Some Thoughts on ‘The Knick’, Premieres Tonight

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The Knick, episode one review
Photo: Cinemax

The first episode of Steven Soderbergh‘s “The Knick” premieres tonight, August 8, at 10 p.m. ET/PT and just a couple nights ago I watched the first two episodes of the show, which stars Clive Owen as Dr. John W. Thackery, working at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital in the year 1900. It’s early days in anesthetics and the premiere episode’s opening scene is a brutal one, offering an introduction into the blood bath the show will surely be.

Having only watched the first two episodes (they sent me the first seven) I can’t say I’m wholly in the bag for the show just yet as it is yet another television series that seems determined to focus solely on the bleak nature of the situation at hand and absolutely nothing that would seem to offer any sense of relief from the despair. Dead babies, cocaine use, racial issues, deviant ambulance drivers, electrical issues, mob issues, dangerous procedures, untested procedures, illegal abortions, etc. etc. I’m not saying I need this to turn into the third act of a romantic comedy, but come on, there is some light in the world, just look for it.

That said, it feels exactly like something you’d expect from Soderbergh all the way down to the muted color palette, intimate cinematography and then you get to the score which I feel I don’t even need to tell you who it is it’s so recognizable from the jump, but it’s Cliff Martinez, whose worked with Soderbergh on films such as Contagion and Traffic in the past.

Villains are easy to come by just based on the nature of their characters, Eric Johnson‘s Everett Gallinger is an easy one, and you will be rooting for Andre Holland as Algernon Edwards, a black doctor coming from Europe to work at the hospital. While Thackery wants nothing to do with him for reasons beyond his race (though that quickly becomes a major element of the story), Edwards remains thanks to the hospital’s wealthy benefactors represented largely by Juliet Rylance (performing as something of a cross between Kelly Macdonald and Sharon Stone) as Cornelia Robertson.

I haven’t come to an official conclusion on the show and I’m more inclined to like it than not thanks largely to my appreciation of Soderbergh’s work and I like the overall idea of exploring an era in medicine where advancements were massive milestones in keeping humans healthy. I just hope it doesn’t have to wallow in darkness the whole time. Being bleak is one thing, but must you be bleak all the time?