The Knick: Season 1
There are several genres that have stood the test of time and have been elevated to the status of perennial standards for television. Among them are police procedurals, lawyers/courtroom and medical dramas. Though considerably different in the minutia they have one aspect in common, they intrinsically proved ample sources of tension, conflict and intrigue. One trend that has been emerging is to take one of these archetypical professions and displacing them in time, usually back before the proliferation of modern technology. One profession that has not yet been adequately explored was medicine, one example that is eminently conducive to such a time slip, medicine; ‘The Knick’. Set in New York City in the year 1900, the men and women working in the Knickerbocker Hospital are helping to push the limits of medical procedures and understanding. With the leading characters solidly based upon two preeminent men of medicine, such as William Stewart Halsted, a pioneer in anesthetics and originator of several surgical procedures and instrument still in use. Another main character was based upon an amalgam of two of the first African-Americans to break through the pervasive bigotry and become world renown physicians and surgeons, Daniel Hale Williams and Louis T. Wright. This foundation in historical accuracy provides the severs with an undeniable veracity that crates a platform for a trip back in time was establishing itself as a formidable force on the world stage. Pulling it all together is a showrunner and principle directory, Steven Soderbergh, an auteur who has made his mark in a wide variety of genres in both the mainstream and independent cinema. Each episode is imbued with his directorial panache and distinctive style that has made his films so successful.
One aspect of the medical drama that is crucial to its veracity is how the various situations fraught with tension portrayed. A prime example is found in the operating room from the very first scene involving surgery the viewer realize that this series will not shy away from the gory details. Woman is brought into the surgical theater placenta praevia a condition that is life-threatening for both mother and child. Performing the life-saving surgery is the hospital’s Chief of Surgery Dr. J. M. Christiansen (Matt Frewer), assisted by his Deputy Chief Dr. Dr. John W. Thackery (Clive Owen). In preparation for the procedure and nurse brings over a basin disinfecting solution for Dr. Christiansen to dip his ample beard in. Instead of the usual tightly controlled and sterile operating room the patient is on a table in the middle of a room surrounded by rows of seats. In those seats are of number of doctors observing this brilliant surgeon at work. He announces that the up procedure has to take no longer than 100 seconds to prevent the patient from exsanguination. As he makes his first incision, the audience is given a close-up view of the scalpel cutting into the rounded belly. The doctor reaches in the pullout the infant immediately handing it off to a nurse. The bleeding is profuse in sections provided by the tube connected to a hand crank operated by another doctor. Both mother and child die in that room. Dr. Christiansen goes back to his office, spreads a clean white sheet on his couch reclines and shooting himself in the head.
The Board of Directors immediately promotes space Dr. Thackery to chief who announces his intention of promoting his colleague and protégé Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) to replace them as Deputy Chief. His over ruled by the board insist that he hire Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland) a candidate suggested by the hospital’s principal patron Captain August Robertson (Grainger Hines). His daughter Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) sits on the board holding his proxy. It is clear that the suggestion is in order since failure to accommodate the request will result in pulling the funds necessary to wire the hospital for electricity. Reluctantly Thackery agrees to go along. When he first meets the new doctor factory is busy in the basement at a makeshift forge working on creating an instrument of his own design. Dr. Edwards has incredible credentials from the best schools and hospitals both in the United States and Europe. Thackery is quite blunt with white is refusing his appointment, Dr. Edwards is African-American. Dr. Edwards agrees to stay on long enough to teach factory and his staff a revolutionary new technique he has devised but after watching Thackery performing most impossible procedure using his new equipment Dr. Edward states "to" I will I will stay in this circus until I have learned everything he has to offer."
Most of the first season does concentrate on the open animosity everyone on staff has been Dr. Edwards. He was able to become a surgeon thanks to the patronage and influence of Capt. Robinson. His mother, Eveline (LaTonya Borsay) works in the Robertson household as a cook while his father, Jesse Karin (Leon Addison Brown) is the captain’s carriage driver. Dr. Edwards takes advantage of the facilities of the Knick by opening up a free clinic located in the basement for the poor and indigent particularly the African-American community. Dr. Thackery has a different right to spend his off hours is addicted to cocaine which he takes intravenously in between his toes and goes directly from the hospital to an opium den located on Mott Street in Chinatown. One evening he is needed for an emergency surgery and a young nurse from Kentucky Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) is dispatched to fetch the doctor from his residence. She finds them completely incapacitated by drugs. She is ordered by the doctor to inject him with cocaine. His being in such a state of collapse she could not find one suitable for the injection three forces her to use a vein in his genitals. She becomes completely obsessed with how such a brilliant surgeon can be a drug addict begins following him on his nightly visits to the opium den in Chinatown.
The essence of what differentiates it good period drama from a great one the amount of attention given to establishing the nuances that made that time and place special. This was achieved this series is by carefully rich tapestry of second-tier characters. This is an era in New York City been a disproportionate member number of people in public service corrupted predisposed bribes. Pay off the commonplace and routinely considered the grease that made the wheels of the city move. One of the most blatant examples is large burly Irishman, Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan), the senior ambulance driver. A routine call to fetch a patient usually involves brawl over who gets to bring the paying patient to the hospital. The hospital is so dependent on a patient that could pay cash money that the hospital manager, Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb), who pays a premium any source of income brought into the hospital. The top drawer of his desk is a ready source of cash to dole out bribes and kickbacks. This finder’s fee also extends to Jacob Speight (David Fierro) inspector from the health department searches the tenement buildings cases of typhoid. Your glances regular income by shaking down the landlords cannot write up summonses that were close their buildings down. There he finds another unexpected source of income but he discovers that Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) the head of the hospital’s orphanage is performing abortions on the side. As a good Catholic Cleary is an appalled by such a practice when he sees a young woman bled to death by trying to perform his self-induced procedure. His Catholic guilt is mitigated by the profits generated by steering such girls to the Sister with a 60/40 split of the money, in his favor.
This series is unlike any other hospital sure you have likely have ever seen if you look into the biographies of the real positions used as role models you’ll see just how close to reality this show comes. Both cocaine and morphine but perfectly legal at the time and Doctor Thackeray was performing genuine research on the use of cocaine as a local anesthesia. In one scene it depicts him pioneering a narrow common procedure, the epidural, by injecting a cocaine solution directly into the spinal canal. The drama and tension generated by the storylines is immediately intriguing and were compelled to go from episode to episode in a binge watching spree. It will certainly make you exceptionally thankful for the modern hospital in your health insurance.