“Our patients’ hearts will stop beating. But we humans can get in a few good licks in battle before we surrender. I will not stop pushing forward into a hopeful future.” These words, spoken by Dr. Thackery in Cinemax’s latest drama, sets the tone for the season ahead, and gives us promise for a boundary-pushing show.
It’s not often we see a refreshing take on the medical TV drama genre, but Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick offers so much more than heated romances and power struggles. Set in the early part of the twentieth century, the series follows the staff at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital – a modern medical establishment with often-questionable practices.
The series premiere titled ‘Method and Madness’, introduced us to a wealth of characters including Clive Owen’s run-of-the-mill jackass, Dr. John W. Thackery. Don’t misinterpret my calling him a jackass as a sign of hatred – it’s far from it. Dr. Thackery is a complex character battling inner demons in the form of a cocaine addiction, not to mention the recent loss of his best friend and mentor, Dr. J.M. Christiansen (Matt Frewer), who unceremoniously blew his brains out after failing to save the life a severely ill pregnant patient and that of her baby’s. Part of what gives Thackery a certain charm is his unwavering confidence bordering on a god complex, and his ability to make every person around him feel as small as an ant. Owen plays his character will gusto, transforming himself completely into a doctor who is perhaps unaware at just how close he is from losing everything.
During a board meeting, the newly promoted Dr. Thackery and unwelcome visitor Miss Cornelia Robinson, butt heads on who is to take Thackery’s former position of deputy chief of surgery. Thackery is set on promoting Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson), but Miss Robinson would like him to consider Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland), who is an experienced young doctor with an extensive background working in hospitals all over Europe. Since the hospital is running in a deficit of $30,000, they don’t have much of a choice but to cater to Miss Robinson’s wishes – she is the money after all.
Unfortunately, Dr. Edwards’ arrival doesn’t go exactly as planned. Thackery refuses to work with Edwards after discovering he is black and cruelly ends the conversation saying “you can only run away and join the circus if the circus wants you, and I don’t want you in my circus”. For such a progressive doctor, Thackery clearly has a long way to go in his acceptance of other races, not to mention women in positions of power. Those lessons are sure to be learned later in the series thanks to Dr Edwards vowing to not step down until he learns everything Thackery has to teach.
The Knick lived up to expectations in every way through its visually stimulating cinematography, ruthlessly bloody surgery scenes, and three-dimensional characters, all of whom are struggling to earn the respect of their peers. This is a must-see SpicyPulpers, and for our convenience, the wise producers have planned the first season over 10 episodes that are sure to keep audiences at the edge of their seats.
The Knick airs Friday nights at 10pm on Cinemax with all episodes directed by Steven Soderbergh.