Shit. You know it’s going to be a tough night when a show that highlights the grotesqueries of turn of the century race relations, calls the episode “Get the Rope.” Then again, every episode of The Knick is rough. Cocaine addicted doctors, ladies who lose their nose to syphilis, a slew of dead babies, and persistent oppression. The Knick isn’t a circus; it is a freak show. Dark, ominous, drawing you in and feeding your voyeuristic nature.
You dirty bird.
Ah, racism. Someone asked me if it was necessary for The Knick to beat viewers over the head with how bad it was to be black in 1900 NYC. Yes; because despite the 114 year difference, racism is still god-fucking-awful. And it looks like Soderbergh is one of the few people willing to deal with the issue in graphic fucking detail. So buckle up, because The Knick is about to get ugly – and surprisingly topical, considering current events.
The cop who was helping the weasely administrator procure prostitutes solicits a young black woman, offending her and her beau. The beau stabs the cop. The cop dies at the Knick. The cop’s family instigates a race riot and any black person on the street becomes fair game for a brutal beat down, stabbing, what have you.
To my absolute surprise, Thack immediately runs out into the street and starts rescuing people from the mob. Let me be clear: he rescues black people. From a murderous mob. And then brings them into the Knick; much to the irritation of the weasel and Gallinger. Gallinger returned just in time to be late for surgery and grumpy about Edwards having taken his place at Thack’s side. Unlike his boss, he had no problem trying to boot refugees back out into the street.
Holy shit. So Thack may fight against integration and subscribe to casual racism, but he cannot abide the suffering of men, no matter their color.
Unfortunately the mob refuses to be deterred and Thack is forced to take his patients to the negro hospital, where they are packed to capacity and in desperate need of everything (supplies, doctors, etc). Nurse Lucy helps him saw off an arm (while back at the Knick, Bertie is the only surgeon left to keep the ship afloat). And after a long day of stress and amputations, why not unwind by having cocaine fueled sexy time with your boss?
Poor Bertie, his crush has decided to crush her virginity. And not with him. Just like in the opium den, the room turns a violent red as Thack shows her how to make sex “painless and perfect.”
Thack, who started the episode, dreaming his opium dreams, remembering the magnificently bearded Matt Frewer as they devised a successful surgery to remove the appendix. What, you thought the doctor just scooped that thing out? Nope. Pretty much everything we take for granted did not exist at some point in time. And that includes routine medical procedures.
And interracial relationships. You heard me. While Thack and Lucy roll around in the red, Edwards and Robertson take a tumble in his deserted basement clinic. Sure, their intimacy could be explained away by the fact that they grew up together. But you get the impression that their familiarity goes beyond that. Way beyond. Keep in mind, having sexy time with a white woman can get Edwards get sent to prison or worse, lynched.
To be fair, back then virtually anything could get you lynched. But chew on this: anti-miscegenation laws were overturned in 1967; a mere 47 years ago.
@AtTheKnick Fun Fact: The Haymarket was the Tenderloin District’s most notorious dance hall.