Cinemax's The Knick: Is It Just What the Doctor Ordered?

The Knick Series Premiere

“We now live in a time of endless possibility.”

So proclaims Dr. John Thackery on Cinemax’s The Knick, as he gives an impassioned speech about the future of medicine.

The year 1900, in which The Knick is set, was indeed an exciting time for the medical community, as doctors made new revelations in their field. But the turn of the 20th century was also decidedly unglamorous for other reasons — among them racism, sexism and social class differences.

All of these elements appear in The Knick’s first hour, helmed by Emmy winner Steven Soderbergh (Behind the Candelabra). John Thackery (played by Closer’s Clive Owen) is immediately introduced as the Dr. House of the 1900s: brilliant doctor by day, liquid cocaine addict by night.

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After Thackery’s mentor is driven to suicide following a devastating and unsuccessful surgery, Thackery becomes chief surgeon at New York City’s Knickerbocker Hospital — but not on his terms. Rather than allow Thackery to hire who he’d like as assistant chief of surgery, the wealthy father-daughter pair overseeing The Knick insist Thackery hire Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland, 1600 Penn).

And why shouldn’t he? Algernon is qualified, he’s intelligent… but he’s also a black man, and Thackery won’t stand for an integrated hospital staff, a point he makes quite clear in his first meeting with Algernon: “You can only run away and join the circus if the circus wants you. I don’t want you in my circus.”

But Algernon is brought on anyway, despite Thackery’s protests, and we quickly learn that Thackery’s racism is only one of his many flaws. In a particularly harrowing scene, Thackery’s cocaine withdrawal renders him unable to perform surgery at the hospital — until rookie nurse Lucy injects the drug into the underside of his privates. (True story: That scene had me cringing more than any of the surgery sequences, which are definitely not for the squeamish.)

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Still, it’s clear that Thackery is far from the only corrupt guy walking Manhattan’s streets. Elsewhere in the premiere, a pair of ambulance drivers spend their day threatening other first responders who get in their way, and the city’s health inspector eagerly accepts hush money from negligent landlords.

It’s a colorful cast, no doubt, and The Knick combines its rich characters with smart writing and compelling cinematography. The medical drama’s first hour is thoroughly gripping — as long as you don’t plan on eating while you watch.

What did you think of The Knick‘s debut episode? Grade the premiere via our poll below, then hit the comments to back up your choice.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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17 Comments
  1. Certainly ensnared me — excited by its boldness and fresh approach.

  2. EJ says:

    For those with HBO but not Cinemax it will air on HBO on Saturday nights.

  3. Jenna says:

    Not for the faint of heart, but I found it fascinating. Very ambitious and bold. I’m in.

  4. Larry OBrien says:

    News flash-operations are bloody and many Doctors are bloody condescending. A boorish Irishman, a sharp tounged nun, a young nurse with gumption and lots of horses and slums.
    So what’s the big suspense?

    • lessthanrighteousindignation says:

      Do not think suspense was its objective.

    • Ian says:

      Yeah, like you said, I’m not getting what’s supposed to be so interesting about it. There’s no concept.

      It’s just another The Leftovers. Pretentious and overhyped.

  5. Zach says:

    Let me get this straight… this guy injects heroin through his penis?!?!? Yeah, I’m out…

  6. mime says:

    Does it remind anyone else of London Hospital aka Casualty 1909 from the BBC

    • Sara says:

      I watched London Hospital (which is what Amazon titled all the Casualty episodes) streaming from Amazon a few months ago. Knick is good, but it is almost a direct copy of Casualty! But, I’m not complaining, I was wishing the Casualty would never end! Love turn of the century medicine.

      • Leah says:

        It’s Soderbergh so of course it’s been ripped off. He won an Oscar for Traffic and it was a copy of a BBC miniseries, which he never acknowledged. There really isn’t too much about it online but if you watch British TV you realise how much he has taken directly for his own projects over the years.

  7. Jay2014 says:

    Absolutely loved it, can’t wait for next Friday!

  8. christine says:

    Will this be shown on HBO?

  9. herman1959 says:

    YUCK!

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