Checking into The Knick 1.02: “Mr. Paris Shoes”

I’ll bet this surgery doesn’t end how you’d think.

Last week, in The Knick’s premiere episode “Method and Madness”, resistance to change was the theme of the episode, and while none of the characters seemed ready to shift their beliefs in Episode 2, we did spend a lot of time learning about their secrets in “Mr. Paris Shoes”. Dr. John Thackery put it best:

There's a life we live within the walls of this hospital and one we live outside of it, and these two lives need not intersect.

I hate to break it to you, John, but I don't think your secrets are safe for long. Four characters had secrets come to light in this episode: Dr. John Thackery, Dr. Algernon Edwards, Herman Barrow, and Sister Harriet (played by Cara Seymour).

Cleary is onto something…

Let’s discuss Sister Harriet first, as we didn’t touch on her last week. In Episode 1, Sister Harriet’s sole purpose was to make fun of the brute ambulance driver Tom Cleary. Sister Harriet runs an orphanage affiliated with The Knick, which explains why she is often on its premises. In Episode 2, we pick up with Sister Harriet as she is unknowingly tailed by Cleary, who fresh out of a bar fight, follows her up into an apartment building. While we follow Sister Harriet inside the apartment, Cleary stays in the hallway. We learn that the nun is moonlighting as an abortionist, helping women who simply cannot afford to have another child. This would be a big secret in today’s society, let alone in 1900. While Sister Harriet might be the most minor character of the four mentioned above, it’s her secret that would have the biggest fallout should it come to light. I’m interested to see how Cleary plays this out; we already know he’s a conniving and greedy man. Might some blackmail be in order?

This one’s on you, Herman.

Herman Barrow is up next, and as we learned in the premiere, he’s is as obsequious as he is avaricious—defining his work as “rob[bing] Peter to pay Paul.” Herman has clearly robbed the wrong Peter, and as the electricity begins to falter in The Knick, we learn of Herman’s shady business dealings. Rather than properly pay a contractor, Herman went off the books on the cheap when rigging The Knick with electricity. The shoddy craftsmanship doesn’t take long to rear its ugly head, as a short-circuit causes a fire to break out in the middle of an operation. An unnamed nurse attempts to put out the fire by dumping a bucket of water on it, but in doing so accidently electrocutes and kills herself.  Needless to say, the electrical work needs to be redone. There’s only one problem: despite being given proper funding to hire a legitimate electrician, Herman skimmed some off the top and chose a cheaper option. This all leads to some pretty clichéd mob scenes where knees are always threatened and chests are always puffed. Herman ends up face first on a desk, down a tooth and a heirloom vase. It doesn’t seem like he can continue to run The Knick in the fashion he’s been operating, and his duplicitous ways will probably be uncovered in the near future. I don’t think Herman is going anywhere soon; we spent much more of this episode following him than I thought we would.

Dr. John Thackery’s secret stems from Episode 1 when Nurse Lucy Elkins discovers him suffering from severe cocaine withdrawal. With muddled veins covering his body, Thackery pleads for Lucy to inject him in a place where the average co-worker should never have access. While Thackery spends the majority of Episode 2 complaining to Herman to fix the electricity and order more cadavers, he does seek out Lucy to explain to her that his reputation is integral for both his and The Knick’s continued successes. There’s some intimacy in the scene, and Lucy promises she won’t tell a soul, making it tough for me to dismiss the nauseating notion that Thackery and Lucy will become romantically involved. I’d be much happier if she connects with Bertie, as the only thing the show seems to want to say about him is that we need to like him. (Or better yet, how about for the first time in television history, romance does not seep into the workplace!)

What have we got here?

I purposely left Algernon and his secret for last, simply because he is the only person who isn’t hiding something bad. When a black woman in need of an arm draining is turned away from The Knick and sent to a black hospital, Algernon tries to track her down there, but he learns that she never got the arm drained because the wait was too long and she had to get to work. After acquiring her address, Algernon goes to the woman’s home and invites her back to The Knick, but rather than take her to the general hospital floor, he takes her into the basement where he’s created a secret, sanitary hospital wing. After introducing the woman to the painkilling wonder-drug that is cocaine, the woman asks Algernon if she can send her ailing brother-in-law to him. It’s clear that Algernon’s secret practice will grow in popularity, and as it grows, the likelihood of it being discovered will also grow. My guess is that its discovery will lead to a standoff between Thackery, who will want it and Algernon gone, and Herman, who will want to start charging the patients. This could even be the way Herman starts to pay off some of the hospital’s debt.

It is all but guaranteed that these secrets will come out. That’s not the exciting part. The exciting part is seeing where the debris will land after the explosion.

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.