HBO Home Entertainment
By Mike Bax
“God’s not watching. He’s too busy not saving sick children and letting people starve.” John Thackery
Cinemax (HBO parent company) series The Knick may not be for everyone, but fans of character rich period dramas should really give it a try. The series centers on John Thackery (Clive Owen) and his work as a virtuoso surgeon at The Knickerbocker Hospital, situated in the sketchy part of New York at the turn of the century. Cocaine, something Thackery is heavily addicted to, was legal at the time. Watching Thackery’s brilliance as a surgeon while knowing he’s high as a kite for most of the procedures is somewhat disturbing. Watching the barbaric procedures performed at the clinic – and I say barbaric because of the trial and error approach to surgery at this time – is often challenging. I’d advise not eating while watching this show. The life expectancy back then was approximately forty, and diseases like Typhoid and Meningitis play heavily into the storyline.
The real lynchpin of this series is the inclusion of Algernon Edwards (played by André Holland), a young black doctor every bit as talented and daring as Thackery. The racial segregation around having an African American surgeon at the clinic, and the overt bigotry present at the time play heavily into The Knick. Add in Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb), the superintendent who is up to his eyeballs in debt (to local gangsters) and is using The Knick in any way he can to help leverage off his debt. The plots around the supporting cast are all well thought out. The characters are all challenging, and offer the involved actors plenty of fodder for multiple moments of greatness throughout the first season.
The REAL selling feature of The Knick is quite simply this: all ten episodes are directed by Steven Soderbergh, with a wonderful score provided by Cliff Martinez. The Knick is like a ten hour long Soderbergh film, broken into ten segments. It’s a beautiful looking show, and offers many unique and magical moments. There is a wonderful scene involving John Thackery learning how to ride a bicycle which comes to mind, along with an interesting sequence involving Algernon Edwards in an alley brawl that is filmed with the camera mounted somehow behind his head; it makes for one of the most interesting fight sequences I’ve seen filmed.
Season One of The Knick more than delivers. Each episode is unique and adds momentum towards the Season One finale. If the show manages a second season of this calibre, it will become a bona fide buzz show that friends and family will binge watch with wild abandon.
The Blu-ray presentation delivers a beautiful transfer in 1080p high definition, along with robust sound over all ten episodes. The extras on this first season aren’t many… three audio commentaries and 18 minutes with of ‘Episode Post-Op’ segments all weighing in at about two minutes each. The show itself is well worth your attention. Make sure you add The Knick to your ‘to do’ list before the next season starts up (it’s scheduled to premiere on October 16, 2015).