The Knick: The Series (Seasons 1 & 2)

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Spoilers in Original,
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(Not in this Final Post)

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 It is with tremendous regret that I tell you that Cinemax’s brilliant series, The Knick, a fictional treatment — meticulously historically researched — of New York’s The Knickerbocker Hospital, will not be returning for a third season.

Not because of poor ratings, because they were excellent.

Not because of bad writing, because Jack Amiel and Michael Begler have given us some of the best scripted television in years. I haven’t seen a show this well done since The Tudors and Deadwood.

Not because of the actors’ performances either, because all of them — even if their characters were minor — were top-notch.

No, the sad truth of the reason The Knick will not be returning for a third season — or, if it does, it will be a completely different kind of show — is because director Steven Soderbergh and executive producer/principal star Clive Owen signed on to the show with the clear understanding that they were committing only to a two-year project.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 10: Director Steven Soderbergh (L) and actor Clive Owen speak onstage at the "The Knick" panel during the HBO portion of the 2014 Summer Television Critics Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 10, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

That’s changed what I was going to do this post on. Originally, I was going to tell you everything that had happened in season 2, with commentary, as I did with season 1. Now, I just want you to know about this magnificent show because if you missed it, you missed a classic, and you’ll want to watch both seasons (reading the associated blog posts afterward).

Clive Owen
as Dr. John Thackeray

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Clive Owen headlines the show as the brilliant but cocaine- & heroin-addicted Dr. John Thackeray. He performs daring surgeries, like attempting to separate conjoined twins being held captive in a freak show,

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trying to locate the source of addiction in the brain,

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operating on his former lover — doctors, especially surgeons, are not supposed to treat people they’re emotionally attached to — in an attempt to restore a semblance of a nose to her syphillis-ravaged features,

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even performing dangerous, life-threatening surgery on himself — refusing to allow any of the other surgeons to assist him, and talking to the surgical theater audience like a carnival barker as he does his “show.”

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That’s all going to be gone now, despite Cinemax’s claim that it’s in talks with writers Amiel and Begler for a third season, because Owen and Soderbergh will not be associated with any future seasons.

I should have realized that something was up, given Owen’s admitted distaste for long-term commitment to television series, which started his acting career. Now I know why he was on The Knick: he’d only committed himself for two years.

Our loss.

The Women
of The Knick

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Season 2 continued the trend of its premiere season, giving us strong, independent female characters, like hospital philanthropist, crusader, and amateur detective Cornelia (Juliet Rylance, above),

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Nurse Lucy (Eve Hewson, above R), who attempts to recover from a broken heart by ruthlessly pursuing a richer beau, without our knowing whether she really has any feelings for him,

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Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour), former midwife-turned-abortionist in her mission to take care of women’s health and their moral rights,

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Abbie, John’s former lover, and, apparently, his one true love, who not only returns from a brief appearance in season 1 to become involved with Thack as well as with patients at The Knick.

And viewers were treated to a surprise when Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland, below L) was confronted by an woman integral to his life, Opal (below R), who, as a British black, not influenced by the relatively recent history of slavery in the United States, as Dr. Edwards and his family are, provided a refreshing and sometimes angry counterpoint to African-American characters’ acceptance of their status as “unequal citizens.”

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I’ll miss the women of The Knick.

Not only were they tough and strong and interesting, but their stories were integrally related to (the lack of) women’s rights of the time period (1900-1901), no matter their socio-economic class or race.

The Men
of The Knick

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Though the show’s storyline was dominated by the immense presence of Clive Owen and his character, Dr. Thackeray, plenty of attention was given to the other surgeons. Dr. Edwards’ relationship was vitally important to the show since it involved not only racial integration of The Knick, but the morality of treating people differently because of skin color. Thack’s and Edwards’ relationship continued to develop significantly in the second season.

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But Edwards also got to step out of Thack’s shadow as he investigated new treatments and procedures, as well as to oversee the professional behavior of fellow surgeons.

Dr.  Gallinger’s (Eric Johnson, below) relationships with both his fellow surgeons continued to evolve. When not distracted by his wife’s or sister-in-law’s behavior, he’s attempting to outwit Edwards so that he himself can be appointed Deputy Chief Surgeon, as Thack had originally wished when he was appointed Chief Surgeon by the hospital Board.

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Dr. Bertram Chickering Jr (Michael Angarano, below, R) — affectionately known as “Bertie,” to his private-practice-physician-father’s disgust — got to spread his wings, emotionally and professionally.

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Even the minor characters — those who weren’t surgeons — got fully developed treatment and fascinating stories, as was Ambulance driver Tom Cleary’s (Chris Sullivan) with colleague and friend, Sister Harriet.

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The only man whose character didn’t seem developed was that of the embezzling, lying, philandering, gambling Barrow (Jeremy Bobb, below), administrator of The Knick and social-climber. He seemed the same in both seasons, which was a surprise considering how well developed other characters were.

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Other than that, all the men were great.

And some of them even managed to hold their own against the towering talent and presence of Clive Owen, indisputably the star of The Knick.

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I will miss The Knick immensely, and I’m not going to jump on the #RenewTheKnick bandwagon unless Clive Owen and Steven Soderbergh agree to come back. Without those two, the show simply can not be the same. And Clive seems to have taken his character as far as he could go, that is, without spending 7 years as another “Study of an Addict” as Nurse Jackie did with its show and star, Edie Falco.

If you missed any of The Knick, you can watch all episodes of both seasons on Cinemax (MaxGo) free if you’re already a subscriber. If not, you can purchase Season One ($1.99-2.99/episode, SD/HD, or $19.99/HD season) on Amazon Instant Video. (Season 2 is not yet available on Amazon.)

Here’s the trailer for Season One.

And, in case you’ve seen the first year’s episodes, here’s the official trailer for Season Two.

Related Posts

Season One

The Most Unkindest Cut of All:
Cinemax’s Brilliant Series The Knick

Knick, Knack, Paddy-Whack, Give the Doc a Smack:
Cinemax’s The Knick

Kudos to The Knick

It was the Best of Times, It was the Worst of Times:
The Knick Season [1] Finale

The Knick: Season 1, Revisited

Season Two

To The Knick, to the Knick, to the Knick, Knick, Knick:
Season 2 Premiere

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