UK VOD TV review: The Knick Episode 7
Philip W Bayles | On 27, Nov 2014
Watching The Knick has, until now, been a pleasure tinged with frustration. From the start the show has been fascinating, its weird mix of contemporary aesthetic and turn-of-the-century world building elevating what could have been just another better-than-average drama. But the show’s always danced just outside of greatness, like its creators have been waiting for something.
Now, we find out what that is.
In Get the Rope, Steven Soderbergh finally reveals his endgame – taking all of these characters that have spent the past six episodes fighting about the march of Progress and seeing what they do when the chips are down. The result is a spectacular piece of television that hits the ground running and doesn’t let up for a second until the finishing line.
The inciting incident starts off simply and snowballs quickly. A black man stabs a white police officer and flees the scene. Within five minutes, a lynch mob is threatening to pull down the doors of the hospital in scenes which Soderbergh films the way someone would film Wildlings trying to storm the gates of Castle Black.
The dialogue might veer into the overdramatic occasionally, but the images are even more unsettling than some of the surgeries have been. The rioters bang on the doors and windows like a pack of hungry zombies, their victims’ injuries filmed in horrible voyeuristic close-up. The sickly yellow light Soderbergh uses to frame everything only adds to the feeling that the end is truly nigh. It’s on the nose, sure, but this series thrives in pushing viewers’ faces close to the action and watching them squirm (one can’t help but notice how topical this episode feels given what’s been happening in the States recently).
The siege situation puts all of our key players into a small, confined space and watches them bounce off each other and, suddenly, the large amount of time we’ve spent listening to these people pontificate feels well used. Acts of goodness that come out of the blue, like Dr Thackery sprinting into the street to protect a passer-by from being beaten to death, feel earned because we’ve seen the spark of goodness painted deep into the core of his character. And by the same token, when eternal heel Barrow learns of rioters breaking into brothels, we know what he’s thinking even before he scrambles for the door. Cleary gets to put his brute strength to truly altruistic use, and Lucy defuses one a nail-bitingly tense moment with a perfectly pitched retort. These characters have come a long way since the pilot, but none more so than her.
The zenith comes as the ensemble discover Dr Edwards’ clandestine clinic in the basement, and the scene of their various reactions has a palpable importance, as well as some great one-liners about gynaecological equipment from Thack. Lines that we’ve been dancing around since the beginning have now been firmly drawn and one can only imagine what will happen in coming episodes after the dust has settled.
This kind of massive incident feels like the kind of thing that one would normally end a series with, but the coda shows the show is in no danger of running out of steam just yet. We get not one but two interesting developments which have been a long time coming now. But again, the fact that we’ve spent so long getting to know characters makes the scenes feel logical rather than just inevitable.
After six episodes of measured but confident steps, The Knick has finally taken a giant leap forward in what is undoubtedly the best instalment so far. If Soderbergh can stick the landing in the final three episodes, we should be in for a real treat.
All episodes of The Knick Season 1 are available to watch online on Sky On Demand – or on NOW, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription. Season 2 starts on Sky Atlantic on Tuesday 12th January.