This THE ALIENIST review contains spoilers.
The Alienist Season 2 Episode 2
“Get in good trouble. Necessary trouble,” is a famous quote from the late civil rights leader and United States politician John Lewis. Since his passing this week, the quote has been on my mind, for a variety of reasons, and I thought about it again watching “Something Wicked.” Sara, John, and Laszlo are experts at creating necessary trouble, but it certainly attracts attention and enemies. We know that former police chief Thomas Burns isn’t fond of our central trio, but now they’re attracting the ire of the infamous gang the Hudson Dusters, Dr. Markoe, and even William Randolph Hearst.
Having so many opposing forces standing in the way of justice for Martha Napp and the location of Ana Linares has The Alienist: Angel of Darkness already feeling more dangerous and complicated than last season’s more straight forward whodunit. There are political ramifications beyond the first season’s class disparity that’s keeping a child killer hidden. The police and the newspapers want to use the disappearance of the Linares child to escalate tension with the Spanish and that agenda is allowing gangs like the Dusters to get away with their criminal activity with impunity. All of these groups can cause headaches or worse for our protagonists, and you can feel an added layer of tension in the episode.
Still, the series is going to have to balance the intricacy of plot and the separate parties with the right level of camp and character work. The Alienist’s campy streak is a large part of what made last season successful, along with quiet moments spent investigating the characters relationships with one another. There’s a lot happening in “Something Wicked” but no scene is better than Sara dressing Laszlo down for ordering food on her behalf. It breaks the before mentioned tension and really gets to the heart of what makes these characters so fun to watch together.
That said, even though the scene is amusing, it’s discouraging that with so many enemies outside of their camp, Sara has to extend her energy dealing with Kreizler. Despite her repeat warnings and wishes, Kreizler insists on speaking with the mother of the missing child and ends up doing more harm than good. Sara is livid that Kreizler disobeyed her ask, and he doesn’t seem too realize how disrespectful he has been. Part of the issue with Martha Napp’s case was that she wasn’t believed or listened to when she denied harming her child. Kreizler was outraged by that case, but can’t seem to understand that by ignoring Sara’s requests, he’s behaving like men he fought against, men like Dr. Markoe.
Markoe, we learn, is operating a hospital where wealthy men bring their pregnant mistresses to avoid a scandal. Behaving coldly and shaming the women in the process, Markoe keeps these women isolated, disposes of their children, then claims the women are insane when they ask about their children or try to rejoin society. This is clearly what happened with Martha Napp, but it’s uncertain how the Linares child fits into this equation, at least at the moment.
What we do know is that whoever purchased the doll from Siegel Cooper listed their address on Hudson Street, at a property owned by Hudson Duster leader Goo Goo Knox. John attempts to get some face time with Knox, but gets too close for comfort when Knox holds him at knife point. We know that whoever Knox is covering for must have some sort of medical expertise, based on the findings from the Napp child, but it’s hard to believe that Knox and Markoe are playing on the same team. The Dusters are a thrilling period inclusion that should help inject some danger and excitement in the case, as navigating run-ins with them should be even more tricky than handling the threat of the police.
For some reason, TNT is airing two episodes of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness weekly, meaning that the series will wrap up in just four weeks. Personally, two hours of the show a week feels like it could be a bit much, especially when these initial outings felt so dense. There’s a chance that the pace slows and the expository details wane, that we get more moments like Sara and John bantering about their chosen evening wear or Kreizler lamenting that he just ordered food for the table, but that remains to be seen. As it stands, John, Sara and Laszlo are creating necessary trouble all over New York, hopefully the series slows enough to revel in it a bit.