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The Knick Recap Season 2, Episode 10, "This Is All We Are"

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The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 10, “This Is All We Are”

CInemax

The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 10, “This Is All We Are”

“The time to invest is when there’s blood running in the streets,” said young tycoon Henry Robertson (Charles Aitken), quoting Baron Rothschild in “Whiplash,” episode five of the second season of The Knick. In the season finale, “This Is All We Are,” the chickens of the Robertsons’ gilded-era capitalism come to roost in as many configurations as are possible.

Following the fiery death of Captain August Robertson at the end of the last episode, Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) appears ready to finally accept the socialite-housewife role expected of her—until her husband, Philip (Tom Lipinski), casually mentions that Henry has been supervising the family’s port business for years, meaning he ordered the murder of Cornelia’s colleague, Health Department Inspector Speight. It also means it was Henry who torched the new Knickerbocker Hospital in the last episode, resulting in their father’s death. That he, and not the captain himself, was responsible makes a hell of a lot more sense, but the same cannot be said for Cornelia’s years-long lack of awareness of her brother’s position within the family business.

The Knick Recap Season 2, Episode 6, "There Are Rules"

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The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 6, “There Are Rules”

Paul Schiraldi

The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 6, “There Are Rules”

Even if the at-times unbelievable density of The Knick’s second season has felt thus far like no accident, it’s a welcome change to see Steven Soderbergh digging his directorial heels deeper into fewer subplots in this week’s “There Are Rules.” For the most part, the episode bounces back and forth between two narrative through lines: Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) investigating the possible medical benefits of hypnosis, only to become obsessed with a pair of conjoined Belarusian twins (Miranda and Rebecca Gruss), and Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano) performing an after-hours, radiotherapy-assisted operation on his dying mother (Linda Emond) at Mount Sinai Hospital.

The Knick Recap Season 2, Episode 4, "Wonderful Surprises"

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The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 4, “Wonderful Surprises”

Mary Cybulski

The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 4, “Wonderful Surprises”

“Wonderful Surprises” is so over-stacked with incident as to make each scene work purely as exposition. The episode allows for a number of one-on-ones between characters, which director Steven Soderbergh successfully plays out in longer, more fluid takes. The first of these opens the episode immediately where “The Best with the Best to Get the Best” left off, with Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland) escorting his wife, Opal (Zaraah Abrahams), into what will be her new apartment, wherein she promptly goes about grilling him about his heretofore personal life. He confesses that he’s “met” somebody, by which he means Cornelia Showalter, with whom he grew up, but this disclosure has the curious effect of downgrading the intensity of Opal’s initial appearance on the scene. (Later we see them hanging out at a Harlem nightclub, and despite himself, Edwards looks to be having the best time he’s had on screen since mid-first season, maybe ever.)

The Knick Recap Season 2, Episode 2, “You’re No Rose”

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The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 2, “You’re No Rose”

Mary Cybulski

The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 2, “You’re No Rose”

The throbbing, syncopated tick-tock of Cliff Martinez’s electronic score is the sole intentional anachronism of The Knick, and it’s against it that the show’s latest episode opens. A pair of dirt-encrusted young men find a bloated, blue-pinkish corpse floating in the East River and pull it to land, only to roll it over, revealing the body as none other than New York City Health Department inspector Francis Speight (David Fierro). Speight’s brief appearance in the previous episode, “Ten Knots,” saw him discovering a potential bubonic plague outbreak on a steamship, via the dead bodies of two immigrant stowaways, all but invited to his own murder by the owner of the boat’s shipping company.

The Knick Recap Season 2, Episode 1, “Ten Knots”

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The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 1, “Ten Knots”

Mary Cybulski

The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 1, “Ten Knots”

Steven Soderbergh’s period epic The Knick remains a smorgasbord of scrupulous period detail, as the second season’s all-business opener, “Ten Knots,” picks up exactly where last season’s beyond-bleak conclusion left off. Disappointingly, the naturalism and economy of Soderbergh’s approach continues to run contrary to the dramatic straits navigated by the show’s writers, Jack Amiel and Michael Begler. The eponymous New York City hospital has relocated uptown, relatively painlessly, and in keeping with the show’s pointedly unromantic vista on early-20th-century history, it continues to turn a profit, having severely curtailed its social-justice mission under the corrupt reign of administrator Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb).

The Knick Recap Season 1, Episode 10, "Crutchfield"

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The Knick Recap: Season 1, Episode 10, “Crutchfield”

Cinemax

The Knick Recap: Season 1, Episode 10, “Crutchfield”

As immersive as it is overstuffed, The Knick’s season finale opens on the anxious face of the hospital’s secretly pregnant benefactor, Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance), just days away from marrying her fiancée, Philip. In the dark of night, the Knick’s ambulance driver, Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan), pulls up on his carriage, and Roberston is astonished that he’s the one with whom she made arrangements for her abortion: “You?” Cleary sighs and responds, “You know, it’d be nice if just once in my life, a lady wasn’t disappointed to see me. Climb in the back.” He takes her to an enclosed apartment where the Knick’s resident nun, Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour), is waiting for her in medical scrubs; the two women embrace with a sad tenderness, each one acknowledging the unspoken burden that had been weighing the other down all this time. Robertson tells Harriet, “You could have told me, you know,” to which Harriet responds in kind, followed by the lingering thought, “But we both couldn’t, could we?”

