September 11, 2015 at 1:04 pm #360453
The Knick returns to Cinemax for Season 2 on October 16, 2015. Steven Soderbergh will again direct all ten episodes.
Season 1 got an Emmy nomination for Best Directing along with some technical nominations.
Metacritic: 85/100 (16 reviews)October 13, 2015 at 6:12 pm #360455
Positive review from Tim Goodman:
“You wouldn’t believe what happens here.”
It’s a moment, for anyone who watched the fascinating,
cringe-inducing surgery scenes from season one, to let out a well-earned
It was often hard to believe what passed for medical care at the turn
of the century — which is the still-riveting concept at the heart of The Knick.
Sometimes it seems like half of what makes a great series is coming
up with a premise so unique it can’t be ignored or twisting a well-worn
genre into something fresh. Of course, lots of series find themselves
halfway to greatness and fall flat because they can’t conjure up the
other half: execution.
But what The Knick did last season, when it burst onto the
scene in an effort to make Cinemax a go-to destination rather than just
another HBO property, was bring all of the elements together in a show
that constantly impressed. It was a hospital drama set in New York in
1900, when medicine was trial and error — mostly error — and not the
scientific and studied art it is now. In many ways, The Knick was a small horror show masquerading as a hospital drama.
Series creators and writers Jack Amiel and Michael Begler
deeply mined the notion of what it would be like to view doctors not as
saviors and healers, but almost like last-chance magicians who try to
make your ailments go “poof” without fully understanding their causes.
And yet The Knick also stood out — way out — because every episode was directed by Steven Soderbergh.
The Academy Award winner dedicated himself to what was essentially a
10-hour movie — a remarkable decision that came on the heels of his
decision to “retire” from filmmaking (which he amended to be more of a
“sabbatical”), a decision that marked the first such commitment by
anyone of his magnitude to directing every episode of a television
And then there was Academy Award-nominated actor Clive Owen at the center, playing brilliant, cocaine-addicted surgeon John Thackery (aka Thack).
As The Knick kicks off season two, all of the impressive
pieces are still in place. The first season ended with Amiel and Begler
wrapping up a series of storylines, the most important being Thackery’s
checking into an early incarnation of a rehab facility after his rampant
condition — the cocaine fueled his passion for surgical
experimentation, a rush to seek “cures” for myriad maladies infecting
and killing countless New Yorkers in (seemingly) the most gruesome of
ways — culminated in a dubious surgery on a young girl that went badly
Meanwhile, the struggling Knickerbocker Hospital looks to be shutting
down, as its financial backers seek to move it uptown and away,
essentially, from the great mass of unwashed immigrants who can’t pay
their bills. Thack is supposedly getting the therapy he needs (he’s not;
he’s been prescribed “heroin” from the Bayer company — just one more in
a long line of true-life medical stories that Amiel and Begler
researched and mined effectively in season one), and while he’s out, Dr.
Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland) is the acting chief
of surgery — a triumphant overcoming of racial injustice (though, of
course, not entirely, which was one of the most compelling stories from
the first season). Through the Edwards character, Amiel and Begler were
able to add race to their list of issues (turn-of-the-century voodoo
medicine, class structure, the emergence of city and nation under the
microscope, etc.) while Holland’s brilliant performance was a perfect
counterbalance to Owen’s, setting up a conflict between two talented,
curious and competitive surgeons. Edwards, always fighting harder and
suffering more because of his skin color, opens the second season with
hopes of being made the permanent hire at the Knickerbocker, whether it
moves uptown or not.
But it doesn’t take much guesswork to know that, despite his
continued struggles, Thack won’t be away for long, and Edwards’ fight —
the personal and professional one that drives him, in anger, to vent his
frustrations in actual fighting in the late hours — will continue.
But that’s as it should be — 10 episodes wasn’t enough to fully treat
the Thackery and Edwards stories, not to mention the fate of a
struggling hospital. Season two begins to address those issues promptly,
and all of the wonderful supporting characters — including personal
favorites Lucy (Eve Hewson), Bertie (Michael Angarano), Cleary (Chris Sullivan) and Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) — are present and doing wonderful work.
But there’s no escaping the fact that Soderbergh is the essential
element to this series — he put 10 beautifully crafted episodes together
last season, as well as a master class of lighting (no easy feat, given
it was set in 1900) and mood-making that deftly shifted between the
macabre (all the surgeries and ailments) and the mystical (Thack’s
drug-fueled daily existence, demons and visions).
The second season picks up immediately with Soderbergh’s visual
flourishes and sense of when to use music or make what amounts to a
soundless cloud that surrounds his perfectly framed shots — we get the
quickest of snippets of Thack seeing the girl who died in his last
botched surgery. Then it’s the director swooping through the halls of
the Knickerbocker, establishing characters and backstories, reminding
viewers of where the first season left off. But what sets apart the
first couple of episodes is Soderbergh telling the John Thackery
comeback story, which partly consists of his zeal for drugs — the
addiction never curbed the sharp, foxlike nature of his mind — and
ultimately ends up on some beautifully shot scenes on a sailboat. You
can tell that Soderbergh delighted in this unexpected detour because it
gets his camera out of the dank, dark Knickerbocker, with all those
black and brown tones, and out into the sun, where his gift for lighting
scenes feels like a drug-fueled love affair with white sails, blue
water and pale skin.
