The Knick, Season 2, Episode 7, “Williams and Walker”
Written by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Airs Fridays at 8pm (ET) on Cinemax
After four straight weeks of steady quality, it’s not much of a surprise how The Knick flounders away its seventeenth hour, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing. When compared to the showstopping turn which occupied this same spot during the last season, the magnificent and racially charged “Get the Rope”, “Williams and Walker” becomes even more of a sore spot. If this were merely a recap, it could be summed up in a matter of two paragraphs or less but as it is not, let us dig into the meddling meat of The Knick‘s latest.
The central problem is first and foremost that not a lot happens here, especially considering the 57 minute run time. The Knick has had far better episodes at around the 45 minute mark, and the extra time allotted does not add up to much. Thackery (Clive Owen) continues his relationship with Abigail (Jennifer Ferrin) and though its development is somewhat sweet, nothing of substance is revealed about their bond or what compels them so much to one another. Likewise with Elkins (Eve Hewson) and Henry Robertson (Charles Aitken), whose connection continues to dull even with Elkins entering a sort of hypersexual femme fatale mode. Granted, Lucy’s evolution as a character could be an interesting plot line, but not until it bears more fruit.
Speaking of delayed revelations, the ongoing threat of Cornelia’s stepfather is beginning to get a bit old. This uneventful story began around this time last year and is still yet to make for a single palpable moment, outside of veiled threats and the hint of malice. Why are we spending so much time on a storyline that is doing nothing for the show, and why is it being dragged out so insufferably? If the elder Showalter is truly a threat than The Knick needs to either prove it or drop it as such a minor development as this, particularly concerning the lack of results, is egregious to the point of being insulting.
On that note, let’s explore the most ridiculous moments of the hour, as Gallinger (Eric Johnson) foils Algernon’s (André Holland) attempts to treat a patient’s hernia in the operating theater through the silliest scene this show has ever allowed for by a long shot. First off, the sinister, almost supervillainish planning of Gallinger is absurd to begin with as he abstains from the gala at the center of “Williams and Walker” in order to foil Algernon’s upcoming operation via chemistry, yet the stupefyingly unbelievable slight of hand that Gallinger manages with literally dozens of trained professionals staring right at him is so dim and miscalculated that I can’t even imagine how it made it out of the writers’ room at all. Is Gallinger a magician or simply a latent superhuman? Just how the hell are we supposed to swallow this sequence of events as they’re presented to us?
Alas, “Williams and Walker” is not all overblown goofiness and wasted time. The set-up for a new and more easily concealed partnership between everyone’s favorite underdogs, Cleary (Chris Sullivan) and Harriet (Cara Seymour), is a bit of fun writing, and the blackface showcase at the ball manages to wow with its simple gall, particularly with Algernon and Opal chuckling away with the rest. It’s hard for period pieces in this day and age to really shock their audience with the complacence of previous generations but this moment does so in spades.
Showcasing an underwhelming series of anticlimaxes, especially in the case of the recently set up siamese twin separation, “Williams and Walker” is a shockingly uneven disappointment after a long stretch of successes. Let’s hope that the writing team of Beglar and Amiel can pick the ball back up and get a solid run going for the remaining three episodes.