The Knick Recap Season 1, Episode 8, "Working Late a Lot"

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The Knick Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “Working Late a Lot”

Cinemax

The Knick Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “Working Late a Lot”

It’s only logical that The Knick begins to deconstruct its mystical antihero, Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen), following the twinned breakthroughs of last week’s much-ballyhooed “Get the Rope,” wherein Thackery both atoned for his prior racism and finally hooked up with the taciturn Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson). Their coupling is the very first scene of “Working Late a Lot,” given passion and ferocity, but also seen at a slight remove from director Steven Soderbergh’s camera. Thackery gently coos into Lucy’s ear about how God doesn’t exist, a thought that scares her even as it gives her pause. Soderbergh shoots them together with cramped, candlelit close-ups in an otherwise pitch-black room, kept warm apparently by nothing more than the bed sheets and each other. Throughout the episode, it’s hard to avoid thinking about the risk of pregnancy; it’s kept unclear whether they’re using a condom or not. He’s unfailingly strung out on cocaine while she’s, it’s implied, pining after a more serious commitment. Albeit seven episodes in the making, their getting together can’t help but appear cast in something of a grim pall; months have passed since the last episode, and suddenly it’s winter.

The Knick Recap Season 1, Episode 7, "Get the Rope"

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The Knick Recap: Season 1, Episode 7, “Get the Rope”

Cinemax

The Knick Recap: Season 1, Episode 7, “Get the Rope”

Steven Soderbergh’s naturalism has worked both for and against certain strains in The Knick’s first season, and “Get the Rope” may mark the first time his dazzling, inventive shooting style just can’t support the dramaturgy. On one hand, it’s ballsy that the episode barely covers 24 hours: The show’s acute gift for slowing down and speeding up time has made its exploration of individual characters consistently intriguing, and paid off abundantly in the anti-resolution of “Start Calling Me Dad.” But instead of lingering, the tensions that erupted when Thackery (Clive Owen) happened upon Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland)’s makeshift clinic for black New Yorkers have been impossibly smoothed-out overnight. Formerly the show’s walking embodiment of educated white racism, Thackery now champions Algernon to an almost magical degree, with the hospital staff firmly aligned in his sympathy. It’s altruistic, and if you like the characters, the resettling of loyalties makes for reassuring viewing. For this reason alone, “Get the Rope” grips undeniably, but it also goes down feeling like the most disingenuous episode yet. It’s soapy, morally charged, and Grand Guignol all at once.

The Knick Recap Season 1, Episode 6, "Start Calling Me Dad"

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The Knick Recap: Season 1, Episode 6, “Start Calling Me Dad”

Cinemax

The Knick Recap: Season 1, Episode 6, “Start Calling Me Dad”

Like its preceding episode, “Start Calling Me Dad” starts with a phone call in the dead of night, this time in the household of Dr. Bertram “Bertie” Chickering (Michael Angaro), whose buttoned-down father picks up the receiver. It’s Thackery (Clive Owen), and he summons Chickering to the Knick for “experiments.” When the flustered young physician finally makes it to the hospital, he finds his boss strung out on drugs, workshopping, with a pair of comely Chinese sex workers (Ying Ying Li and Pei Pei Lin) from his opium den of choice, alternative approaches to the doomed placenta praevia operation that’s haunted The Knick’s first season. As his work-bender winds down, Thackery commissions Chickering’s help in testing a new invention: a type of uterus-pump-sheath that pressures the womb from the inside, allowing pregnant patients to die slower, and the doctors more time to save the prospective baby’s life.

The Knick Recap Season 1, Episode 5, "They Capture the Heat"

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The Knick Recap: Season 1, Episode 5, “They Capture the Heat”

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The Knick Recap: Season 1, Episode 5, “They Capture the Heat”

The Knickerbocker Hospital’s putative mission to help New York City’s neediest gets its most interesting stress test yet in “They Capture the Heat.” An earlier episode of The Knick showed hospital administrator Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) getting his teeth plied out by his loan shark, Bunkie (Danny Hoch); now, one of Bunkie’s lieutenants may need his leg amputated in the dead of the night, putting his boss in Barrow’s debt for once. After seeing Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland) scrub in for surgery, Bunkie tells Barrow, “That black bastard better not get too familiar with my man if he don’t wanna find himself hanging from a lamppost,” and both Algernon and Thackery narrow their eyes in unspoken disgust—a flicker of solidarity between the two men never before seen in the hospital’s surgical theater. It’s a collision of two of the show’s up-to-now isolated environs, and even Clive Owen’s haggard, seen-it-all drug addict Dr. Thackery manages to be appalled by the stench surrounding Bunkie. It’s been a pleasure watching Steven Soderbergh stress Thackery and Algernon’s unspoken shifts in opinion of one another, and “They Capture the Heat” skirts it on the margins.