To say that I was excited when I found out The Alienist was coming back for another limited series would be an understatement. I loved the relationships between Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, Ms. Sara Howard, and Mr. John Moore. Just as we were taken down the dark, deep alleyway of thoughts to discover the killer in the original limited series The Alienist, we were given the same deep insight into the psyche of this trio of friends. The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, which premiered tonight, did not disappoint and gave those of us who waited two years from the first limited series everything we were missing from our Victorian CSI Team.
Everyone is back: Daniel Brühl, Dakota Fanning, Luke Evans, even Ted Levine (who I love to hate) as retired police chief Thomas Byrnes. The story may be new, but the feeling is the same—dark, menacing, and suspenseful.
We open on what I researched to be something called a “foundling” hospital. A woman, distraught and awakened by the sound of thunder, realizes her baby—who should be peacefully sleeping in the bassinet next to her—is gone. As she shrieks and wakes the rest of the hospital, she is subdued by a nurse but angrily screams at the doctor who’s come into the hallway, shouting, “You know I know what happens here! I’ll call the police!” The next time we see that poor mother, Martha Knapp, she is on death row for the murder of her child. Dr. Laszlo Kreizler is her confidant and assures her she’s not the “Monster Mother” everyone has labeled her. “It is the world that is monstrous,” Kreizler says. He has the best quotes!
What we soon come to find out is that since we’ve last seen our team, John Moore is a reporter for the New York Times and engaged to Violet, who also happens to be the goddaughter of William Randolph Hearst. Sara Howard has her own, all-female detective agency, and they are all still trying to find their place in the grimy and crooked system that is New York City in 1897.
In a horrifying and heart-wrenching scene, Martha is executed by electric chair. Kreizler had promised Martha before her death that he would find her missing baby. Soon, Sara will also have to assist with finding another missing baby. Sara is hired to find the missing child of a Spanish dignitary who mysteriously disappeared from inside her own home. The child is replaced by a doll with eyes painted on the eyelids and a mouth looking bloodied. We soon find out that there is a connection between the doll that was left, a department store, an abandoned building, and a group of people from the other side of town that will start our team on their path. Where they are headed will be revealed in the remaining episodes.
What I adore about The Alienist: Angel of Darkness is the way it uncovers things about its characters. For example, Sara is quite often seen smoking a cigarette while “in thought.” It shows a certain bravado, a certain savoir faire about her sex and what women are supposed to stand for— docileness, attentiveness, not making a scene. This is not our Sara. Our Sara is someone who I would want on my side, as my detective, and as a drinking partner while drinking some of that American Bourbon. In a particularly poignant scene in Episode 1, and to hammer my point home, Kreizler starts to look around Sara’s office, and Sara quickly “slaps” him on the hand for trying to analyze her based on her office decor.
I still adore the relationship between our original trio. The “friendships” and connections between Kreizler, Moore, and Sara are complicated and messy but they come from a deep affinity for each other. In Season 1, the relationship between John and Sara was a complicated one, but it kept us on the edge of our seat with the “will they or won’t they?” From what I have seen in Episodes 1 and 2 of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness (as well as several TNT commercials) it’s far from over. What will the rest of the season bring? Will Kreizler also be a part of this love triangle? Only time will tell.
I am trying not to give too much away, but a certain scene in Episode 2 had me cheering. Let me just say that there is a “damsel in distress” moment, but it is not your regular outcome. Another tip of the hat to the writers, as parts of Episodes 1 and 2 this evening felt like they could be ripped from a recent headline. I have a feeling the rest of the run will further dive into subjects in which we can see much of what is happening around us of late.
Last time I wrote on The Alienist, I would end all my discussions with questions. The questions I have going into Episodes 3 and 4: where is this trail of the missing Spanish diplomat’s child going to leave us? Is there a link between the hospital where Martha Knapp had her baby and the missing Spanish diplomat’s baby girl? Will Kreizler learn to like John’s fiancée or analyze her like everyone else in his life? I will have more questions as the mystery unravels. Until then…