This The Alienist review contains spoilers.
The Alienist Episode 6
We all make mistakes. No, I’m not talking about Kreizler, John, Sara, and Marcus collectively dropping the ball and letting their suspect escape due to distraction. I’m talking about myself; last week, I failed to mention in my review that Kreizler was having doubts over Van Bergen being the culprit that he was looking for, and sure enough, the early reveal proved to be nothing more than a bait and switch. Van Bergen, though a perverse and creepy young man, is not the serial killer. Kudos to the show for the misdirection, though I’m sure book readers didn’t fall for the trick. They didn’t have to look at their bird twice; they already knew we had the wrong one pegged.
It’s just another example of The Alienist exceeding expectations by doing little more than weaving a compelling mystery. The only frills come from our period setting, otherwise the show is telling a straight-forward story. The Alienist has shifted from a “whodunit?” to a waiting game and now back again, but by filling the standard procedural with a unique central trio, explorations of class and corruption, and a grimy, gothic mise-en-scène, The Alienist is continuing to grow on me each week. In the network Olympics-induced lull in the TV schedule, The Alienist might be my favorite show currently airing.
I came to that conclusion somewhere during this week’s cold open. Though it may seem heavy-handed to some, the image of a majestic, white horse lying dead in the gutter as underprivileged children play nearby struck me as a perfect encapsulation of the series. If someone asked you to give a surreal synopsis of the show that would reveal nothing of the plot, yet sum of The Alienist, “a majestic, white horse lying dead in the gutter as underprivileged children play nearby” would work perfectly.
Anyway, Kreizler’s ragtag team have hatched a new plan now that they know which days they can expect their killer to strike. Using Kreizler’s ward Stevie as a decoy, the team plan on using their in with Roosevelt to leave all but one whorehouse open and pair off in teams to watch for the killer to make his move. During their first stakeout, Stevie has his cover blown just as a shadowy character was about to approach. No results lead Kreizler to question his beliefs. Since Van Bergen was sequestered and no murder occurred, maybe he actually is the murderer? Maybe their religious day of significance theory is bunk? Maybe Kreizler just isn’t as good as he thinks he is?
Meanwhile, at a New York Society gala to prevent child cruelty, J.P. Morgan approaches Roosevelt to give him the same shakedown and “keep the status quo” speech that he’s received from the former commissioner and the mayor, except Morgan is definitely more well-connected and intimidating. The meeting causes Roosevelt to visit Kreizler to warn that his investigatory days may be numbered, but Kreizler isn’t concerned; the Pentecost is the next day, another stakeout is planned, and besides, Van Bergen isn’t his man. In both of these scenes Brian Geraghty’s Roosevelt finally starts to display a bit of the fire that one would expect from the boisterous future president.
The stakeout scenes are tense, have an electric energy running through them, and eventually end with yet another body, but they aren’t the episodes most shocking moments. First, Sara begins to wonder about Kreizler’s history. Still infatuated, though it’s unclear why based on how she’s been treated the past two weeks, Sara looks into Kreizler’s family and notices an inconsistency in an old newspaper story between what’s written and the things that Kreizler’s revealed about his childhood. Making me feel better since I didn’t notice it until episode three, Sara notices Kreizler’s arm and learns that Kreizler is disabled due to a congenital disorder that left his arm underdeveloped. However, the article makes note of Kreizler playing the piano, which is something he would not have been able to do if he had an issue with his arm since birth. Sara confronts Kreizler with this information, of course just when the killer is finally making his move, and Kreizler becomes so enraged that he slaps Sara. It’s horrible, should kill Sara’s romantic interest, and lord knows what will happen if John hears about it, but it’s just the latest outburst, coupled with Kreizler’s chosen profession, that suggests some abuse or something sinister in his childhood.
The episode’s best scene takes us back to the under-construction Brooklyn Bridge. Fired and now having to pay for his drinks, Captain Connor is not in the best of places when we reconvene with him this week. Still following the agenda of the former commissioner and looking to protect the interests of high-society, when Connor hears that Van Bergen is out on the town while he should be on his way out of the country, he springs into action to intervene. However, Connor’s past comments about his disdain for perverts and sodomites, coupled with his rage after being fired for protecting someone like Van Bergen causes Connor to snap and he shoots and kills Van Bergen. The eventual discovery of Van Bergen’s body is sure to send ripples that will affect all of our characters and prolong the conversation about class and corruption.
With the mystery unsolved yet again and the tempers of two characters causing new status quos to be set, The Alienist will likely be full of turmoil next week. People will likely be coming for Kreizler at all angles and I can see the shift moving away from our killer for a week. But when is the next significant holy day?