Season 1 of The Knick wrapped up with its finale, “Crutchfield,” where many of the characters attempted to resolve their ongoing problems by opting for a quick fix. Like the get-rich-quick schemes spammed throughout all comments sections online, sometimes it’s obvious that the quick choice isn’t the best option. But this wasn’t obvious for our characters in The Knick. Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) refuses to let the popular Dr. Levi Zinberg (Michael Nathanson) one-up him. Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) believes she has been backed into a corner. Dr. Gallinger (Eric Johnson) is blindsided by the severity of his wife’s condition. And Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) looks to finally erase his ever-rising debt.
Cornelia has already made up her mind about getting an abortion, and this week she carries out the task by unknowingly setting up an appointment with Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour). Sister Harriet asks Cornelia if she must go through with it. When Cornelia responds with nothing but silence, it’s clear what has to be done.
An abortion would constitute having a busy week by itself, but that’s barely half of it, as Cornelia is also getting married. After forcefully smiling her way through a bridal shower, Cornelia finally outwardly expresses her internal reservations to Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland), telling him she wants to run away together like he had originally proposed. But it’s too late for Dr. Edwards, and he dismisses the notion immediately. And so Cornelia gets married. It's a rather sad and disappointing ending for a character who finally learned what living felt like in the past few months. Between tracking down Typhoid Mary and all but running the Knick, Cornelia had found purpose. But now her purpose will be playing housewife and mother.
Dr. Edwards copes differently, as we’ve seen in the past, preferring to fight in the back alley of a bar in what seems to be a form of self-punishment. He loses the fight badly and is left lying unconscious in a puddle of his own blood.
But perhaps no one has lost as much as Dr. Gallinger. An antagonist from the very first moments of The Knick, Dr. Gallinger does not make it easy to root for him. But it is easy to feel bad for him. He’s already lost both his newborn daughter and adopted daughter. And now he’s lost his wife, Eleanor (Maya Kazan). Eleanor’s been admitted into an insane asylum, and even though very little was known about the human body in 1900, it’s nothing compared to the lack of information regarding the human mind. Back then, insanity was thought to stem from infected parts of the body. Thus, removing the infected part would cure the person of their mental disorder. This led to some barbaric and utterly unnerving treatment of the mentally unstable. (Side note: A very similar story is being told in Boardwalk Empire this season, which takes place in the early 1930s, which gives you an idea of how long these practices occurred.) When Dr. Gallinger visits Eleanor, all of her teeth have been removed in hope of curing her, and Eleanor barely recognizes her husband. The doctor then informs Dr. Gallinger that if Eleanor fails to show improvement, they will begin removing more and more of her until she’s successfully treated. I worry that Eleanor won’t make it to Season 2.
It’s been no secret that I despise Herman Barrow. I’ve enjoyed his constant squirming under the pressure of the gangster Bunky Collier (Danny Hoch), as I’ve felt he deserved it. Barrow’s debts were bound to eventually catch up to him, which they finally did. Collier tells Barrow he’s adding interest to his already huge debt, making it near impossible to pay. This forces Barrow to turn to Ping Wu (Perry Yung), the owner of the opium den/brothel that Thackery frequents. He’s also the man whose life Thackery saved. Knowing this, Barrow tells Ping Wu that Thackery is in debt to Collier and needs him dead. Ping Wu sees right through Barrow’s lie, but in a scene that would make Quentin Tarantino proud, he kills not only Collier, but three of his henchmen too. Upon seeing the newspaper story of Collier’s death the following morning, Barrow lights up with glee; he’s finally free of debt. Or so he thinks. Because when he arrives to work in the morning, he finds Ping Wu sitting at his desk with Collier’s debt book. Barrow was successful in ridding himself of Collier, but it doesn’t look like he’s rid himself of his debt. He’ll just owe a different man—one who is infinitely scarier.
In last week’s penultimate “The Golden Lotus,” we saw Thackery at his absolute lowest, unable to think about anyone or anything besides cocaine. But all seems okay now. Lucy (Eve Hewson) has retrieved a large quantity of the drug, making withdrawal no longer a problem.
