Sunday, August 10, 2014

TV Review: The Knick Season Premiere (Cinemax)

Posts related to something else than books are rare in this blog and if I remember right, the only television related post I've made before was a post about my favorite TV shows earlier this year. I watch a lot of TV and those who read my Sunday Post updates get to see what I've watched weekly. Though my love for television is no secret, I have never really felt like writing about it here to this blog. I do write about TV, but mostly for my own entertainment or to share at Tumblr. I do not write about it enough to start a whole blog dedicated to it and at the same time, I do not want to bombard this blog with repeated posts related to something else than books because I know most of you are here for the books and nothing else.

I have to make an exception to that rule now after watching the first episode of Cinemax's new show The Knick starring Clive Owen. I hope this TV related post does not turn you away from my blog. I hope you find it interesting and I hope that I get a chance to do more posts like this in the future. This blog will always be a book blog, but once in a while, I hope I get to share with you other forms of entertainment I love. 

The Knick (TV Series)
Fridays 10pm on Cinemax
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Jack Amiel, Michael Begler and Steven Katz

Starring Clive Owen, Andre Holland, Jeremy Bobb, Juliet Rylance, Eve Hewson, Michael Angarano, Chris Sullivan, Cara Seymour, Eric Johnson, David Fierro, Matt Frewer

The Knick, a new 10-episode series (that has already been commissioned for season 2) directed by Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Magic Mike) takes place in New York City in 1900 and focuses on a set of characters, led by Clive Owen's Dr. John Thackary, working at New York's Knickerbocker Hospital.

The first episode, which premiered on Cinemax on Friday August 8th, opens with Owen's Dr. Thackary laying down in a seedy looking room, most likely an opium den somewhere in Chinatown. We follow him through the streets of New York to the Knickerbocker Hospital (from now of just The Knick) where it is established that he has a high status within the staff as the assistant head of the surgery department. As the events start to unfold, he soon becomes the head of staff due to untimely dead of his colleague, thus taking the role of managing the staff and the patients of a hospital struggling with monetary issues as well as the growing number of illnesses in the city that is filling up as a result of heavy immigration through the port.

Clive Owen, a star of films such as The Children of Film (a brilliant film btw) and Gosford Park, is a brilliant casting for the role of the mysterious Dr. Thackary, a character who is partially based on a historical figure called William Stewart Halsted, a New York surgeon who made several medical advances at the fields of anesthetics and surgical operations. Owen, who puts up a serious face that is very difficult to read, cloaks Thackary in a shadow that will most likely fade away as the show processes. It becomes clear to us right away that he has addictions (cocaine and opium, at least) and that he's a talented surgeon, but his past looks like a blank page to us. We only know him at where he is "now and then", not before, not after. 

The staff of Thackary is an intriguing bunch of people and a group I definitely want to get to know better. From the young, innocent looking nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) to the corrupted health inspector Jacob Speight (David Fierro), the cast is full of interesting faces and hopefully also interesting stories. The story that the first episode clings to the most is the one of Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland), a black doctor who needs to attempt to gain the respect of his colleagues and patients in a world and employment that is racially divided. 

Soderbergh, known for his love for scenes with heavy dialogue contradicts the chatty segments with segments composed of the score and montage. A great example of a scene like this is the opening, in which Dr. Thackary drives through the city in a carriage while the thumping soundtrack plays on the background, thickening Thackary's cloak of mystery. The setting, the characters and especially the scenes taking place at the operating theatre give an air of history but also realism to the story, showing the audience that what took place in the world of medicine (and world in general) in the 1900s is very different from what happens these days; this is a fact the promotional posters for the show have tapped into as well, featuring statements like "Calling 9-1-1 isn't what is used to be" and health codes aren't what they used to be". Though I usually don't get squeamish while watching surgery scenes (either from fictional shows and film or from documentaries), The Knick did make me want to close my eyes a couple of times. These days we have machines in a sterile environment under bright lights. In The Knick we see the doctors operating with instruments and drugs they are trying out for the first time, hoping that it all ends well.


Entertaining, dark, beautifully made and full on interesting characters. 
The Knick has it all. 

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