The Knick 1×01 ‘Method and Madness’: Strong stomach recommended

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A failed c-section and a suicide are a lot to happen in the first fifteen minutes of a pilot of a new TV series. And yet, it is definitely a way to either draw in viewers right away or possibly deter them forever. Either way, it is a very strong start to a show, and a bit of a nauseating one. I believe a tone has been set.

The very beginning of the episode starts with Clive Owen’s character, Doctor John Thackery, in a brothel. It seems to be an important image since it is how the audience is first introduced not only to its main character but to the show itself. As mentioned, the next scene is the very first surgery of the show; a Cesarian section. The surgery is performed in front of an audience of supposedly other doctors/general members of the medical field. Unfortunately, the c-section fails resulting in the death of the mother and the baby. The chief surgeon, who Thackery is the chief assistant to, kills himself, leaving Thackery as the new chief surgeon.

Cinemax

Cinemax

Obviously a show about the medical profession in the early 20th century in New York City is not going to be all rainbows and butterflies (in fact it’s not at all). It makes one quite thankful to live in the time of modern medicine and when hospitals were not referred to as ‘circuses’ as The Knickerbocker is in this show. It is an appropriate term, however, since the surgeries are seen as performances and there is an eager audience (all of whom are white bearded men).

Since Thackery is the head surgeon, he now needs an assistant. Dr. Algernon Edwards is given the coveted position due to the powers that be of the hospital and against Thackery’s wishes. This causes inevitable tension between Edwards and Dr. Everett Gallinger, Thackery’s original choice, who would have been given the position. Thackery is mainly so fervently against having Edwards as his assistant because he is African-American. It is clear that this will be a growing tension throughout the coming episodes. I believe I saw a face get punched in the preview for the rest of the season, so we have that to look forward to.

While the episode began with a failed surgery, it ended with a successful one. Albeit unorthodox, it did undoubtedly save a life. Even if it did involve the use of cocaine as a selective anesthetic. And that doesn’t seem to be its only use, as it becomes clear that Thackery has a pretty bad case of the cocaine addiction. So much so that he has one of the nurses inject a dose into his penis. For a show that’s on Cinemax, that was a pretty tame scene.

In terms of the general film-making style, since this is directed by Steven Soderbergh, it definitely has a unique flare to it. The camera work goes back and forth between steady and shaky, perhaps suggesting the stability of certain aspects of life during that time. There’s one shot of three characters walking side by side and I couldn’t help but notice how that scene was shot and how odd it was. Instead of being a straight on tracking shot of the characters, it was a low angle tracking shot that was a bit shaky at times (this analysis does have a purpose, I swear). Soderbergh is obviously an expert director at this point, but it does seem like he’s still experimenting with certain film-making techniques and it’s nice to see a director doing that, since a lot of directors have one distinct style that never really changes (i.e. Wes Anderson and Tim Burton).

Cinemax

Cinemax

This is a period piece, and yet the music is electronic. However, it does oddly fit with the tone of the show so far. It is a bit off-putting at first, but it almost becomes an expected and vital part to the show’s grisly and gray atmosphere, and also to Clive Owen’s seemingly sleazy yet brilliant character. This will certainly put him back on the map as a credible actor, since he has been floating on and off radar screens for the past couple of years. And hopefully it will bring notice to the other actors in the show, since it seems like it’s going to be quite the ensemble piece.

The appearance of so many various characters will make this show quite interesting and worth watching. My favorite supporting character so far is the sassy Irish nun (as I will call her from here on in). She garners inappropriate language from ‘the stretch boys’ (those who carry away dead or ill bodies) and comes back with seemingly effortless insults that leave them grumpy and speechless. She appears to be pretty heavily involved with the hospital, and I dearly hope she is a regular.

Thankfully, this was a successful pilot in terms of pulling the viewer in right at the beginning, giving them a reason to keep watching further episodes. I look forward to the character development of the established characters. It seems weird saying that I also look forward to more surgeries, but they really are the most tense and thrilling parts of the show. So, how did you enjoy your time at the Knick?

Sarah Lord

is a college student in New York City. Her extreme knowledge of British comedians and TV shows almost surpasses her general love for film. When she’s not sitting in her apartment/nerd cave reviewing movies and TV shows, she sometimes makes time for long walks in the moonlight. Check her out on YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr as TheSplord.

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