And now, in no particular order, five reasons why ONTD should hop on The Knick bandwagon (there's plenty of room):
Algernon Edwards, as played by Andre Holland, is amazing
Dr. Algernon Edwards is recruited by the illustrious Robertson family to join The Knickerbocker Hospital as Deputy Chief of Surgery after the position unexpectedly opens up. He is well-educated, passionate, forthright, and inventive. A man ahead of his time, but held back because society sucks. He is rich and complex, seeking out violence as his only outlet for control in his life. He also gives wonderful side-eye. Andre Holland is perfect in the role, and as I have said in the past, should be one of our ONTD boyfriends.
On a shallow note, look at how handsome he is:
The main women characters are great
The Knick doesn't get everything right with regards to its women characters (its treatment of the Chinese characters, particularly the women, is pretty awful), but the show's leading ladies are great. It might be easy to say that these women are defined by their male counterparts, but that would be doing a disservice to these characters. Each of these women fits a certain mold when we meet them, subscribing to Progressive Era ideals of womanhood. As the season progresses, however, we see them willfully break down those expectations or choose (and struggle) to live outside of them, and it makes for some riveting and heartbreaking television.
Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) is the head of the social welfare office at The Knick and is the daughter of Captain Robertson, a wealthy shipping tycoon who is the hospital's patron. As the season progresses, we get to see her interacting more and more with Dr. Edwards. She also gets a fun little side plot about a well-known medical case of the times. She is a bit of a bleeding heart, but it never comes across as disingenuous or self-serving. She doesn't do what she does because it is expected of her, but rather because it's her vocation.
Sister Harriet aka The Good Sis (Cara Seymour) is a chain-smoking Irish nun in charge of the orphanage appended to the hospital. She was a midwife before the male doctors took over the delivering of babies, but she still knows what's best for the expectant mothers in her ward and isn't afraid to say so. She gets some of the show's best lines, and Cara Seymour is wonderful in the role. I don't want to give away too much about this character, but stick around through episode 3 and you'll see what she's all about (regardless, you'll have fallen in love with her before this episode).
Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) is a recent transplant from West Virginia, having worked at The Knick for just three weeks when we meet her in the pilot. She's naive and somewhat shy, but there's a biting curiosity and a darkness underneath all that. She makes some questionable decisions throughout the season, but she has complete agency throughout all of them: everything she does, she does because she wants to do it. She also proves herself to be more capable than some of the men at getting shit done, although the things she gets done are... well... just watch the show. (Also, she's cute as a button!)
Some historical facts that enrich these characters:
- At this time, surgery was slowly legitimizing itself, and male doctors were taking over the duties of midwives. Midwives were increasingly seen as backwoods, so they were pushed out of their profession because they lacked proper credentials (credentials that were only recently established to favor the male doctors). The show lends credence to this as Sister Harriet has some tense moments with the doctors who think they know better.
- Beginning in the mid-1890s (the show takes place in 1900), women began adopting the bicycle as a symbol of their own freedom and independence, particularly as so many young women were making their way to cities. The fact that Lucy is so closely associated with her bicycle (both in imagery and by other characters), says more about her than if she gave some monologue about what a ~modern woman she is.
The original score by Cliff Martinez
Much has been written about Cliff Martinez's synth-inspired score for this show, so I won't wax poetic about it here. Just know that there is a reason so much hullabaloo has been made about it. (Yes, it is that good.)
Steven Soderbergh's everything
Soderbergh is all over this show. He's holding the camera that's filming the scene, and editing that scene to exact specifications. He's taking a scene that, on paper, is about one character and upends it by focusing his camera on a completely different character. He manipulates the viewer without them even knowing it, and it's brilliant. The abundance of tracking shots alone is reason to watch, as is the stunning cinematography. Also, not to get too technical, the RED Dragon camera Soderbergh uses to shoot the show allows him to film using natural light (which lends itself perfectly to 1900 New York). This show is a visual feast and it's all thanks to this man.
The operating scenes
Slight spoilers in video
Admittedly, these scenes are initially really off-putting and can potentially be a complete turn-off to watching the show. But if you can get through the first fifteen minutes of the pilot and past the initial shock of it all, these scenes are amazing. The actors make everything really convincing, like they're actually doctors and nurses butchering some poor soul on a 1900 operating table. Because of the nature of the scenes, they are gory, but they aren't sensationalized or gratuitous. These are hyperreal depictions of turn-of-the-century surgeries, and by the middle of the season you'll be asking yourself how they managed to make it all look so real as opposed to just going "eeeewwwwwww."
A behind-the-scenes look at The Knick hosted by Dr. Stanley Burns
The event was held at The National Arts Club and was hosted by Dr. Stanley Burns, head of the Burns Archive and the show's official historical and medical consultant. For an hour, guests were treated to a behind-the-scenes presentation about all the painstaking work the cast and crew put into making the show such a success. The talk was relatively spoiler-free since not everyone in the audience had seen the show, but there was still a lot he was able to share. Unfortunately, but understandably, no photos were allowed. Dr. Burns was, however, able to share plenty of details about working on the show:
- He showed a bunch of pictures of the cast at the "medical school" he had set up for them to learn how to properly suture and make all the doctor-y stuff look as natural and authentic as possible. I wish these photos would be released because there were some really cute ones. Eric Johnson (Dr. Everett Gallinger) was particularly proud of his suture work and took a sample home to show his wife.
- The cast apparently walked out of the "medical school" all like, "Wow, so now I am equipped to handle an emergency!" Dr. Burns had to set them straight. Lol.
- He is TOTALLY an Algie stan. Not everyone in the audience had seen the show, so just based on the videos/clips shown and how much Dr. Burns talked about Algie, one would think the whole show centered around him. It was great.
- Dr. Burns spoke extensively about how hard he and everyone worked to make the show historically and medically accurate.
Below are some examples:
- During the surgery scenes, the special effects team calculated the approximate speed at which blood would be flowing based on the fluctuating heart rate of the patient. So the amount of blood on screen is pretty accurate.
- When Soderbergh seated the extras in the operating amphitheater for the first surgery scene, he had placed the young hot guys in the front seats and then the older men toward the back. Dr. Burns walked in and told him that if he really wanted to go for accuracy, he should place the older men in front since the older, accomplished professors were the ones who sat in front to observe surgeries. So that's why the audience looks like this on the show:
What shows are you planning to binge-watch this holiday season, ONTD?