Last week saw the start of Dr. John Thackery’s tenure as the head of the New York Knickerbocker Hospital. Only several days into his new reign and already he was plagued with petty torments. The institution’s financier assigned his daughter as proxy and defacto head of the board. The hospital administrator is skimming funds otherwise used to buy both patients and corpses. He is forced to integrate his faculty, his facility is being wired for electric, and he can’t manage to go a single night without cocaine.
It’s good to be the king?
Tonight’s episode is definitely a step up from the last. Soderbergh, who directed the entire season, has toned down the jarring music and woven color seamlessly throughout the sets. Scenes of Thackery in his office with Lucy, and then later in the opium den are quite similar in that they are dark and practically steaming with atmosphere. Their brows bright with sweat, the characters are lit by the glowing red and orange glasses of gas lamps. They appear damned, and with all this blood and fire (yes, fire) and death, it makes you wonder if Soderbergh wanted to remind you not of the circus all the surgeons refer to, but of hell (compared to the gleaming white of the operating theater). After all, as Lucy sits there, smiling her strained smile at Thack, you cannot help but feel that she just made a deal with the devil.
But I digress. This week finds Dr. Edwards sucking wind and sleeping with giant cockroaches in his boarding house. He gets no rest at home, though, as he is antagonized by both the buggies and his neighbors. He quickly resolves these issues via a rousing bout of fisticuffs. Fisticuffs, that’s the old timey term for beating the snot out of someone, right? Then he goes to work at the Knick, where he has been consigned to the basement. Undeterred by a system of oppression he has already spent a lifetime trying to overcome, Edwards transforms his new office into a secret night clinic for black patients. He is inspired to track down his first patient after watching her get turned away from the Knick to the “negro clinic”. You see him guide the woman to his office, past where the pigs are kept. Seeing how much time the weasely hospital administrator spent telling Thack to practice on pigs (in lieu of cadavers), me thinks Edward’s clinic will be discovered by next week’s episode.
And why can’t Thack get cadavers to practice on? Because the weasely hospital administrator cut funds and made a deal with the electrician. He has been skimming off the top in order to pay off his debts and oh boy is he in debt. Now he needs to take his weekly debt payment and use it to bring the contractor back to fix the wiring. No worries tho, the mob-type who loaned him money will be happy to collect what is due in two days’ time – oh and he takes one of the weasel’s teeth as collateral.
How big a deal is it that the weasel skimmed from the electric wiring job? Maybe not such a big deal when the lights were flickering on and off, but it became a big deal when a short causes a patient to catch fire in the operating theater and then some enterprising nurse dies when she tries to dowse the flames in water.
Water + Electrical Fire = No Bueno
The recently deceased nurse isn’t the only one due for a mulligan. It turns out that Dr. Gallinger, the man Thack wanted for Edward’s job, is an incompetent boob who has a tendency to panic, shake, and kill people in the operating theater.
As for the dead nurse, don’t fret; it wasn’t Nurse Lucy who died in that little mishap. No, Lucy has been avoiding Thackery and the implications surrounding his addiction. For his part, Thackery is much more concerned that she will tell someone how far gone he is. Sure, he seems to have it together, but you only have to shoot cocaine into a man’s dick once to know that he isn’t in great shape.
So who here is really making deals with the devil? The weasel with his debt? Edwards with his secret clinic? Or Thack with his addiction, ambition, and undeniable genius? No, I think it might be Sister Harriet, as she leaves her habit and goes to make house calls, performing abortions for desperate women in the dark of night.