This The Alienist review contains spoilers.
The Alienist Epsiode 9
Oftentimes, series are criticized for their penultimate episodes upstaging their finale. The second to last hour can sometimes offer a less sweet, bow-tying finish than the designated end, but since there aren’t as many boxes to check, it can prove to be more artistically rewarding. Unfortunately, murder mysteries typically don’t air narratively satisfying penultimate episodes because the “whodunit?” or resolution of the case is saved for the final moments. The Alienist doesn’t offer an arguable ending with “Requiem,” instead choosing to handle most of its box checking.
That doesn’t mean the episode is without its thrills. Especially in its concluding minutes, “Requiem” maintains the smoky, unsettling atmosphere that can scare without saying or doing much at all. Between Joseph hiding in the bathhouse, Marcus reaching for an unidentified item under a bed, or Cyrus stalking Connor outside of the outhouse, there are plenty of moments that keep things tense. Still, the episode is chiefly concerned with settling the motivation for Japheth, aka John Beecham, and charting each moment that lead to him transforming into a boy-murdering boogeyman. Almost everything that happens outside of Kreizler’s story appears to serve the main plot, and that’s a shame, because typically The Alienist finds most of its best material when tackling smaller character stuff or when it puts are three leads in a room and lets them interact. We get little to none of that here, and “Requiem” slightly suffers for it.
Last week’s shocking ending is dealt with right away, with Kreizler attending Mary’s funeral with a shell-shocked expression. His grief over Mary’s death causes him to end his involvement in the case at once and he spends the rest of the episode agonizing over Mary, remembering how she accepted the part of him that he’s most ashamed about, his disability, and having imagined conversations with his disapproving, likely monstrous father. It’s here that “Requiem” tips to its weekly theme, with Kreizler grappling with his own difficult parental figure as it’s learned that Beecham targets victims with their own Daddy issues. I’d expect Kreizler’s demons with his father to be explored more in length next week.
Kreizler’s disinterest in concluding the case deters John, but not Sara. She makes it clear that she isn’t just using this case to advance herself in the NYPD, she’s sincerely troubled by the murders and won’t rest until justice is achieved, especially now that they have a prime suspect. She sets up a new HQ with the rest of the team and circles St. Barnabas on the calendar, just eight days away, as the likely next date that their killer will strike. The team decide to look through census records to find more information on Beecham and end up getting more than what they bargained for. They discover that Beecham actually worked as an enumerator for the Census Department, then uncover his address by talking to his former manager. It’s all by-the-numbers detective work but does feature an interesting scene where Sara and the Isaacsons are forced to encounter some casual sexism and antisemitism. I appreciate the way that The Alienist has subtly dealt with the issues that both women and minority groups like the Jews had to navigate on a day-to-day basis.
Another dead end at the provided address inspires John to visit his little buddy Joseph again, and through their conversation, he and our team are able to draw parallels between the victims of all of them not only having difficult parents, but fathers with gambling issues. A trip to a bookie reveals that Beecham moonlights as a debt-collector and puts our team one step closer to finding where the monster rests his head. When they get tipped off to his hideout, they discover evidence that Beecham is there man, but no Beecham. Meanwhile, Beecham is already well into his St. Barnabas kill with his sights set on a hiding Joseph as a bonus. It was only a matter of time before Beecham’s kills would turn slightly more personal to our team.
“Requiem” is a fairly routine episode that has to get us to the last leg of the race, so it doesn’t have time for fun asides or crackling sexual chemistry. Penultimate episodes have a tendency to upstage, but this isn’t one of them. Hopefully, all of the fireworks are being saved for next week’s finale “Castle in the Sky.”