I guess the first looming question I have coming into The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Episode 6 (“Memento Mori”) is “Did they or didn’t they?” I think from the looks of it, they did—and I can’t say that I am not just a little disappointed in Sara and John. Yes, I am rooting for them, truly. It killed me when John said, “All I want is to be worthy of you, Sara.” But by being together in this way, are either of them worthy of the other? “It is not that simple” is Sara’s answer, and you’re damn right it’s not.
We see Libby on the lam, washing up in a horse’s water stall. She is unhinged and declaring, “I lost my baby. She was stolen from me!” You’re right, Libby. Your baby when you were a patient at not an employee of Lying-In Hospital was stolen from you. I am not making excuses for her heinous crimes, but to lose a child and then see that being done to all those other women…my gosh, I can feel sorry for her. It especially brings me back to what Kreizler tells Martha Knapp in Episode 1. I am paraphrasing, but it was something to the effect of, “It is not you that is the monster. It is the world around that is monstrous.”
Speaking of Kreizler, he and Pauly are at Houdini’s expedition. Houdini hangs above a massive crowd in his straight jacket and handcuffs. As his poster states, he is “The Handcuff King.” We then see Pauly sitting with a book, trying to recreate one of Houdini’s rope tricks—this cannot end well. We also cut to Violet and Hearst discussing John always running to Sara’s aid. The relationship between Hearst and Violet is interesting. Is this a case of bringing true history to the story? It has long been rumored that the real-life Hearst had a love child. Could the implication that I’m reading into Hearst’s relationship with his “goddaughter” Violet be the reason that Hearst wants her to marry John? John is a part of society’s upper crust, and Violet implies that Sara is to John what her mother was to Hearst. Interesting context.
Bitsy comes to see Sara at Grandmother Moore’s with the article Hearst put on the front page of the Journal. What John sees as pulling Sara down, Bitsy says is the opposite: they’ve been funneling calls all morning. Sara appreciates the leads, but she makes both Bitsy and John aware that the case with Libby is far from over. Sara’s question of “Where did Libby keep the babies?” was my question, too. Where’s the cage crib we saw?
Libby finds Goo Goo, and he cleans her up and continues to show how much he cares for her. There is a very interesting dynamic between the two of them. He tries to bring her out of her depressed state by telling her, “Let’s get you another one. The one you’s been eyeing?” Who’s the next poor baby she has been eyeing?
Just as I suspected, upon Kreizler’s return to the Institute, he finds poor Pauly hanging from the ceiling. He gets to him in the knick of time, but the damage has been done. Captain Doyle and his cronies come to investigate. We all know it was an accident, but Kreizler takes this very hard. And to make matters worse, the man they send from the medical board to investigate has axes to grind with our dear Dr. Kreizler. Guess who? Dr. Markoe. The Institute is shut down, and Kriezler loses his license. He can appeal, but with Markoe at the helm, it will be nearly impossible.
Sara and John go to investigate the house again but are brushed off for the “real” police to do the investigation, and Sara thinks to go to the burned-out condemned home next door. Libby wouldn’t possibly stay there or keep the babies in such squalor and danger, would she? Of course she would. She had a room where she was keeping Baby Ana and the other babies, and she had a shrine of photos of all “her” babies. All painted eyelids, memento mori, and all. She also had keepsake boxes of baby memories of each one. This case just keeps going deeper and deeper. Sara finds a brush with a new insignia on it. She asks John if he recognizes it, but he doesn’t. Who is Libby’s next victim? Whoever it is, it’s someone who does not live on that side of town.
Kreizler returns from visiting Pauly and tells Sara what has happened, and she tells him she’ll do anything he needs to help him get back the Institute and his license. Kreizler also tells Sara about Karen and his feelings for her. It is very nice to see this moment between Sara and Laszlo. Kreizler may be collaborating with Professor Stratton, but he also has this wonderful friendship with Sara. She goes on to tell Kreizler how happy she is that he has found someone and how John has too. Cue some tears, but I am not sure she believes that. From his look, I am not sure Kreizler believes it either. We then cut to John and Violet—not a coincidence—and it seems that John is trying to tell her what happened (or at least how he feels about Sara). Per usual, he doesn’t get far as Violet tells him how much she loves him and can’t wait to be announced as Mrs. John Schuyler Moore. I still question, though, does Violet love John for who he is or what he can bring to her name? I think it’s the latter, especially after the spectacle at their engagement party.
Here comes Libby with an empty baby carriage. Oh, a little lost boy! Someone should help him. A nice lady with a baby in a carriage comes to save the day. Silly lady, now your baby has been stolen by a psychotic ex-wet nursemaid. To frame this scene, John and Sara are in the Times archives trying to find out the name attached to the crest in Libby’s lair. Boy, no one can say that Libby does not dream big: John and Sara find the crest, and it’s none other than the Vanderbilt’s. The team meets back at the detective agency to figure out which Vanderbilt, but they don’t have to wait long to find out. Cornelius Vanderbilt sends a carriage to come and collect Sara.
Hearst and Byrnes are already filling Vanderbilt’s ears and trying to knock Sara down. Vanderbilt has brought in everyone his money can buy to try and find his grandson, so this should of course include the person who found the Linares baby. Right on cue, Sara comes and defends her being able to maneuver around Duster territory and puts Byrnes right in his place. She tells Vanderbilt she already knew he would be taken, and she was hoping to stop it before it happened. She unfolds the handkerchief with all the items Libby had taken, which begs the question: how did Libby acquire all these items?
Sara tells Vanderbilt she’ll take the case on a couple of conditions: lift Kreizler’s suspension and reinstate him into practice so he can help her with the investigation, and that she is to be the lead, not Byrnes. Byrnes will work for her. Byrnes starts to voice his disapproval, but none of this dissuades Vanderbilt. I think he likes Sara’s moxie. Sara’s on the case. Kreizler is still feeling beaten down and questions taking on this case, but Sara assures him that she’ll make sure Vanderbilt keeps his word. Discussing Libby and trying to locate where she’ll go next, Sara mentions the kinship she felt with her. Both their fathers died in an “accident.” Sara feels Libby wanted her to know her. John figures there must have been coverage of such a tragic accident. Perhaps the Times archives could give them more insight, so John asks Sara to join him. Kreizler picks up on some tension between the two, and I wonder if he mentions any of that to Karen during their next absinthe meeting.
The duo does discuss the difference between a fetish and a woman owning her own pleasure from what someone else may deem not normal. Yes, Kreizler, in the Victorian era women enjoyed sex, too. In the case of Libby, she received pleasure from Goo Goo feeding on her, not only because that’s a big part of who she is, but because it also brought her pleasure. This goes down a deep rabbit hole into what she is doing and the outcome it has had. But we finally have her real name thanks to John and Sara; Libby Hatch is really Elspeth Hunter. Elspeth originally hailed from Brooklyn, where her father met his unfortunate end helping build the Brooklyn Bridge. Sara tells Vanderbilt that’s where she and the team will be headed. She feels that Libby will be going to where she feels most comfortable, most at home. Sure enough, we find Libby, Goo Goo, and Baby Vanderbilt on top of a roof in Brooklyn with the most stunning and close-up view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Is Libby torturing herself by being back there or trying to remember where she comes from?
Going into the final two episodes of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, I do not know where we are headed. Libby keeps surprising our Victorian CSI team. Why did she choose to kidnap a boy this time? What significance, if any, does Vanderbilt have in this? Is she trying to punish them, or was this just another random choice of a family that has more luxuries than she would ever see? The ride just keeps getting bumpier and bumpier. I cannot wait to see where we end up next, and I’m not talking about Brooklyn.