The Knick Season Two: I Love Chris Sullivan’s Cleary & Clive Owen’s Dr. Thackery is a Lunatic Genius [Review]

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From Cinemax and director Steven Soderbergh comes the acclaimed surgical period drama The Knick. Starring Clive Owen, Andre Holland, Katrina E. Perkins, Juliet Rylance, Eric Johnson, Eve Hewson, Chris Sullivan, Michael Angarano, Cara Seymour and Jeremy Bobb.

A look at the professional and personal lives of the staff at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital during the early part of the twentieth century.

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I had forgotten Steven Soderbergh’s plans to have The Knick be a two-season deal when this thing first began. So now that the dust has settled and I’m still sitting here stunned at the second season finale — everything is starting to make sense. After Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) was sent to a treatment facility and winds up hooked on even more drugs (that tasty smack), the Knick’s surgery unit is now being run by Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland). Much of the driving force this year is the construction of the brand new Knick hospital as well, turning much focus towards the politics side than last season.

Characters like Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) have a ton of time to shine this season, showing the corrupt side of business at the turn of the century. Bobb is doing tremendous work this season and his story arc is wonderfully chaotic as he tries to skim money from the new hospital as it’s being built. Bobb can play one helluva dickhead. I was extremely happy at how much time we spend with the wonderfully bearded ambulance driver Cleary this season. Chris Sullivan did such an incredible job and his character stole absolutely every scene he walked into. Whether he’s smacking someone with a club or fighting for disgraced nun Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour), it was Cleary all day long and I ate it up. Their partnership took exciting turns that I didn’t see coming but it all made perfect sense by the end of the season. Just hearing Cleary call all the other nuns who treated Harriet badly a bunch of C**ts was supremely satisfying. I love Cleary.

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What made season one of The Knick so engrossing and at times divisive among audiences, were the graphic sequences of surgery which looked ultra-realistic and unsettling. There isn’t as much of “that” this season, but when it does hit – it’s just as fascinating. I was blown away by the lesson Thackery gives the auditorium when he’s poking an alert patient’s brain and affecting their emotions simply by inserting a metal rod into their head. It was crazy. The black humour of season one isn’t as evident this go-around as we tend to spend more time watching our eclectic cast of characters go through the emotional ringer instead. There’s still comedy, but it’s less to do with the barbaric medical equipment than it is simply to do with how people acted back in the early 1900’s on a cultural level. I was shocked to see Edwards laughing at two comedians in black face. He wasn’t even offended – he was giggling. Oh how the times have changed.

Every single supporting character this season had a terrific story arc and one that played out to it’s definitive end. Some more exciting than others and a few incredibly depressing. I was less enthusiastic about the Robertson family storyline and how Cornelia was fighting to expose corruption. For me it was the most lackluster tale of the bunch but it ended shockingly well despite a slow build so I give the writers an immense amount of credit for wrapping up this season as well as they did. Turns out we are getting a season three (scripts have been ordered) and I’m curious as to who will be back and what will happen after that stunner of a finale. They could have easily ended the show after 20 episodes.

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Clive Owen is so much fun to watch. Whether he’s spiralling out of control during a cocaine fuelled all-night research binge or he’s in front of an audience about to perform surgery – ON HIMSELF. He’s a fucking lunatic. This series is very much an ensemble piece but Owen is such a great performer that whenever he enters the scene, he owns it so hard. I can’t think of too many better leading men in television this year. The Knick season two was better than the first and the first was brilliant television. I have no idea how the show will go on after it concluded so wonderfully but I’m happy at the prospect of more episodes.

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