This THE ALIENIST review contains spoilers.
The Alienist Season 2 Episode 3
Rarely does a crime show build to a satisfying reveal if the series settles in on its first suspect, then reveals that suspect to be the killer. That’s why despite the circumstantial evidence pointing at the matron, Dr. Markoe’s right hand woman at the Lying In Hospital, it seems almost too obvious that she’s the culprit. However, the episode certainly wants you to think that the barren, slightly crazy-eyed matron has kidnapped the Linares baby, with a lot of “Labyrinth” dedicated to investigation and plot. However, the final stinger, that whoever harmed the baby fed it breast milk, seems to suggest the show is already moving away from the matron.
That said, the episode only truly came alive after Dr. Kreizler indulged in a little too much fruity brandy and champagne. John Moore’s Bachelor Party was by far the highlight of the episode, with Kreizler’s moving best man speech and John’s blatant disappointment over his bride to be giving these characters something to do that isn’t so procedural. John’s disappointment came across loud and clear when the only good words about his fiancée he could muster was that his late grandmother would have been happy with the arrangement. He so obviously wants to be with Sara that he can’t bear to have her not be at the gathering of his closest friends, even if he has to act like he’s ok with Sara getting together with his friend. The Alienist needs to embrace this camp and soapiness more often.
One thing that they’re absolutely nailing is putting Sara at the center of the action. Her fiery determination and focus opposite Dr. Markoe is excellent; you can tell she barely tolerates the man she’s sitting across from. Then later, she shows her compassion and observational skills to figure out how exactly to communicate with Libby, the nurse from the Lying In Hospital that seems willing to help with the case. What Sara doesn’t expect is for Libby to deftly get a read on her; Libby keys in on a sensitive subject, Sara’s father’s suicide. Both of these scenes strike the right balance for the show — they further along the case, but they keep a certain emphasis on character.
They also seem to suggest that Libby may be hiding something. Her canny observational skills prove she isn’t the young naïve nurse that her introductions suggests. There’s also the fact that she goes far out of her way to attain the Linares file. It may seem that perhaps she’s putting her neck on the line out of the kindness of her heart, trying to help Sara who positioned herself as a trustworthy friend, but perhaps Libby has her own reasons for wanting that file out of Dr. Markoe’s hands. The file on Martha Napp indicates that another young nurse was the last person to tend to her, but Is it possible Libby is the culprit that we’re looking for?
Unfortunately, with Sara dominating the screen, John and Laszlo can feel like afterthoughts. We are able to gather that John is with the wrong woman from their first appearance in the first episode, so the audience is already way ahead of where he is in this episode. Meanwhile, Kreizler is on hand to push along the theory of hypnotism and eventually get Senora Linares to open up more about the distressing day she had at the park. What’s interesting about this hypnotism angle is that in the modern world, we know hypnotism to be a bunch of quackery, but Kreizler is going all in on this practice. After I criticized his casual misogyny last episode, I have to wonder if the series looks to tear down Kreizler this season and make him look more fallible.
Speaking of fallible, Lucius comes clean about being intimidated into giving Thomas Byrnes information about the kidnapping. Marcus takes the news quietly, but something suggests that he may retaliate. Meanwhile, Byrnes takes that information to Dr. Markoe and warns him that if he has any connection to the Linares baby, which we know he does, he needs to say so before things get worse. Dr. Markoe lies and denies having any connection to the missing child. It means that Sara has a leg up on the police, for the time being.
The episode spends a considerable amount of time showing us the inside of the Lying In Hospital and how poorly and subhuman the women there are treated. It furthers the theme of the season, how women had to fight tooth and nail for something even resembling equity, especially women who were already in vulnerable situations. It’s easy to imagine the many cases that were never brought to light as Sara wanders the halls of the hospital. Could that place be harboring more darkness? The Alienist wants us to think so.