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The Alienist – S1E8 – Psychopathia Sexualis

Previously on The Alienist: Many Sainted Men

This show – this goddamn show – will have your nerves shredded into many pieces by the end of this eventful and tragic episode. It starts with Mary making sure Cyrus is comfortable after his attack at the hands of the killer. She’s smiling and her heart is happy for once. Laszlo loves her, and she loves him in return. The alienist even says so to Moore later in the episode, telling him that Mary has traits to her character that he himself lacks: kindness, consideration for others, humility (though this is Moore’s suggestion rather than Kreizler’s). The episode ends with her death, thrown over the bannisters of Kreizler’s stairs by the murderous Captain Connor, neck broken, body shattered. Connor may not have meant for this to happen, but there will be hell to pay when Kreizler and Moore find out. Chief Byrnes could very well throw him to the lions, for he wanted the investigation stopped at all cost but I really don’t think he wanted events to occur as they did.

Images: TNT

The two former policemen are tracking Moore and Kreizler’s every move. An associate of theirs, known only as The Swede, follows them by train to Washington, and again when they visit a couple of contacts Roosevelt has sent their way. Moore bears two black eyes and a bruised nose from his beating at the hands – fists – of Connor. Their investigations result in eliminating one potential suspect (dead these past four years) and gaining another. A massacre at New Paltz, a village in upstate New York, where, sixteen years previous, a pastor and his wife were supposedly butchered by Indians, leaving only one survivor, a man called Adam Dury, holds vital clues as to where the killer may have come from. Moore passes this information on to Sarah, urging her to stay put in the city, but somehow knowing she’ll go there herself. “Take care,” he says to her. Marcus and Lucius are ordered to head west and speak to the commanding officer of one John Beecham, who may be the killer they’re all looking for. I had to study the next number of scenes closely, and almost lost track of who’s who at one point. But subsequent viewings cleared things up for me.

The official story is that the pastor and his wife (who weren’t popular with locals due to the man’s brand of hellfire preaching and the woman’s coldness of heart) were slaughtered be vengeful Indians. Sarah’s companion and escort, Eliza, doesn’t believe that this is what happened. The Isaacsons discover that Corporal Beecham was designated unfit to serve and was sent back east by his commanding officer, Captain Miller. Beecham had a bloodlust that became apparent when he was caught viciously stabbing an innocent man, while naked, covered from head to foot in blood, and in a state of sexual arousal. Moore and Kreizler go in search of Adam Dury (William Meunier – Arrow, Damien) and learn first-hand what kind of boy Beecham was. Tormented by an aggressive tic, Adam’s brother Jacob became something of a pariah with his mother and the family’s community. Allegedly kidnapped by Indians, the truth is more sinister and gruesome. Jacob liked to climb the nearby mountains – it was the only time he knew peace. A local farmhand climbed with him. Adam asked him to take care of Jacob, but he raped the boy, leaving him to face his family alone. This farmhand died up in the mountains, his throat slit from ear to ear. His name was George Beecham. At this point I’m at a loss as to who exactly could be the killer. It can’t be George, he’s deader than dead. It could be Jacob, but he’s yet to make an appearance. And who is John Beecham?

Events take a nasty turn later when Moore and Kreizler’s wagon is attacked, their driver shot; the horses running out of control. It’s the Swede. They both escape with their lives, barely, but Kreizler is injured. He confesses his love for Mary to Moore, who seems relieved that it’s not Sarah he’s interested in.

Behind the scenes, the Axis of Evil, namely Morgan, Byrnes, and Connor, try to keep one step ahead of the detectives. No way does Byrnes want the alienist to solve the case, thereby making a laughing stock of the department. Assuming the worst has happened to Kreizler, Connor and Sergeant Doyle head to his house, along with the Swede, who has seen to Stevie, to look for evidence of how much the detectives know. Mary stands her ground, but Connor gets rough with her. Cyrus distracts his assailant as much as he can, and Mary takes a knife and runs upstairs to Connor. They fight, she slashes his arm, and in a rage he pushes poor Mary over the bannisters. Mary’s bravery and loyalty to Kreizler comes at the cost of her life. This is a step too far for Connor, and he knows it himself. Justice for Mary cannot come quickly enough.

This is an episode where Sarah, finally, goes out on her own. It’s about time, too. For too long she’s been cast aside due to her gender, as well as the hostility between her and Kreizler. It’s a giant move in a world run by men. Sarah more than deserves her place on the team. They’d be lost without her, to be honest. The Isaacson twins are the outsiders, really, but their knowledge of one another, as well as their innocence and naivety, bring what little light relief possible in this grim episode.

Next week’s penultimate installment is going to be a belter.

Note: the episode’s title, Psychopathia Sexualis, is a term which refers to a mental disease characterized by sexual perversion. It is also the title of one of the first texts written about sexual pathology, written by  Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing, and published in 1886. No doubt Kreizler has read it or at least knows about it.

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About James McShane (97 Articles)
James McShane is Irish, and damn proud of it. A recovering caffeine addict, he lives a full life, devoted to his books, friends, family, and Doctor Who calendar collection. His interests include reading three books at once, stalking his favourite people on Facebook, and going for long walks at four in the morning. Insomnia is a bitch. He hopes to be a published author one day, so he should really get around to finishing that damn novel of his.
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