Secrets play a big role in the penultimate episode of “The Knick” season two. They are at the core of the turning points for many key characters as we head into the finale, and never has the future looked so bleak for many of them. And yet, life is cruel in its way, because one of the most odious characters seems to have found his groove. “Do You Remember Moon Flower?” does offer one ray of light to start things off, giving the audience a look at the newly separated twins, Zoya and Nika, taking their first independent steps, before they are whisked away to be cared for by a foster family from the midwest. It should be a shining moment for Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen), but he’s still consumed with grief over the death of Abigail (Jennifer Ferrin). That said, we learn his fighting spirit doesn’t easily back down.
Dr. John Thackery: Making a narrative leap Damon Lindelof would be proud of, “Do You Remember Moon Floor?” kicks off the episode by throwing the viewer back to 1894 Nicaragua, where Thackery has been summoned to help fight yellow fever — only to learn upon his arrival that he’s actually dealing with smallpox. An army commandant blames the outbreak on infected blankets carried by none other than an American shackled up nearby, a certain Mr. Robertson (Grainger Hines). Begging Thackery for help, the doctor bargains for the man’s life, saying he’ll help treat the infected, but the army must let Robertson go. Soon, Thackery is working his usual medical magic, heading into the jungle to find the plants needed to whip up a concoction to treat his patients, and when he’s done, Robertson extends an invitation to him to come check out his hospital in New York City; The Knick….
Barely a decade has passed and Thackery is still a genius, but has become a victim to his addictions and vices. His stomach pains have only gotten worse, until he finally collapses outside the hospital doors. Pride prevents him from being examined by his colleagues at The Knick, so instead, he’s shepherded over to see Dr. Levi Zinberg (Michael Nathanson) at Mount Sinai. Using a fancy new tool to examine Thackery’s insides without having to cut him open or put him under anesthesia, the verdict is in: bowel ischemia. Or as Dr. Edwards (André Holland) puts it, Thackery’s “bowel looks like the Badlands.” Thackery’s drug use has wreaked havoc on his insides, and immediate surgery is recommended, but Thackery refuses, saying he’ll come up with his own treatment. Needless to say, everyone in the room is dubious.
Dr. Gallinger: One person not in doubt about anything is the racist Dr. Gallinger (Eric Johnson). Eager to get his revenge, Dr. Edwards uses his inside intel, discovered last episode, to bring Dr. Gallinger up on charges to the medical board. The hope is that reasoned men will finally punish Gallinger for his unethical sterilization of young boys, and his embrace of absurd eugenics theory. But Dr. Edwards’ plan backfires. Gallinger mounts a confident defense, and legally speaking, the man who runs the “idiot house” where the doctor performed his procedures, had full guardianship over the boys, thus the power to grant the doctor permission to perform the procedure. Even more, the board asserts that eugenics is a burgeoning field of study, and with Gallinger acting in what he perceived to be the best interest of his patients, no harm was done.
Edwards is livid and waits for Gallinger outside with balled fists, ready to knock him out. But Gallinger literally beats him to the punch, landing a quick, hard jab right into the eye that was giving Edwards so much trouble earlier in the season. Returning home, Gallinger is triumphant. “I tamed the goddamn beast!” he exclaims to Dorothy (Annabelle Attanasio), while she asks, “Did you go for his eye?” They then collapse to the floor in sexual reverie. Is Gallinger’s biggest professional obstacle now out of the way?
And there’s even more good news for Gallinger. Surprised by a visit from a detective at the hospital, he learns that Dr. Henry Cotton’s (John Hodgman) sons are being charged with his murder. Apparently, they had been steadily poisoning their father — who also pulled out all their teeth — with arsenic, in a campaign to slowly kill him. Surprised at how fast he died, they confessed, and committed suicide, leaving Eleanor (Maya Kazan) free and clear. But Gallinger is no fool. He probably realizes that his wife is still the likely killer, and he’s certainly having more fun with her sister, so there’s no reason to spring Eleanor from the institution where he had her committed.
Herman Barrow: Fun seems to come to something of an end for the scheming manager of The Knick. Just when he thinks he’s out, he gets pulled back into another tricky situation. Herman’s wife Effie (Molly Price) shows up unannounced at the hospital and drops a bombshell: she knows about his shady dealings that have seen him skim off the top of every contract that rolls through his office. She got the dirt by accidentally being given access to his secret safety deposit box at the bank, where he keeps all the records of his dirty deeds. She’s stashed them away and blackmails her ex-husband, demanding half of every penny he earns both on the books and off, a new apartment, and much more. Barrow says he’ll play ball for five years, in an attempted show of strength, but he knows he’s financially sunk, especially after paying his hefty fee to the Metropolitan Club. After his casual attempt to persuade Henry Robertson (Charlie Aitken) to slow down construction fails, Barrow may have to take more drastic measures….
Henry and Cornelia: The time has come for Henry and Cornelia to confront their father about his company’s illegal actions that may have brought deadly disease into America that resulted in the murder of Inspector Jacob Speight. They plan to meet their father on the site of the new Knick, but when Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) shows up, the Captain is there and Henry is nowhere to be found. But she won’t wait, and immediately brings up the allegations, which the Captain vehemently denies. A small argument ensues, but doesn’t get very far, as they discover the building is on fire. The Captain helps his daughter reach safety by lowering her down on a ladder, but the distance is too far for him to jump. Cornelia races to find help and bumps into Henry outside. They both watch, horrified, as the Captain jumps to his death while the new Knick goes up in flames.
But who set the fire? Was it Henry? And if so, is he the real culprit behind the company’s deceptive cost saving measures? It certainly would explain the Captain’s baffled expression upon hearing the news from Cornelia. Or was it really Herman, who is desperate to keep up the lifestyle he’s been fighting all these years to have? Forcing the new hospital to start construction all over again would be a good way to keep the money train rolling into his pockets.
Lucy Elkins: The nurse (Eve Hewson) says goodbye to her father, but with a healthy dose of the same cruelty he dished out to her for so long. Lucy gives him a final, chilling confession, coming clean about every detail of her sordid sins to the paralyzed priest, whose eyes display the true horror he feels about everything he hears. This is not the daughter he knew. She then cooly whips out a syringe and sends Daddy on a hellish journey to heaven. Our once innocent Lucy has transformed in a short time to a sexually confident, casual drug-using murderer, who isn’t above selling certain parts of her body (her feet) for money. Indeed, Cornelia might’ve been wrong. It’s not Lucy who needs to look out for Henry, but perhaps Henry who needs to watch out for Lucy.
Odds and Ends
— While any romance has been cooled, for now, as far as business relationships go, Cleary (Tom Sullivan) and Harriet (Cara Seymour) are cleaning up with prostitutes and johns, selling their condoms and sponges with ease. Harriet proves herself to be a particularly good saleswoman, while the prostitutes have already found a way to make a buck themselves by selling safety to their clients.