WARNING: Some spoilers may follow, though we don’t believe they will prohibit you from thoroughly enjoying The Knick.
Are you looking for a new show in your life? Do you like watching people inject cocaine into their feet? Their penises? Do early-1900s medical practices light a fire in your belly? Do you watch things like Scrubs and think, “I wish this was way darker and more graphic?” If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be a weirdo, but you will also probably enjoy The Knick, which premiered last Friday on Cinemax.
Regardless of your answers to the questions above, this show cures us all of a stunning deficiency that plagues the entire world. This illness is simply fixed. This illness is Clive Owen Deficiency. Clive (I asked, and he says I can call him Clive) has given many great performances, in everything from Children of Men to Hemingway and Gellhorn to one of the best scenes in the Bourne franchise, but sadly he is not constantly in the limelight like other inferior actors. But lo, here he is, in the flesh, as the brilliant Dr. John W. Thackery.
The Knick follows the ups and downs of a New York hospital (“The Knick”) in the early twentieth century, and it does so in a dark, dimly lit manner. Other, more qualified fans can detail the impressive career of director Steven Soderbergh, so I will simply say that his first episode is dark and sickening but also absolutely scintillating, from the opening surgery to Thackery’s inventive incisions as the episode wraps up. The scenes that take place in the surgery arena, a towering lecture hall filled with great minds and greater failures, make for dangerously compelling viewing, unforgiving in their illustrative depiction of the human body and its malfunctions. In under an hour of TV time, Clive’s Thackery manages to inject a patient with cocaine, re-suture some intestines, and reach deep inside a woman to pull out her stillborn baby. Medicine and surgery were scary and unpredictable in the time recreated before your eyes, so at the very least you will marvel at how far we have come in the past century (#blessed). Also, is there any celebrity you’d trust more to pull a baby out of you than Clive Owen? I could understand an argument for Jennifer Garner, but it hasn’t been proven that she’s not a rampaging psychopath.
We’ll get to more Clive in a second, but let’s give some love to his talented supporting cast. André Holland was fantastic in both 42 and 1600 Penn, and his work here is unsurprisingly promising as his Dr. Algernon Edwards fosters racial tension at The Knick. Chris Sullivan plays a vulgar, corrupt ambulance driver with malicious delight, and we even get to see Michael Angarano…from the indelible Sky High. Anyway, back to Clive! His Thackery taps into our endless desire for tortured saviors, our Jack Bauers and Walter Whites and Dr. Houses. He uses and detoxes and toils, but he also innovates, so of course we have to root for him. We root for his success but mainly for his chaos, his anarchical upending of traditional practices. Thackery battles God in his mind, with surgery a “game rigged against” him and his colleagues, aiming to “get in a few good licks before we surrender.” He’s part House and a dash of Sherlock Holmes, and I cannot wait to see what he does next.
If you love old ambulances with crank sirens, smoking nuns, corrupt and racist hospital administrators, and Clive’s disheveled hair, have no fear. You have until Friday to catch up on The Knick. I suggest you do so. With its invasive surgeries and injections, it gives a whole new meaning to “Skinemax.”