Sometimes you’ve just got to fight a little syphilis with malaria. Part of the charm of Cinemax‘s“The Knick” is watching practically pre-historic medical techniques to neutralize now commonly cured diseases: in the 1900s, a touch of untreated syphilis would cause saddle nose —the collapse and decay of the nasal passage— and eventually death. Now that Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) has rediscovered his penchant for cocaine, his feverish madness has returned. This includes an obsessive drive to attempt to find a cure for syphilis. Why? As we know from season one, Thack’s old girlfriend Abigail Alford (Jennifer Ferrin) unwisely chose a dirty fornicator over the doctor. Even though Thack owes her nothing, he clearly has feelings for his syphilis-ravaged ex, who is now starting to experience seizures.
In his zeal to find a cure, Thack enlists Algernon “Algie” Edwards (André Holland) to help him in his efforts, and they begin by experimenting on pigs. Unfortunately, Algie’s got his own problems. He’s trying to revive his secret love affair with Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance), but a surprise has emerged. Opal Edwards (Zaraah Abrahams, from Spike Lee’s “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus”) is back. She is the wife that Algernon has told no one about, including his indignant parents. Algie admits he wishes Opal would go away, but she’s neither willing to leave nor to relinquish her claim on the surgeon, which will surely be an additional thorn in his side this season.
Elsewhere, Dr. Bertram “Bertie” Chickering Jr. (Michael Angarano) has not welched on his promise to quit the Knickerbocker hospital. He now works at Mount Sinai under the tutelage of the humorless, jewish Dr. Levi Zinberg (Michael Nathanson). The competing hospital is much more buttoned up, which chafes Bertie, but he meets Genevieve Everidge (Arielle Goldman), a crusading journalist who disguises her jewish heritage to improve her career chances. She’s also the author of the newspaper article regarding mental hospitals Bertie was fawning over in episode two. While he’s quickly smitten, as an “inexperienced” man seeking advice from one of his fellow doctors, he is told to visit a few whorehouses to earn his sexual stripes.
Meanwhile, Lucy’s (Eve Hewson) father, preacher E.D. Elkins (Stephen Spinella), is delivering passionate sermons and beseeching his new congregation to confess their sins. However, when Lucy admits to fornicating with Thackery and her cocaine use, Elkins beats her within an inch of her life for Thack’s trangressions. Jesus!
Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) already detests his rival Dr. Edwards —his prideful bigotry is activated by the prospect that not only is a black doctor more skillful than he, but that Thackery prefers him. Gallinger’s prejudice is further fuelled by the events at a university reunion that he attends without his wife Eleanor (Maya Kazan), given that she’s still a mess and her fake teeth look like comical Dracula fangs, where former academic colleagues expound on eugenics and the inferiority of the Negro race.
As for Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour), her troubles only get worse when she appears in front of an anti-Catholic judge, who dismisses a request for a mistrial. Meanwhile, Cornelia is trying to convince her husband Phillip Showalter (Tom Lipinksi) to finance Harriet’s defense. She butters him up with a little sex, but when she finally comes out with it, Showalter not only refuses but is repulsed, insisting he wouldn’t assist a “child murderer.”
Overall, “The Best with the Best to Get the Best” isn’t a very showy Steven Soderbergh effort, and Cliff Martinez’s music is also a little muted, but the show’s candle-lit look is still fantastic and Soderbergh still does a lot with a little. That said, we’re back to Thackery being on the edge of progress and of danger. What happens if his experiments lead to another fatality in a human subject? What if he fails Abigail? Next week should be an interesting episode. Maybe we’ll see the return of the ghost that haunts the good doctor too.