This The Knick review contains spoilers.
The Knick Season 2 Episode 4
Great television shows like to give their audiences little gifts every now and then. For as much as we like to deconstruct television at times as capital “A” art, it’s important to remember that more often than not an episode of television is supposed to be fun. And for as much as The Knick can delve into the human soul, it’s always nice to be treated to a fan appreciation day at the ballpark.
Dr. Mays bursting into flame is The Knick’s little gift to us and what a wonderful little gift it is. Dr. Mays was introduced as a hilariously unimportant blowhard and just another example of white society’s disrespect of Dr. Algernon Edwards. Instead of handing over the head surgeon job to Dr. Edwards, the Knick board decided to just sit on their hands until Dr. Thackery comes back and in the meantime why not put a scalpel in the hand of someone who is not even a surgeon?
Since his hiring in episode one, Dr. Mays has skulked around the hospital just doing Dr. Mays things. Occasionally he’d perv out on a prostitute or two but for the most part he was just a walking reminder of The Knick’s distaste for meritocracy. I don’t even know if he had a first name. And I quite frankly couldn’t be bothered to remember his last name until he burst into flames and I knew I’d have to write that name a bunch of times in this review.
So R.I.P. Dr. Mays. You died as you lived: being utterly, irrevocably useless. Introducing a colorful blowhard of a character, only to have him die explosively not ten minutes into a random midseason episode is something that the best shows are capable of. After Dr. Leslie Artz’s explosive demise in Lost and the lawnmower incident in Mad Men, sudden violence to a minor character in an otherwise random episode is dangerously close to becoming a page on TV Tropes. But damn it all if it doesn’t surprise and delight me every time. Like I said: the good shows like to give us little gifts every now and then.
“Wonderful Surprises,” while being the relative weakest episode of the second season thus far is actually still filled with these “little gifts” to the audience.
Dr. Mays sudden death also has the hilarious aftermath of no one particularly caring about it save for Herman Barrow, of course, who needed Mays as a ticket into a high-class social club.
Then there’s poor little Bertie, ever the doe-eyed innocent not fully prepared for the world. He’s intimidated by his new intelligent and worldly lady friend and decides to take drastic measures as to not disappoint her in bed.
“This is my first week here and you’re my first client,” says the best hooker in the world, before instructing Dr. Chickering to name the different parts on her body. “I’m very comfortable with the human body,” she then purrs while grabbing Little Bertie. Does the scene serve much importance other than to reaffirm Bertie’s dork status? Nope! But still: a little gift or maybe even a “Wonderful Surprise.”
It’s fitting that “Wonderful Surprises” is the debut episode for new actress Emily Kinney because so many of the little gifts it’s peppered with are mostly adorable. Kinney is best known for portraying the innocent turned badass Beth on The Walking Dead and at the risk of being as pervy as the departed Dr. Mays, she is just tremendously adorable. Having been turned down by the similarly attractive and seemingly virginal Lucy, Henry Robinson has secured the affection of Kinney’s Daisy and is shooting some Edison-style 1900’s pornography. It’s unclear what The Knick has in store for Daisy but her sweet presence foreshadows all the delightful little gifts the episode is full of.
Lucy, now down two father figures and a God finally seems to be turning to herself as a source of salvation. She begins hitting the books and then later meets with a soon-to-be-freed Harry to get to the bottom of how all men can be such dicks all of the time. Lucy and Harry is the kind of wonderful character pairing The Knick excels at. Cleary’s using the women Harry operated on to exert political power over the judge is equally as sweet. The reception that Harry gets at the nunnery is anything but a wonderful surprise but at least she’s finally out.
Algernon and his wife Opal waste no time getting back into the swing of things. They get off to a rough start when Algernon makes it clear he’s still in love with Neely but he and Opal are in Harlem, dancing together in no time. Then it also becomes clear why they broke up in the first place. Opal is much more assertive of her equality and value than Algernon is. He got to where he is by not rocking the boat too hard. Opal will capsize the damn boat if it means even getting an ounce of respect as she displays when she points out at dinner how strange it is that Algernon’s mom is not allowed to eat with them.
It’s Dr. Thack again though who displays the strongest semblance of compassion. Thack approaches an alcoholic with a cleft lip at a bar and offers him a spot in his burgeoning rehab so that he can study his disease. The man turns him down but that character in just a few seconds onscreen somehow speaks to the frequent tragedy of the human existence better than a whole season full of suffering can. He’s just a sad guy with a problem and a disfiguration, too hopeless to accept the first offer for help he’s had in a long time.
Unfortunately, even the people who accept Thackery’s help rarely benefit from it. The guy’s heart is in the right place but his brain works too quickly for its own good. He gets a harebrained idea that he can kill Abigail’s syphilis with a high enough fever. It works in a petrie dish and a pig but in his excitement he forgets that people are neither petrie dishes nor pigs. After he and Dr. Edwards nearly kill Abigail, Edwards crawls next to her in bed and kisses her forehead, one last little gift from “Wonderful Surprises.”