The Knick launched its first season on Cinemax around this time last year, to critical acclaim but a very small audience. In an effort to boost viewership for season two (I assume), HBO, parent company to Cinemax, is streaming The Knick on HBONow for a limited time. If you don’t have Cinemax and want to get caught up on this excellent, very underrated show, now is the perfect time!
The Knick takes place in the early 1900s at the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York City. The Knickerbocker was a real hospital in Harlem, however The Knick is a fictionalized version of the hospital. Clive Owen plays The Knick’s newly appointed chief of surgery, Dr. John Thackery, who has a severe cocaine and opium addiction. With the help of his surgical team, Dr. Thackery practices the most advanced medicine known to physicians during this time period. Over time we see Dr. Thackery’s ability to balance his drug habit and medical practice deteriorate, often with devastating consequences for his patients and colleagues.
Though the transformation of medicine is probably the most enticing part of the show (aside from Clive Owen, lets be real, I could look at him all day), The Knick is about much more than medicine. It touches on hospital politics, addiction and mental illness, racial conflict as it relates to health care in the post Civil War era, and the greed and corruption of New York City in the early 1900s.
I love everything about this show. It’s brilliantly acted by Clive Owen and the supporting cast; it is well-written and all ten episodes are beautifully directed by Steven Soderbergh. After watching season one of True Detective and season one of The Knick it is becoming clearer that a single director across all episodes in a season may be the key to nearly flawless television. The cinematography in The Knick isn’t afraid to break composition rules and the editing takes advantage of that to capture the aesthetic and the excellent performances given by the actors.
All around, The Knick is a well-done show. It will keep you interested during every episode and the final shot of the season finale is perfect. I was incredibly disappointed to see how little attention was paid to it in this year’s Emmy nominations. While being snubbed from the most of the main categories it picked up nominations for the Creative Arts/Technical Emmys in the following categories:
- Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
- Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period Program
- Outstanding Hairstyling for a Single-Camera Series
- Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)
- Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or a Special
Fair warning: Due to the subject matter there are some pretty graphic surgery scenes; the prosthetics and makeup are very well done. The first episode made me pretty queasy and I am not usually shaken by these kind of explicit images. That being said, if you can get through the first episode it becomes much more tolerable for the rest of the season.
Season one is running on HBONow for a limited time and season two is set to premiere on Cinemax on October 16.