Henry Robertson (Charles Aitken), and it’s a nice change of pace for the beaten down character. Though the sudden shift in her demeanor may seem a bit much for some viewers, it’s good to see her be more canny and assertive. Her quip about Henry usually having “so many smart things to say” is an excellent way to express the role reversal shown in this plotline, and the moment later in the episode where Elkins gets exactly what she was aiming for is likely to induce an easy smirk for fans.
Cornelia’s (Juliet Rylance) plotline gains a bit of traction this week, as she finally seems to be getting somewhere in her search for answers about Speight’s demise. Intriguing developments abound, and a plot about immigrants seeking a new home in staggering numbers can’t help but feel a bit timely, coincidental though it may be. Conversely, Harriet’s (Cara Seymour) arc stagnates further for much of the episode, as this already downtrodden character finds herself feeling more desperate still with little progression. Luckily, a last minute meeting with Cleary seems to show a shift and better times ahead. Could this be the beginnings of a largely unconventional love story? All answers are pointing to yes, “privacy curtain” or not.
Next up, Bertie gets an episode to shine with a lot of screen time, and likely Michael Angarano’s best showing to date. Bertie runs the full gamut of emotions as he struggles with attempting unsanctioned surgeries on his dying mother, and his failure and subsequent return to the Knickerbocker give the usually understated Angarano a lot to work with here.
And Barrow (Jeremy Bobb), oh poor, foolish Barrow. As word smith Kanye West once wrote: “I ain’t saying she a gold digger…” I’ll leave it at that.
The episode closes off with the hope that Thackery might be able to stave off his demons yet, but careful television watchers will know how these tortured genius stories have a way of recurring just as they seem to be reaching the light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s change gears to Metallica, as we wonder if this is just a freight train coming our way.