Rec Me Friday: The Knick

Weekly Review featuring "The Knick", a compelling period drama from Cinemax


THE KNICK | Season 1
Network: Cinemax
Clive Owen, André Holland, Jeremy Bobb, Juliet Rylance, Eve Hewson, Michael Angarano
Written by: Jack Amiel, Michael Begler
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Premise: As upscale care in New York shifts from urban locales in the early 1900s, Knickerbocker Hospital remains in the city to serve a mostly poor, immigrant population. Undeterred by high mortality from sepsis in a pre-antibiotics era, chief surgeon John Thackery pushes medicine’s boundaries, pioneering procedures despite his painful past and severe cocaine addiction. Dr. Algernon Edwards is the chief’s professional equal, but Edwards’ color skews Thackery’s opinion — until a chance discovery changes it.

Weekly Review featuring "The Knick", a compelling period drama from Cinemax - Clive Owen as John Thackery

The Knick introduces us to the world of the Knickerbocker hospital through its most well known star, Clive Owen as Doctor Thackery.

Thackery is an interesting character sometimes but honestly, I’ve grown tired of seeing white males as the arrogant anti-hero.  I would much rather the show devote attention to the show’s more interesting secondary characters instead. Lo and behold, I actually get my wish because as the season progresses, more and more of the other characters are featured.

Nonetheless, Clive Owen as Thack is great. I’ve always felt like Owen peaked in his film, Children of Men and nothing else in his career is really as memorable but maybe he’ll will prove me wrong in this series.

Weekly Review featuring "The Knick", a compelling period drama from Cinemax - Andre Holland as Algernon Edwards

If The Knick doesn’t revive Clive Owen’s career, it still has a breakout star in André Holland.

Holland shines as Doctor Algernon Edwards. Algernon often becomes a foil character to Thackery because both men possess pride, brilliance, and stubbornness. Algernon’s compulsion to engage in physical violence can even be compared to Thack’s cocaine addiction in that the two doctors clearly seek emotional release. Thackery has simply taken it uncontrollable extremes.

Of course, the character of Algernon also brings a discussion of race into the show. The social inequality Algernon faces as a black man in the 1900s is explored in his career in medicine as well as his romantic relationship with a white woman.

Weekly Review featuring "The Knick", a compelling period drama from Cinemax

Then, there are the women. I love all the central women characters on the show.

Cornelia, Lucy, and Sister Harriet are all resourceful and determined women. Even when each woman gets involved with a man in some way or another, each one retains her strength. The women on The Knick certainly hold their own and in many moments, they prove to be even stronger than their male counterparts.

Weekly Review featuring "The Knick", a compelling period drama from Cinemax

Still, I must gripe about the show’s portrayal of other races, especially Asian characters. I cannot express how tired and frustrated I am of seeing period pieces reduce Asians to the same caricatures.

The Asian women are nothing more than submissive prostitutes. Their sole purpose is to provide white men with opium and sex. In one episode, Thackery even reduce the women to beautiful experiments for him to test his medical device on. Meanwhile, the Asian men serve as the devious drug dealers and pimps who, of course, also do martial arts.

For a show that tackles racial tension in America, I would hope the writers would treat other minorities with as much care as they do with black characters. But alas, the show doesn’t.

Weekly Review featuring "The Knick", a compelling period drama from Cinemax

Despite the show’s flaws in offensive stereotypes, I believe the show is a fine piece of period drama.

Particularly with episodes like Get the Rope. The seventh episode of the season features an eruption of violence in the city’s escalating racial tension between whites and blacks. In light of the race issues in today’s mainstream American news,  it was especially horrifying to be reminded how minorities like blacks have always been the ones to be suffer. Yet, towards the end of the episode, Soderbergh manages to gracefully transition the episode’s mood from horrific racial violence to slow sexual desire. The two emotions shouldn’t mix together so well but here, they do.

Being able to experience such contrasting emotions within one hour of television? Amazing.

The Knick is definitely worth a watch if you want a great drama.

For my information about the show, check out The Knick on Cinemax