They say we're in TV's golden age, which I would argue is a blessing and a curse. We have so much quality entertainment to engage with, but the problem is just that... how can we watch it all? I've had to make some strategic decisions to skip certain shows that I've actually enjoyed just because I didn't have enough time.
A show that I made absolutely sure to DVR each week is the entire first season of Cinemax's [The Knick](series:968791). The show started on Friday nights on Cinemax, which is far from prime time. However, I had enough faith in director Steven Soderbergh and lead actor Clive Owen that I actually subscribed to Cinemax JUST for this show. And boy was I happy I did.
Check out the trailer below:
You can actually learn a thing or two
The show takes place in 1900, before World War I, and during a very experimental stage in modern medicine. Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) is the chief of surgery in the fictionalized Knickerbocker Hospital in a pretty rough part of New York City.
Thackery becomes the chief of surgery when his mentor commits suicide after a failed surgery attempt in the first episode.
Each week, the show provides a real fact about how things were at the time, ranging from poor safety regulations around the original x-ray machines, real stories about Typhoid Mary (a chef who gave a good portion of New York City the disease), and improper use of drugs like cocaine and heroine with patients.
The show also takes place in a time that rarely gets discussed. The turn of the 20th century was still fairly archaic. The show depicts New York before it was glamorous. They still use horse and buggy as a means of transportation, and mention automobiles as a new almost taboo advancement.
The show has dynamic characters
Dr. John Thackery
We learn almost immediately that Dr. John Thackery leads a double life. He's completely obsessed with his work as a surgeon while also being completely addicted to cocaine and opiates. When he's not coming up with the newest way to save lives and advance modern medicine, he is at an opium den, often withdrawing from society. He doesn't really have friends. Owen does a brilliant job of creating a character that is incredibly talented and respected, who's only real enemy is himself and his addiction.
Dr. Algernon Edwards
André Holland is perfectly cast for this role. Obviously, racism rears its ugly head throughout the show but Holland's character Dr. Algernon Edwards really deals with it head-on. He has all the credentials, he's just as talented as Thackery (or more) but he has a darker complexion. The show deals with his blackness in a very genuine and real way without becoming obsessed with it like a lot of other shows and movies have in the past. The bond between Edwards and Thackery that slowly develops (after Thackery at first dismisses him because of his race) due to their common love of medicine is extremely interesting to follow.
Jeremy Bobb plays Herman Barrow, the sketchy and sheisty director of the hospital who gets caught up owing the wrong folks money and who overall is just a terrible person, frankly. It always amazes me how an actor can immerse themselves in a role and take lines from a script and pull them off the page in such a perfectly horrible manner. He's completely self centered and egotistical but also, though he pretends, he lacks any kind of real backbone.
Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) is the daughter of the family that owns The Knickerbocker hospital. She's very progressive and advocates for Algernon, since her family practically raised him. His parents worked for the Robertson family for years. She's a woman of significant means but she's overall a moral force for good on the show.
I predicted her affair with Algernon, which really upped the ante on the show in my opinion for the better.
Nurse Lucy Elkins
Nurse Elkins is played by Eve Hewson, aka Bono from U2's daughter. She has a great heart and operates as a kind of voyeur on the lives of the doctors. I really enjoy her relationship with Dr. Thackery, especially.
Thackery and Nurse Elkins begin a relationship in which she enables his cocaine addiction and also indulges a little bit herself, showing she has a bit more of a wild side than she lets on.
Why you should watch this show
Every aspect of this show is well done and carefully thought out. The music is suspenseful and modern, even though what's happening is very much antiquated. The cinematography makes it feel like it belongs on the big screen. The writing and acting is amazing. I really saw no flaws in this show from the pilot episode on.
While lots of period pieces tend to move slowly, I enjoy that this show's dull moments are incredibly rare. It moves right along at a steady pace and takes its vast list of characters and develops them accordingly. I'm really looking forward to the next season.