The Knick: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray [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. Season one is available on DVD/Blu-ray August 11th. The series begins it’s second season October 16th.

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The Series

Clive Owen stars as Dr. John Thackery, a brilliant surgeon who is constantly revolutionizing the way doctors operated in the early 1900’s. The mustachioed Owen is a madman here and as the season winds down his performance really begins to shine. Thackery is a genius but he heavily relies on injecting himself with cocaine in order to function on a daily basis. There’s an amazing flashback scene where Thackery and his mentor, played by the gloriously bearded Matt Frewer just start injecting themselves with coke right before they head out into the auditorium to perform a major surgery.

When The Knick isn’t scaring the shit out of you, it’s probably making you laugh. The black comedic aspects of the series are rivaled only by Fargo. Much of the humor comes from the seemingly barbaric time-based elements such as the way X-Rays were introduced. There’s a moment where someone asks if they can X-Ray his head to which the salesman agrees immediately and proceeds to ask the guy to sit still for an hour. But it’s alright; he’s tested this machine on his children a bunch of times. It’s hilarious and it’s awful. The closing shot of the season follows in that tradition and manages to come off as one of the best finale moments of 2014.

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Racial tension is a major slice of subject matter on The Knick. Andre Holland plays an African American doctor who winds up joining the Knickerbocker much to the chagrin of nearly every other staff member and despite his medical proficiencies, he’s constantly spoken down to and ignored. The battle for his acceptance is a long and difficult one on The Knick. All of that tension comes to a brutal head in Episode 7 “Get The Rope”, when a race riot breaks out after a white policeman is murdered by a black offender. If you look this incident up the history books, that riot actually happened in New York. The way it’s depicted here feels like the opening 10 minutes of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of The Dead. It’s as if every angry white person was a zombie and they only felt the need to eat African Americans. It was terrifying and the results were in my opinion one of the best episodes of any show in 2014.

Steven Soderbergh continues to say that he’s retired, but he’s working more than ever these days. He directed all 10 episodes of The Knick and managed to deliver some of his best camera-work yet. The series is gorgeous and despite being a period piece it never felt flat. The strange music score helped greatly and was a neat aspect of the show, setting it apart from other period pieces like Boardwalk Empire. The surgery scenes in the auditorium were incredibly satisfying — even if you can get uneasy at the sight of blood. Be warned, you will see a lot of it. These ultra-realistic sequences are something to behold, coupled with the fact that at any moment something awful could go wrong considering the time period. It’s a relief when someone actually manages to make it out of the surgery room alive and in one piece.

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If there was one negative aspect of The Knick, I’d say that maybe a little too much time was spent focusing on Thackery’s cocaine withdrawals near the end of the season. As great as Owen’s performance was, the story grinded to a halt in order to focus on his painful journey to scavenge cocaine. He even tries to scrape the bottom of several coca-cola bottles – remember when coke actually used to have coke in it? Yeah that happened. So even though the series lost a little bit of steam after an explosive episode seven, it still managed to impress overall with it’s fantastic array of supporting characters and dark comedy that injected something unique into a setting that would otherwise be overly grim and hard to handle.

The Special Features

I will be completely honest with you when I say that I was a touch let down by the lack of any standalone ‘making of’ feature. That being said, there is a ‘Post-Op’ recap for every single episode and although they are a little short, clocking in around 2-3 minutes in length –they’re awesome.

These little recaps do their best to get some insight from the cast and creators as they recall the most interesting story points from the episode as well as reflect on the occasional ‘how the hell did they do that’ sequence. It’s an interesting way to deliver special features in a quick hit system. For new viewers who haven’t seen the show before — it’s perfect for them since they can simply watch a Post-Op after every episode.

The commentary is good — I listened to the one on ‘Get The Rope’, which is by far the season’s most intense episode as it deals with a race riot. It was interesting to hear what was going on in the cast’s heads and hearing how Eve Hewson almost fainted just from hacking off a prosthetic arm during an amputation scene — was great. The gore and effects on The Knick truly are some of the most realistic ever produced for television.

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  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Run Time: 640 Minutes
  • Region: A
  • Aspect Ratio: Widescreen
  • Studio: HBO Home Video
  • Blu-Ray Release Date: August 11, 2015
  • Cast: Katrina E. Perkins, Clive Owen, André Holland
  • Genre: TV Series
  • Color: Color

Rating:

In this new scripted drama from director Steven Soderbergh (who directed all ten episodes), brilliant surgeon John Thackery (Oscar® nominee Clive Owen) pushes the boundaries of medicine, morality and race relations in 1900 at a downtown NYC hospital known as,The Knick. While Dr.Thackery searches to solve a plethora of medical mysteries and develops an unhealthy addiction to cocaine, which was legal at the time, the fate of The Knick, short for The Knickerbocker Hospital, hangs in the balance.

Thanks to the influence of rich patrons like Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) Thackery is paired against his will with a young black doctor, Algernon Edwards (André Holland), whose intelligence and at-all-costs methods rivals Thackery’s, and is hired over Thackery’s protégé, Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson). Other supporters of Thackery at the hospital include Dr. “Bertie” Chickering Jr. (Michael Angarano), a young surgeon secretly in love with nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson), who is drawn to Thackery; Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour), who runs the foundling hospital and maternity ward; Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb), the Knick’s crooked superintendent, awash in debt and willing to risk The Knick’s future to pay it off; and Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan), the ambulance driver, who will stoop to the lowest depths to bring the right kind of patients to The Knick.

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