We, as a 21st-century audience, know that the repeated use of cocaine leads to myriad of problems, both short- and long-term: restlessness, paranoia, psychosis, respiratory failure, seizures, nausea, and ultimately death. But to those people living in 1900, cocaine was viewed as the latest and greatest miracle drug.
I am by no means a medical expert. I can barely handle the sight of my own blood. But living in today’s times has made it difficult to truly understand how little was known about medicine and the human body during The Knick, and there were three glaring examples where what passes as common knowledge today was completely off the radar in “Crutchfield.”
There are four blood types: A, B, AB, O. Mixing one type of blood with a mismatched one would be disastrous. While this is common knowledge today, it was not yet fully known in 1900. Blood transfusions seem to almost always lead to death in The Knick, and no one can quite figure out why. But Dr. Zinberg says he’s close to understanding; he’s been studying blood at a molecular level for a long time, and he wants Thackery to collaborate with him in solving the problem. Remember the paranoia side-effect cocaine can have? Thackery is convinced that Dr. Zinberg is acting maliciously, wanting all the glory for himself, only parading around New York City so he could trump more doctors. When Thackery learns that Dr. Zinberg is close to solving the blood transfusion mystery, he simply can’t let the Chicago doctor have this one. Thackery goes all in, removing himself from surgical responsibilities and handing over the reins to Dr. Edwards. He also sends Bertie, whose blind trust of his mentor seems to be wavering, to cozy up to Dr. Zinberg and determine if his intentions are indeed malicious. But Bertie encounters an endearing and humble Zinberg who confidently shares with Bertie all of his scientific findings on the matter. When Bertie returns to encourage Thackery to join forces with Dr. Zinberg, the paranoia comes out in an even greater force. Thackery accuses Bertie of being a double spy for Dr. Zinberg, dismissing his loyal sidekick rather ruthlessly.
Selfishness has characterized Thackery since the very beginning of The Knick, so it’s no surprise when he takes a sick girl into surgery with promises of a successful blood transfusion and full recovery. Thackery believes he’s discovered a breakthrough relating to the size of blood cells. He apotheosizes that, rather than antibodies and antigens as Dr. Zinberg correctly predicts, it’s the size of the blood cells that determine what type of blood one is. A mere moment after anesthetizing the young girl, her body begins to convulse, rejecting the mismatched blood she’s receiving. Seconds later, she’s dead.
Thackery does not cope well with failure. Although he doesn’t resort to suicide like Dr. J.M. Christiansen (Matt Frewer) did in the pilot, he does embark on a cocaine binge, rendering him nearly catatonic. Lucy panics and fetches Bertie, who must ironically call on his father to save Thackery. It’s gotten to the point that Thackery is so dependent on cocaine, that he needs professional help to break the habit, so Bertie checks his mentor into rehab. As a doctor takes Thackery to what will be his room for the next few months, he informs him of a new drug that has made the battle against withdrawal virtually painless. Thackery receives the injection and lies down. A smile sprawls across his face. And the camera pans out to reveal the miracle medicine on the nightstand—heroin. Talk about fixing one leak only to spring another.
With Thackery’s imminent and prolonged absence from the hospital paired with its decreased revenue, a board meeting is called by August Robertson (Grainger Hines) where it is unanimously decided that the Knick will be closed and moved uptown.
We know The Knick will be returning next year for Season 2. But after “Crutchfield,” it’s tough to tell what it’ll look like. Some questions:
- Will Thackery’s addiction problems grow worse now that he’s been introduced to heroin?
- Will Cornelia still be working at the hospital now that she's married?
- Will Dr. Edwards be okay from his fight?
- How much more torture must Eleanor go through?
- Will Bertie return to the Knick now that it’s moving uptown?
- Will we see more of Cornelia’s brother?
- Will we see more of Health Inspector Speight?
- Will there be any legal ramifications for Thackery’s botched blood transfusion?
Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element who graduated from Marist College. He spends his time obsessing equally over the Game of Thrones series and the New York Giants, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.
Read all of Joe Brosnan's posts for Criminal Element.