Checking into The Knick 1.07: “Get the Rope”

After watching the pilot of The Knick, I wrote in my review that making Dr. John Thackery a drug-addicted surgeon was a cliché, but making him a drug-addicted, racist surgeon was different, and thus made him unlikable. Even then, I knew that the time would come where Thackery grew as a person and he started to not only accept, but befriend Dr. Algernon Edwards. That process started with last week’s episode “Start Calling Me Dad”, but it went into full effect after this week in “Get the Rope.”

Back in that same pilot review, I wondered if The Knick would show the race riots that plagued New York City in August of 1900. I hoped that we’d see them, because it seemed like such a natural way to both heighten tension in what was otherwise a medical drama, and to force characters to show their true colors. Well my wish was granted last night, so join me as we attempt to clean up after the riots and let’s see what we can put back together.

“Get the Rope” opened up with an off-duty police officer approaching a black woman who was dressed nicely and standing on the sidewalk. Believing her to be a prostitute, the officer propositions her, which justifiably upsets the woman. When the woman’s friend (also black) learns what the officer was doing, he attacks, brutally stabbing him before fleeing the scene.

Cut to utter mayhem.

The officer is rushed to the Knick where his chances for survival seem dim at best, but Thackery, Edwards, and Bertie are the best they can. Gallinger also makes his surgical return in the middle of this scene, back from taking time off after his baby passed away. Squeezing his way through the mob outside the hospital awaiting news of the fallen officer, Gallinger quickly learns that things have changed in his absence. Thackery and Edwards are not only working together, but they’re getting along too! Talk about a rough week for Gallinger.

Although the police officer’s wife is convinced that her husband can fight through his injuries, he can’t, despite putting in a valiant effort. When the sobbing wife runs outside of the hospital, she urges the ever-growing mob to hunt down any black person they can find. What occurs next is completely terrifying. Countless black men and women are punched, beaten, kicked, and killed in the streets despite having done absolutely nothing wrong. As the mob breaks their way into the Knick, it’s Thackery who acts quickly and smartly while ushering all the black patients downstairs into Edwards’s no-longer-secret clinic. It’s here where Herman Barrow stays true to character and acts both racist and idiotic, focusing his mind on how he can punish Edwards for the clinic rather than worry about the infiltrated hospital. Only later when news of the riots reaching the whorehouses does Barrow freak out and run away to help his paramour. She’s perfectly fine, he realizes, when she tells him as another man thrusts away from behind. Are you really surprised you’re not the only man, Barrow?

Back at the Knick, it seems inevitable that mob will eventually find Edwards’s secret clinic, so everybody (Thackery, Edwards, Lucy, Cornelia, Cleary, and Sister Harriet) decides that they must leave. But the streets are unsafe. Sister Harriet takes all of the black men and women who can walk on their own to the church. Not even the rioters will attack a woman of God. As for the crippled, they get loaded up into the ambulance and put underneath gurneys. Algernon must hid beneath a gurney as well. Cleary, in an amazing feat of strength, pulls the ambulance along by himself when he sees that the horses have been stolen by the mob.

The crew eventually arrives at the black hospital on the other side of town. (Why this site wasn’t attacked, I’m not sure.) This hospital is already practically overrun, so it’s not until late into the night that their work is done. When it’s time to go home, the group splits up. Thackery walks Lucy home (wink wink) and Edwards heads back to the Knick with Cornelia (also wink wink). Whether high on adrenaline, or scared of the future, both couples get intimate. I must give The Knick writers credit; it took seven full episodes until main characters hooked up. That’s an eternity by today’s standards.

This was a momentous episode both on the historical scale, as well as the personal one. Thackery went above and beyond to extinguish his racism-fueled fire. Between rescuing a man being attacked in the street, to spending all night tending to the patients at the black hospital, it was the sign that his redemption arc is nearing completion. Thackery’s never been hateable to the extent that Barrow is, but it’s been difficult to root for him. And while he’s still not excused for his actions early on in the series, he is proving to be as complex a character we’ve seen on television.

The couple that sews together grows together.

Some questions I ask regarding next week: Will the Knick be back up and running? Will Edwards’s not-so-secret clinic be needed? Will Cornelia leave her fiancé? Will Gallinger grow up? And will poor Bertie find out about Thackery and Lucy?


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.

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