Previously on The Alienist: A Fruitful Partnership
As I mentioned in my last review, there is much villainy at play in this show. The obvious bad guy is, of course, the serial killer whom Dr Kreizler and his team are pursuing. The evil actions committed by this sick individual are at the heart of The Alienist’s plot, and as such, motivate the five people at the front of this investigation – six, if you include Commissioner Roosevelt. The future president’s willingness to aid and abet Kreizler in his search for the truth puts him at odds with the other villains of the piece, namely the rich and wealthy of Gilded Age New York City and their protectors, the higher echelons of the NYPD. Roosevelt’s reforms have few supporters; closing down the saloons on Sundays has won him no friends at all. But he knows an injustice when he sees it, thank goodness. He puts his reputation and career on the line when a fresh body, yet another boy, is discovered. Roosevelt knows Captain Connor is only too happy to see him fall, so he allows Kreizler, Moore, Sara, and the Isaacson twins first look at the scene of the crime before Connor and retired police-chief Thomas Byrnes (the self-proclaimed servant of the people) can affect a cover-up. Quick thinking from Stevie and Cyrus help the quintet escape the prying eyes of Connor and his cadre of co-conspirators. But it’s at the cost of Moore’s book of drawings. The killer gets his hands on the book before he makes his own escape from the crime scene. (Caveat: I’m assuming the killer is male.)
“Silver Smile” allows us to get to know Kreizler’s servants, Cyrus and Mary, better. Rescued from the hangman’s noose, Cyrus is Kreizler’s driver and protector. Along with young Stevie, he’s Kreizler’s eyes and ears. In a brilliantly acted scene (kudos to the amazing Robert Ray Wisdom), the alienist provokes a reaction from Cyrus when he gets him to tell exactly how he felt when he killed the man he was due to be executed for.
“Pleasure,” Cyrus replies reluctantly at first, and then with passion.
Mary Palmer is more of an enigma, however. She puts together a feast of food and refreshments for the team when they get back from crime scene. Kreizler is dismissive to the point of being outright rude to her. He shoos her away, not wanting her anywhere near their discussions. We later find out in a conversation between Moore and Sara that Mary burned her father to death, and that it took her a number of attempts to commit this heinous crime. Moore reckons Kreizler is trying to protect Mary, and that may very well be the case. But I suspect there’s more to it than that. Kreizler watches over her, that’s true, but Mary is seen at the end of the episode to smile at his concern. Why this is, we’ll no doubt find out. Q’orianka Kilcher’s performance as Mary, Kreizler’s mute housekeeper, is superb, and her look of pained dismay when her saviour and protector dismissed her is devastating to watch.
Apart from the obvious plot points of another murder, Gloria’s missing body, and Stevie finding a trouserless Moore in an alley near Paresis Hall, there is plenty to admire in the non-action stakes of this episode. Here it becomes clear that Kreizler is not only attempting to get into the head of the killer, but also the heads of Moore and Sara. He demands honesty from them, and asks that they look within themselves if they’re to become effective members of his team. Both Moore and Sara have secrets they’re hiding from Kreizler and each other. Moore doesn’t speak to his father anymore, and this could be down to what happened to Moore’s brother some time back. He drowned in a boating accident. We know he drinks to take away his pain and memory, and there will come a time when he’ll have to confront both of these. Sara’s father allegedly committed suicide, but Moore knows there’s more to this story than Sara is willing to share.
Moore doesn’t share Kreizler’s psychoanalytical ways; in fact, he finds them intrusive and uncomfortable. But he has his own sense of justice and is willing to be a partner in the alienist’s search for the truth, even if it means catching up with Sally, the boy who robbed him in Paresis Hall and left him at the mercy of Paul Kelly, Captain Connor, and some of the Sally’s colleagues at the brothel. They garner some fresh clues in their quest. Later Sara realises that their killer has an affinity for heights and water. All of the bodies have been found near water and in places higher up, like a bridge or a roof. These clues will become invaluable later. Using nascent fingerprint identification will prove key, too. But when Gloria’s body turns up missing at the morgue, they know they’re not only fighting a killer, but corruption within the police force.
This is the last of the trio of episodes directed by Jakob Verbruggen. The Belgian director from quality shows such as The Fall, London Spy, and House of Cards has set the template the remaining directors of the series will follow. It’s a superb period piece right now, a production that highlights the evil within the hearts and minds of men and women. As we progress through the season, we’ll get a chance to look deep into these characters. Whether or not we’ll take the risk to look deep within our own hearts, well, I’ll leave that one to you.