We continue being a fly on the wall at the beginning of this The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Episode 5, “Belly of the Beast.” Libby is pouring a proper tea for herself and the now brutally deceased Matron. A knock at the door and we see Libby in full-on psychotic liar mode, telling the landlady that our dear departed Matron has gone on a trip—way into the other side—and bye-bye now. Baby Ana is with her, and she knows she needs to be fed. In her hunger, Baby Ana bites Libby, and she says, “My baby doesn’t bite.” At this moment, I believe that Libby is telling the truth: her baby doesn’t bite, because she never got to nurse her baby. The dead woman in the kitchen knew where that baby went, and Libby punished her for that knowledge. Let me take a moment and give props to The Alienist’s cinematography. Libby looking at herself in the compact and seeing the Matron propped up at the table was a brilliant shot. I am continually amazed at the beautiful cinematic filming of The Alienist. It truly transports you to New York City circa 1897.
Sara visits Bitsy in the hospital, and Bitsy makes Sara aware that Libby is using the drug on herself and has charcoal-colored teeth (just like the Knapp baby). She also makes Sara aware of another photo—what photograph is she referring to? In the meantime, Byrnes and Captain Doyle make a visit to the Lying-In Hospital and Dr. Markoe. Lucius, still getting evidence from the scene, removes a photo of Libby and the other nurses from the wall. In a moment of sheer surprise, Byrnes tells Dr. Markoe that while he appreciates what Dr. Markoe is trying to do at the hospital, he has five daughters of his own and is a churchgoing man and that he isn’t naïve. So, knowing that all the babies are “stillborn” better be the extent of it, and if not, Byrnes himself will come after him for his crimes. I do believe that it is not the extent of it and would like nothing more than for Byrnes to destroy Dr. Markoe for his part in this sick and heartless practice. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Sara and Lucius go to visit the Matron at her apartment. They have no cause to enter, but then they see the large bloodstain on the floor. I’d call that cause, wouldn’t you? Once they see Matron “having her tea,” they call the rest of the team to come in and assess the scene. Kreizler believes that Libby’s killing of the Matron was punishment. She wanted to watch her die. Again, probably because this woman had a hand in taking away her baby.
Sara goes through the apartment “feeling” what Libby’s movements and motives were—like she was getting inside her head, like Kreizler does, except woman to woman. As Marcus and Lucius collect evidence and samples, Sara finds the brush used to paint eyes on the outside of the Matron’s lids, not unlike the doll left in Baby Ana’s crib and the Knapp baby. They found the poison that Libby uses but no charcoal, so no neutralizing the effects. Sara knows they are running out of time to find Baby Ana before the poison kills her. We flash to Libby and poor Baby Ana in her caged crib, but where are they? It looks like a room in a home, but where?
Kreizler knows Libby is unraveling. She’s reckless and impulsive, almost as if she’s not sure of the plan that seems to have been her modus operandi all this time. For context, we see Libby just sitting on a park bench in plain sight of everyone in high society. She’s smoking, stressed, and not tending to the cries of Baby Ana. Is she at the end of this journey with Ana? Will the team find her in time?
Meanwhile, the police are interrogating Colleen and her knowledge of Libby. She recognizes her in a large book of criminals and those who fraternize with them. Libby is an alias, but who is she attached to? Goo Goo Knox, perhaps? If this is true, this does not bode well for our Victorian CSI team. Now that they know she could be attached to Dusters (via Marcus coming to let them know after Colleen’s interrogation), Sara and John make another visit to Cyrus’s drinking establishment. He confirms my guess: Libby is Goo Goo Knox’s girl. On their way back to the agency, Sara complains about the girls leaving the lights on when they leave but…dun dun dun…it wasn’t the girls, Sara. Libby got into the agency, stole Sara’s father’s gun, and left a whole bunch of creepily drawn eyes and the word “Stupid” written on the chalkboard where all their Libby notes were. Of course, with John being the gentleman that he is, and the fact that he is still in love with Sara and cares deeply about her well-being (maybe only my two cents, but…) he insists that Sara stay at his grandmother’s home. He does apologize to her about his actions at his engagement party, but again, I do believe they were said out of anger and not because he does not care. I think he cares too much.
