The Alienist Episode Two: Finally Starting to Live up to Expectations.

With double the sex, grime, and gore of the first, the second episode of The Alienist finally began to live up to the hype. Opening on an image of a child’s corpse in a morgue, with a mortician pushing a gas light into the abdomen, the second episode of The Alienist starts out stomach-churningly gross, and only gives the audience a reprieve from the grunge of New York City in the late 1800s for brief scenes that show the decadence of high society at the time. The juxtaposition between the dirt of the poor and the glamour of the rich becomes a theme throughout the show, with scenes jumping from the mansion of a socialite to the slums of the Santorelli family apartment, with rats skittering across the halls and raw sewage spilling onto the floor. This disparity between the two sides of New York seems to be a direct reference to the corruption going on in the police force. The detestable Captain Connor works with the family who runs the brothels that Georgio Santorelli, or Gloria, as he was known at the brothel, worked at and was taken from.

The Alienist is not a show that you can just watch with some buddies after a long day of work. The Alienist demands your attention, and more often than not, your attention is rewarded. One of the more tense scenes of the episode, aside from the final one (which we will get to), is when Sarah Howard is looking through filing cabinets in an attempt to find cases similar to that of the murder of Georgio Santorelli. Between close ups of Dakota Fanning’s eyes as they scour the files and the heightened sound of her breath, the audience feels as if they are there with her as she realizes that Captain Connor has hidden certain files that are suspiciously similar to the other murdered boy. This is yet another mark against Captain Connor, who, in this episode alone, beats the father of a murdered boy nearly to death, and harrasses Howard by lifting an eyelash from her cheek with a bloody finger and asking her to blow on it to make a wish. It seems as though the show is giving the audience an antagonist to hate even before the killer becomes more than a shadow leading Dr. Kreizler and John Moore down back alleys and into brothels to investigate.

The investigation, including its use of early forensics, is part of the charm of The Alienist. In the scene in which the “fruitful partnership” is created, the twins Marcus and Lucius Isaacson present Dr. Kreizler and friends with a bloody “finger mark” on a golden watch found at one of the murder scenes. Dr. Kreizler’s monologue on how they must understand the way the killer thinks is reminiscent of Criminal Minds and Mindhunter, where criminal psychology is the focal point of the show.

With its similarity to shows like Criminal Minds, the beauty of The Alienist becomes apparent. It is a period piece, as well as a crime show, with some drama, mystery, thriller, romance, and even some comedy thrown in. The show manages to mix so many genres together, giving the audience everything it could want. There seems to be a budding romance between Sarah Howard and Dr. Kreizler, but there is also room for a love triangle between Howard, Moore, and Kreizler. The Alienist really does have something for everyone. Well, not kids, because of all the sex and gore. But almost everyone.

An example of the non-child friendly-ness of this show is in the final scene of the episode, when John Moore makes his way to the brothel where Georgio Santorelli worked. He proceeds to loudly question the bartender about the murdered boy, but not before we get an eyeful of the exploited boys working in drag at the establishment. The bartender slips some sort of drug into Moore’s drink, causing him to become weak and have blurry vision, which the audience sees through clever camera work. Moore follows a boy upstairs, questioning him, but before he can get all of the answers he wants, he becomes faint and falls on the bed. In this final scene, we again see the deplorable Detective Connor, looming over the bed that Moore has collapsed on with the two men who run the brothel.

The episode ends on quite a cliffhanger, as we see three sex workers in drag crawl towards Moore, and the camera cuts to a close up of his panicked looking eye. What could happen to Moore? Will he be saved in the next episode, or will some terrible fate befall him? And what of this mysterious man with “the silver smile”. In the final scene one of Georgio/Gloria’s fellow sex workers says that he talked about “the man with the silver smile” the most. Could this man be the killer? Will we even find out who this man is? I will definitely be tuning in next Monday, February 5th, to find out where The Alienist takes us.

Let us know your thoughts below!

 

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