Verdict: 4 / 5
Based on the former Harlem Knickerbocker hospital of the late 1800’s, The Knick follows the practices, discoveries and personal lives of innovative surgeons.
It is 20th century Downtown, New York. Chief surgeon Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) slices into another pig as the cadaver supply runs low. Many competing surgeons are demanding John Doe’s to experiment on. Gruesome? Yes, but Thackery deems himself a pioneer and does what is necessary for the advancement of medical science, even if it goes against the moral code. Despite wanting to name Gallinger (Eric Johnson) his deputy, Harvard graduate – Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland) is given the position, due to his affiliation with the wealthy Robertson family. Immediately the surgical room turns hostile as all present, including patients, protest in prejudice because Edwards is African-American. He is the first non-Caucasian to practice at The Knick. It takes a while but Edwards knowledge comes into good use and proves himself a gifted surgeon that sparks Thackery’s interest. Their growing professional relationship infuriates Gallinger further. The rest of the surgical team consist of Dr. Bertram Chickering Jr. (Michael Angarano), and nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) who knows of Thackery’s scandalous cocaine addiction, but keeps it a secret due to her affections for him. Meanwhile, Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) has to keep the wealthy invested, as he has done a terrible job as hospital administrator. He is now in debt to mobster Bunky Collier (Danny Hoch) for fraudulent misuse of hospital funds.
This ten-part first season is outstanding. Not only is it well-written, but the entire ensemble succeeds in the portrayal of these well-rounded characters, whom we grow desperate to know. The back stories and character development is in constant flow with the various challenges they face, be it medical or personal. The pairings have been so well cast that the unlikely duo’s aid in bringing some much-needed distractions from the gruesome scenes. Namely Edwards and Thackery. Thackery and Elkins. Edwards and Cornelia Roberston (Juliet Rylance), Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) and Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour).
Be warned the Emmy-nominated special effects team excels in recreating intestines, brains, broken bones, oozing wounds and rotting flesh. It is so realistic you have to look away. But incredible artistic work deserves applause. Definitely not for the squeamish.
To help with the authenticity of the series hospital or other medical related scenes, Dr. Stanley Burns served as their medical adviser. But not to fear, The Knick, is more than a gore fest, it deals with a lot of difficult themes, such as classism, racism, infidelity, romance, addiction, abortion, extortion and much more. Although it is a period drama, it is set in a time that most can still identify and baffle at how rapidly the medical field has progressed in the last hundred years.
Soderbergh not only beautifully directs The Knick, but has had his skillful hand at cinematography and editing, under the pseudonyms Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard. The DVD Box consist of 4 with 10 episode and the option of audio commentary with cast and crew. A definite must see that will have you gripped in thought-provoking conversation long after.