It’s yet another example of the visual delight that The Knick
is — and one of those, “Oh right, a truly great director is handling
every scene of every episode” realizations. For someone who can barely
stomach the moments — three to five per episode — when The Knick
seems hell-bent on making me want to throw up over a peeled-back nose
or a groping hand inside a gurgling chest cavity, the payoff is watching
how Soderbergh constructs them.
That said, The Knick is more than just a visual tour de
force. The writing continues to stand out, and the characters evolve,
while the acting remains top-notch. This is so much more than a hospital
drama — it’s a rogues’ gallery of turn-of-the-century American types,
documented through a social-studies lens, fueled by history, leavened by
humor and set in a hospital with talented, visionary doctors who are,
one year on, still more likely to kill you than they are to save you.October 15, 2015 at 11:11 pm #360456
Premiere tonight! Raves from Brian Tellerico:
The brilliance of ’s “The Knick” is in how it subtly comments on issues of today while also feeling completely genuine with its period details. We often learn about ourselves by looking through fictional windows into the past. At its best, which is often, this Cinemax program has echoes of HBO’s “Deadwood,” another show about a very different time and place but with resonant characters and themes that made it feel current. And what’s so breathtaking about “The Knick” is the slow, subtle way that the show’s creators pull off this TV magic trick. Period pieces, especially those on TV, often falter by overly telegraphing their desire to be current, failing to really capture the period first and foremost. “The Knick” is the most detailed show on TV, but by grounding the characters in timeless themes—addiction, class, race, desire, competition—the show transcends its undeniable craftsmanship to become something even greater, something uniquely incredible in today’s TV world. In arguably the best year of television to date, it still stands out.
It is 1901 in New York City, a city pushing forward to the future of medicine, politics, civil rights, and any other issue you can think of. The Knickerbocker Hospital (The Knick for short) is in disarray as Dr. John Thackery () is in rehab for his cocaine addiction and the construction of a new building uptown has distracted the board. Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) vies to replace Thackeray as the Chief of Surgery, but his skin color will make that difficult to impossible. Cornelia Robertson ( ) has moved to San Francisco with her new husband, but the pull of NYC will be too great to dismiss. Lucy Elkins ( ) must deal with the fact that she basically fell in love with Thackery while trying to rescue him from his addictions, while Bertie ( ) realizes there’s no one left at the Knick for him. Sister Harriet ( ) sits in prison for the abortions she performed. At the start of season two, everyone seems adrift, without clear structure or purpose, not unlike a society at the turn of the century trying to carve a new path.
Season one of “The Knick” was a remarkable endeavor that really spun around three men—Clive Owen, André Holland, and Steven Soderbergh. If it had a weakness, it was that the supporting cast often felt overshadowed by the star power at the center of the piece, with the exception of Holland, who arguably made the biggest impact in season one as a brilliant man hampered by societal prejudices. Almost immediately, one notices an expansion of focus in season two. Owen and Holland are still phenomenal, arguably even more so with the support behind them of the more-confident supporting cast. Soderbergh and his writers are willing to leave The Knick and Thackery’s side to develop characters like Bertie, Lucy, and Cornelia in their own, distinct narrative arcs, and the cast proves entirely up to the challenge. The technical elements of “The Knick” were well-recognized (and deservedly so) in season one, but season two feels like proof that this is also one of the best ensembles on TV.
It’s also such a densely packed show thematically. Politics, race, business, education, women’s rights, addiction, class warfare, the greater good—there’s enough material packed into an episode of “The Knick” to study the show in a classroom. And yet it never feels didactic. At its core, it’s about two men pushing the boundaries of what is possible in medicine and how that ambition can be reflected or destroyed in society. Much in the way Thackery and Algernon work to battle the personal and societal demons that hold them back—addiction and racism, specifically—Soderbergh puts the development of our country under the surgical knife, laying it all out on the table for us to analyze and consider without melodrama or judgment. And he does so under the umbrella of some of the most incredible technical elements and filmmaking skill in the history of television. Much like David Milch did with “Deadwood,” Soderbergh proves that period television need not be mere history lesson. In so many ways, “The Knick” feels like one of the most vital, current shows on the air.October 17, 2015 at 6:03 pm #360457
The premiere was really good. Very little screetime for Clive Owen.October 18, 2015 at 10:51 am #360458
So glad the show is finally back. It seems like forever since I last watched it. Very strong premiere all around. This was a transitional episode that will put everybody back at the same place. Many troubles lie ahead for Algenon. And Cornelia’s creepy father-in-law is back.October 23, 2015 at 9:25 pm #360459
I had to mark down the premiere a little, in the sense that much of it was resetting what happened in Season 1. That said, they did set up some good stuff for Season 2 as well. The highlight was Gallinger’s ‘rescue’ of Thackery. The lengths to which he will go to avoid answering to Edwards!
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