20th Aug2015

‘The Knick: The Complete First Season’ DVD Review

by Paul Metcalf


What do you get if you cross a period drama set in the early twentieth century, and a medical drama? The answer is The Knick, a Steven Soderbergh directed television show at the deadly cutting edge of surgery… Set in New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital the show focuses on the lives of the people who work there. From Dr. John W. Thackery (Clive Owen) the cocaine addicted head surgeon, Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland) the brilliant new doctor looked down on because of his skin colour, to the rich families that fund the hospital, we get a taste of hospital life at its darkest.

There is an annoying undertone to The Knick, but this annoyance has a point. Edwards is a doctor who is quite simply brilliant, but this isn’t accepted by most around him. Because of prejudices against his skin colour the doctors push him down, even try to push him out based on not only their beliefs but also those of the patients themselves. He fights, even with his own weakness of character to prove his place in the hospital and for those in need.

The Knick is not a show about success though, it is a dark depressing look at what surgery was like at the time, and there is no wonder that most of the people who chose to try save lives end up broken people. When innovations in medicine often meant death to those being experimented on, success rates were low. When things went right, it was industry changing.

If there is one problem with The Knick, it probably is the depressive nature of what we see on the screen. Maybe we’ll see something positive start to come into the show in the second season, but right now the darker side of medicine is all on show, as well as the darker side of New York. Add to that we even see the grim side of psychotherapy of the time, which is truly shocking. While some of the practices in real life mental hospitals of the time can’t be defended, it does feel that The Knick takes it a little extreme.

To keep you invested in such a show though the characters have to keep you invested, and Clive Owen has that ability to do just that, keeping the character charismatic. Addicted to cocaine, his character is selfish but brilliant, when he can control himself. Even with his distasteful actions, we can’t help but admire and pity him, knowing exactly what he is trying to escape from.

The Knick as a hospital is symbolic of New York itself at the time, a hotbed of diseases, corruption, racism and death. While people fight to try to improve it, for the most part there is a corruption too strongly invested forcing the status quo, and leading to death and failure. It needs saving from itself, if that is even possible.

A depressing watch at times, The Knick is also always an engrossing watch. It’ll grab you and make you watch things that are truly dark, while there may be a lack of redemption in this season, maybe in the future we’ll see it. The Knick Complete Season One is a good start to a show that holds promise, you just need a stomach for the darkness it has to show.

****½  4.5/5

The Knick: The Complete First Season is out on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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