Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Knick: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Modern medicine had to start somewhere. In the hit Cinemax drama series "The Knick," from executive producer Steven Soderbergh (who directed all ten episodes), brilliant surgeon John Thackery pushes the boundaries of medicine, morality and race relations in 1900 at a downtown NYC hospital known as The Knick. Dr. Thackery searches to solve a plethora of medical mysteries and develops an unhealthy addiction to cocaine, which was legal at the time, the fate of The Knickerbocker Hospital hangs in the balance. Thanks to the influence of rich patrons like Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) Thackery is paired against his will with a young black doctor, Algernon Edwards (André Holland), whose intelligence and at-all-costs methods rivals Thackery's, and who is hired over Thackery's protégé, Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson).
Show (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) is a brilliant surgeon, who is at the forefront of his field. It is the turn of the century in New York City and The Knickerbocker Hospital aka The Knick is keeping very busy. Dr. Thackery is working on new instruments, and new procedures while addicted to cocaine (a legal drug at the time). Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance) is a patron who supports the hospital. Administrator Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) goes to great lengths to keep the hospital afloat.

Thackery’s is forced to work with a black man named Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland) who is given the promotion Thackery wanted for his protégé Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson). Many patients and staff members have issues with the integration of the surgical team but Dr. Edwards proves his worth. Dr. Bertie Chickering Jr. (Michael Angarano) and Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson) round out the team saving lives at The Knick. 

The show begins with a caesarian being performed on a woman with placenta previa. A fairly routine procedure today doesn’t go as planned back in The Knick’s operating theater and the woman quickly bleeds out. This is just the first of many absolutely authentic looking effects that made me want to gag. As a person who enjoys horror movie and isn’t bothered by blood and gore, the realism of the surgeries made me want to turn off the show more than once.

The characters are compelling, and all parts are very well acted. The show is not just ER set in 1900, and has much more than medical procedures going on. The show centers around Clive Owen’s character Thackery who has little patience for the stupidity of others and he delivers some very entertaining written insults. I wasn’t always sure if the series was leading towards something specific but the story arch becomes evident as you watch the episodes.

As a parent it was very hard to watch children suffer and die in this show and it reminds the viewer how lucky we are to have modern medicine. I’m not a big fan of period films but this is very well done. Because of the gore and the subject matter, it’s probably a take it or leave it kind of thing. If you like episode one, you’ll enjoy the rest of the season. If you don’t, then just turn it off and walk away. Nothing about the other episodes will likely change your mind. 

The Knick: The Complete First Season features the following ten episodes found on four Blu-ray discs:

1. Method and Madness - Dr. Thackery’s mentor is gone, making him Chief Surgeon. Cornelia Robertson insists that the new assistant chief be Dr. Edwards, a black man and family friend. Integrating The Knick is difficult for all parties involved.

2. Mr. Paris Shoes - Thackery is short on bodies to practice his techniques on. Dr. Edwards knows a much needed procedure and leverages that hoping to gain acceptance.

3. The Busy Flea – Gallinger and Chickering must operate on pigs when Thackery’s former lover arrives in need of his assistance. Barrow is struggling to keep up with his obligations to The Knick and the local thug he owes money to.

4. Where’s the Dignity – Sister Harriet is forced to make a deal with ambulance driver Cleary. Bertie is reprimanded by his father for not being more ambitious and successful. Lucy is sent to Thackery’s home and learns of his addiction.

5. They Capture the Heat - Everett and Eleanor’s daughter is in poor health as Barrow has more problems related to debt. Thomas Edison has a new invention to show off and Algernon develops a new hernia surgery in his secret clinic.

6. Start Calling Me Dad - New procedures in the operating theater are tested and a salesman makes a pitch to Thackery. Eleanor’s grief is substantial and Everett is at a loss for how to help.

7. Get the Rope – A white cop is stabbed by a black man and racial tension escalates on the street and in the hospital. Cornelia takes notice of Algernon and his abilities.

8. Working Late a Lot – Thackery can’t get the fix he needs, causing a variety of issues leading up to the New York Surgical Society’s event. Bertie is determined to remain at The Knick despite his father’s objections. Typhoid Mary is in court, demanding she is not sick and should be set free.

9. The Golden Lotus – Robertson seeks to cover up a crime at The Knick. Lucy assists Thackery in his drug seeking. Eleanor is not the same woman she once was and her behavior concerns Everett.

10. Crutchfield – The season finale finds Thackery in bad shape, still pushing the limits. Barrow’s financial troubles are not over and with the hospital in crisis, Robertson calls for a vote.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
"The Knick's" 1080p AVC-encoded Blu-ray is well defined. Much of the show is dimly lit, as electricity is new to The Knick, and the noise that accompanies the darkness adds to the show. The show feels old, with a color palette that is intentionally limited. The black levels get very deep, to an extreme that will only bother the pickiest of viewers.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
"The Knick’s" DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track pairs very well with an above average video presentation. Dialogue is intelligible and consistent throughout season one. Some of the surgical sounds will make you wince. All channels are put to work in this immersive Blu-ray with an excellent score.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)
I expected more quantity, but the quality of the extras is good. 
  • Audio Commentaries
    • "Method and Madness" with co-creator/co-executive producer/co-writers Jack Amiel & Michael Begler and actors Jeremy Bobb, Eve Hewson, Michael Angarano, Chris Sullivan, Cara Seymour and Eric Johnson 
    • "Get the Rope" with Jack Amiel, Michael Begler, Jeremy Bobb, Eve Hewson, Michael Angarano, Chris Sullivan, Cara Seymour and Eric Johnson 
    • "Crutchfield" with Jack Amiel, Michael Begler, Jeremy Bobb, Eve Hewson, Michael Angarano, Chris Sullivan, Cara Seymour and Eric Johnson. 
  • Episode Post-Op – Two minute behind the scenes featurettes with cast and crew interviews for "Mr. Paris Shoes," "The Busy Flea," "Where's the Dignity?," "They Capture the Heat," "Start Calling Me Dad," "Get the Rope," "Working Late a Lot," "The Golden Lotus" and "Crutchfield." 
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
"The Knick" is a series that many people are either going to love or hate. I had a hard time getting past some of the authentic surgeries but I did enjoy season one. Soderbergh always offers a unique touch to the projects he’s attached to, and he’s certainly brought a show unlike anything else on television. I look forward to season two and this is another reminder that I should have an open mind when viewing anything set before the time I was born. Not everything needs to be modern or futuristic. If nothing else, you’ll leave the show with an appreciation for modern conveniences and medical breakthroughs.

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