Kreizler’s attention has been split, but in a nice moment with Pauly (his patient whom he’s turned on to magic) Pauly shows him the magical noose trick. There was an eeriness to this moment. Could this be some heavy foreshadowing of an event to come? Along with his relationship with Pauly, we catch a glimpse of his budding, dare I say relationship with fellow Alienist Karen Stratton. She brings him to a bar that specializes in the ceremony of absinthe. Their first toast, drinking to get drunk. On absinthe, I would say that’s a pretty solid toast. For someone like Kreizler who doesn’t like to lose control, this is an interesting match. He ends up enlisting Karen’s help on the case. I love this scene because Kreizler is vulnerable to Karen. When asking, he tells her “the female mind is confusing,” so her reply is a question of is she a subject or a sounding board. With respect, he replies as a colleague and needs some guidance as Libby keeps surprising him with her motives. So, as a colleague, they toast to collaboration. This is a collaboration I cannot wait to see play out.
Sara knows she cannot wait long or else Libby’s actions with Baby Ana might be dire. So, with the help of Johanna, they follow Fat Jack—who is neither fat nor looks like a Jack—to the Dusters’ hangout. There they see Libby with Goo Goo. I actually believe that Goo Goo loves Libby, which you can see in the way he tries to calm her as she’s breaking down. She keeps repeating that she doesn’t want any baby; she wants her baby. This poor girl. The machine which the Lying-In Hospital is churning created this poor child. Goo Goo feeds from her, like a proxy breastfeeding infant. Not only is Libby his lover, but she’s also his wet nurse in a strange and (as Sara says later) carnal way.
Knowing that Sara is planning on staying on Libby, Johanna goes and warns John at his dinner with Hearst and Violet. A shock to the entire establishment, John leaves to assist Sara, once again leaving Violet alone. In an aside to Byrnes afterward, Hearst mentions how much this bothers them both (and I would dare to say it’s for good reason), but Byrnes ends up giving Hearst quite the headline. The Byrnes/Sara dynamic is interesting. It is almost as if he’s quite jealous of everything Sara can accomplish. Does he feel she is a better “detective” than he is? I believe those Irish eyes are quite envious of Ms. Howard.
Sara follows Libby into an abandoned house, through the root cellar and up to the bedrooms, where Libby gets the drop on her before John, Kreizler, and the Issacson brothers arrive. In some quick thinking by Sara, she throws a handful of ash into Libby’s face, stunning her, and as she tries to get away, Sara pleads with her not to make her shoot her. Libby shuts the mirrored armoire door in Sara’s face, and Sara shoots, breaking the glass and startling John and Baby Ana, who is tucked into the bottom drawer. They found her! On the way to bring Baby Ana to the Linareses, Kreizler praises Sara for her “championing” of the case. You can tell how much she cared about finding her safe and sound. You can also see John looking at her with Baby Ana and thinking those John Schuyler Moore thoughts. You wonder if Sara is thinking those same “what if” thoughts as she returns Baby Ana into the loving arms of Señor and Señora Linares
Cut to the next day: John and Sara are back at John’s grandmother’s home, and John admits to Sara that he wanted to hurt her with his words. She knows he did not want to hurt her. She also knows that he still feels a great deal for her. And from the ending of Episode 5 of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, it is safe to say she feels a GREAT deal for him. I do not want to give the details away, but I do need to quote David Lynch at this moment: “Who is the dreamer?” I am sure many of us had this thought while watching what unfolded. Besides the dream being realized, I am sure in the next episode we will have to see the consequences.
My questions going into the next episode of Angel of Darkness: Who is Libby really? What is her history? What (besides the Lying-In Hospital) made her who she is at this moment? Also, what story will Hearst embellish about our Sara? And lastly, what did we just witness? The beginning of the end of our favorite duo?