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The Knick Review: Combining Tasteful Period Drama with Medical Gore

Elizabeth Harper | 8 Aug 2014 19:15
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Unfortunately, the hospital is facing money problems -- to the tune of a $30,000 a year deficit -- and Christenson's suicide has been bad press which hasn't helped them fundraise. The hospital's financial straits encourages corruption, with the Knick's ambulance drivers threatening to beat rival ambulance drivers over which of them gets to bring a paying patient in while a health inspector bringing in tuberculosis patients demands financial kickbacks -- all necessary to keep the hospital afloat. The Knickerbocker is leaning heavily on the Robertson family for financial support -- and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) is insistent that they accept the highly qualified -- but black -- Doctor Edwards (André Holland) on to their staff. Despite Thackery's misgivings -- and insistence that no patient will let Edwards treat them -- he's added to the staff as Deputy Chief of Surgery.

Thackery threatens to resign over the hiring, going home and not coming in the following morning -- but when a patient is in dire need of surgery, a nurse is sent to find him. After pounding on his door, she climbs through a window and finds him in his bedroom, suffering from withdrawal symptoms after trying to go without cocaine... but since he's needed, he asks her to inject him and then heads to the hospital, where he appears right as rain in surgery.

The procedure they're perfuming this time is a challenging one, going in to fix an earlier botched surgical attempt. Because the patient has a case of bronchitis, they can't put him to sleep with ether as they usually would. But Thackery has a plan: to inject cocaine directly into his spine, which will numb him... if it doesn't paralyze him or kill him. Edwards calls him a madman and there's plenty of truth to the accusation, but Thackery simply replies "Yet there is method in it."

When Thackery succeeds, using a new surgical tool he invented for the purpose, even Edwards has to admit that there's method to this particular madness. While Edwards had only minutes before said he would be resigning after this surgery due Thackery's relentless needling, after watching him work he says "I'm not leaving this circus until I've learned everything you have to teach."

The setup we're left with is a strong one: there's a solid ensemble cast established and we've already seen how they clash (and, sometimes, work together) in interesting ways. Though The Knick follows a formula, it's a formula precisely because it makes for some good stories -- and The Knick plays it out with great acting, high production values, and just enough of a twist to make things feel fresh. So if you're looking for a high-stakes medical drama or a dark period drama, this may be just the show for you. Season 1 runs for 10 episodes, and will be followed by a second season of 10 more episodes at an unspecified date. You can catch it on Cinemax starting tonight at 10pm.

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