You may have noticed a change in the byline. This week, I’m taking over “The Knick” recaps from Rodrigo Perez, and will carry you through the end of the season. We’ve both been big fans of the show, and the second season, so you won’t see much of a change in our appraisal. However, I am going to mix up the format slightly, and try and break things down character-by-character, while also adding some broader context. So let’s dive right in.
The title says it all for the eighth episode, “Not Well At All.” If Dr. Thackery’s (Clive Owen) near heroic return to medicine and normalcy seemed too good to be true, that’s because it is. If Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) thought his duplicity wouldn’t be discovered by his wife, he’s wrong. If the domestic bliss experienced by Cleary (Tom Sullivan) and Harriet (Cara Seymour) looked too perfect, sadly, that turns out to be the case. But perhaps most of all, if Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) thought his domestic and professional life was back on track, he’s greatly mistaken.
Dr. Gallinger: “Not well at all” are the horrific words uttered by Gallinger’s troubled wife, Eleanor (Maya Kazan), who shows that despite the pampering of her husband, and the presence of her sister Dorothy (Annabelle Attanasio), she’s still mad. Gallinger’s hopes that she might be on the mend, emphasized by Eleanor’s desire to have more children, and the reigniting of their marital duties, come to a drastic halt when a detective arrives at their door. He reveals that Dr. Henry Cotton (John Hodgman) has died from poisoning, and the last appointment in his book was at the Gallingers’, where we had seen him fall quite ill. Retreating to the kitchen, Eleanor plainly admits to Everett she put rat poison in Cotton’s soup. Everett is obviously horrified, but ever devoted to his wife, covers up her crime.
However, he knows he can’t go on pretending she’ll get better. Everett commits Eleanor to a new institution, but he doesn’t remain lonely for long. Back at home with Dorothy, they make their feelings known for each other quite clearly, and on the same day he put Eleanor away, Everett is sleeping with her sister. But his wife may have one more surprise. In preparing tea for the detective, it’s suggested she poisoned his drink too….
Cleary and Harriet: The big booming heart of “The Knick” for much of the season, my hopes of a spinoff with the former nun and the tough on the outside, soft on the inside ambulance driver, have been dashed. Things appear to go swimmingly as the pair launch into their business selling contraceptives, while settling into their living arrangements quite comfortably. But it all falls apart when Cleary declares his feelings to Harriet during a visit to the carnival, and Harriet seems to reciprocate, at least verbally. But when Cleary leans in for a kiss, Harriet strongly rebuffs him. It would seem that though she’s been defrocked, she’s not quite ready to let go of the habit just yet.
Herman Barrow: Herman has not so much let go of his wife and children, as put them into total free fall. Having finally paid for Junia’s (Rachel Korine) freedom, and purchased a fancy West 74th apartment for them to live in, his scheme is undone when the company installing the central vacuum rings up at his home, with Herman’s wife Effie (Molly Price) getting the call. Thinking, somewhat naively (particularly after he turned down her overt sexual advances), that Herman had purchased the home for the family, he coldly informs her that he’s leaving her for another woman, sold their home (for cash, to pay the fee for the club where he’s finally been admitted), and he’s rented a two-bedroom walkup downtown where Effie and the kids can live. And oh yeah, she has until the end of the week to vacate. However, something tells me Effie won’t go down without a fight.
Dr. John Thackery: Meanwhile losing the fight, is Thack, who sees much of his good work get undone. The man he “cured” of alcoholism via hypnosis relapses and dies. Mr. Brockhurst (Frederick Weller) comes back demanding retribution after Thack surgically splits the cojoined twins, but the doctor is saved from being shot by a pistol when Cleary takes out the carnival barker with a baseball bat. But the most crucial loss of all for Thack is Abigail (Jennifer Ferrin).
She has become his emotional anchor and support system, to the point where he persuades her to use her soothing tones to talk to an alcoholic in his soon-to-be-closed addiction ward. But for all of his kind words and showers of affection, Abigail is still self-conscious about her nose. Thack agrees to try and reshape it, but he doesn’t even get a chance to get out his knife. Abigail, taking one last long look at herself in the mirror, mixes laudanum in a glass of water and drinks it, before being wheeled to the operating room. She then dies nearly instantaneously on the table after a deadly reaction between the anesthesia and drug she imbibed. The efforts to revive her fail, and though one might be fooled into thinking this would be a perfect opportunity for Thack to try Bertie’s (Michael Angarano) concoction of adrenaline on a human subject, even the good doctor won’t spare Abigail any more pain.
It’s a devastating loss for Thack, and one can only imagine and fear what will happen now that the barest shreds of humanity keeping him together have fallen apart. Even more, his stomach pains are getting worse, and while turpentine offers temporary relief, it’s only a matter of time before his physical and emotional pain can no longer be patched over, and consume him wholly.
Odds and Ends
— Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) finally finds someone who sympathizes with the horrible discoveries she’s made about her father in her brother Henry (Charlie Aitken). He’s equally concerned about the shortcuts the Captain has made to save money, but will he use this as leverage to have more of a say in the family business?
— Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland) snoops around and discovers to his horror the eugenics driven operations Gallinger has been performing on young boys. He informs Thack about what he’s uncovered, but since they didn’t happen on The Knick property, and is technically not illegal but unethical, he’s unwilling to do anything.
— Lucy Elkins’ (Eve Hewson) self-righteous father is discovered in a brothel, where he’s suffered a paralytic stroke, leaving him entirely immobile, and even unable to speak. It’s more evidence presented to Lucy of the double standard and duplicity of the men in her life. And the final look she gives her father in the hospital is truly haunting. However, while she thinks she’s in control of her relationship with Henry, using sex and drugs to gain the upper hand, is she taking Cornelia’s warning that it’ll never last too lightly?