TV Review: ‘The Alienist’

Written by on February 12, 2018

The streetlights do little to illuminate the night as the snow crunches under the boots of a lone policeman. In the dark, he remains alert at his post. On his patrol, the officer stops at the construction of a bridge where a severed hand lays on the icy ground and blood drips from above, bespeckling the man’s cheek. He beats his nightstick against a metal pole to sound the alarm. The night rings with discourse.

In TNT’s new drama, The Alienist, (based on the best-selling novel by Caleb Carr) 1896 sees the grisly murders of male prostitutes in New York City as three unlikely characters team up to hunt for the killer.

The story centers on criminal psychologist Dr. Laszalo Kreizler (played by Daniel Bruhl—You may know him from Captain America: Civil War and generally being German), a man interested in practicing modern medicine with unorthodox methods. When news travels about the mutilated child on the bridge, this knowledge triggers a case he encountered years earlier.

Determined to make the connection between the crimes and build a profile of the killer, Kreizler seeks the help of newspaper illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans) and the quick-witted police commissioner secretary Sara Howard (American sweetheart Dakota Fanning). What the police lack in uncorrupted investigation, this rag-tag team will use early modern psychology and forensics to bring a murderer to justice.


Why is it worth watching?

It has been said time and again this is the “Golden Age” of television, where audiences have a variety of options to choose from for their viewing pleasure. Competition is high, and TNT is trying to become a contender while distancing itself from the channel you watch Law & Order and Supernatural reruns.

The main consensus among viewers today seems to be the requirement of a high-quality show. Compelling stories will always engage, but popular shows like The Crown or The Handmaid’s Tale, illustrate the importance of a high production value. When you watch The Alienist, it feels like a movie; the cast, the scenery and the costumes are the culmination of this goal. It’s learning history through entertainment. Maybe this is why the show became TNT’s most successful premiere since 2012.

The one flaw, though, is the actor playing Police Commissioner Roosevelt, who really just says his lines—badly.

However, the show is only two episodes in, so the final review has yet to be determined.

Similar to?

If you like the series and are looking for something similar to binge while you wait for the next episode, try the two shows below:

  • The Knick (Cinemax)— It’s early 1900s New York City and the Knickerbocker Hospital is there to serve the poor. John Thackery, the Knick’s chief surgeon and secret cocaine addict, makes his own rulebook. As his addiction spirals out of control, patients, prostitutes and eugenics explode in this graphic series.
  • Ripper Street (BBC)— Detective Inspector Edmund Reid is just trying to keep the Whitechapel District of East London safe, but six months after the last Jack the Ripper murder, ease has not been restored to the people of London. The mysteries interwoven with the characters’ backstories give this seedy Victorian era show its bingeworthiness.

You can catch The Alienist Monday nights at 9 p.m. on TNT or stream it online here.

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