Monday, April 9, 2018

TV Show Review: The Alienist

TNT is working to makes its way into the prestigious television business with better hour-long dramas. This limited horror series could help this channel more known for basketball and movies to make the leap into appointment viewing. A stellar cast elevates a standard murder mystery beyond a forgettable show into something that was fun to watch but still not easy to follow what was happening. The story begins with newspaper illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans) being called to a crime scene. He finds a brutal murder of a boy on a high bridge. He seeks out his friend the alienist Dr. Lazlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) who sent him there and shows him the horrible pictures that he drew. Kreizler is able to connect the murder using the clues of the forensic scientists Marcus Isaacson (Douglas Smith) and his brother Det. Sgt. Lucius Isaacson (Matthew Shear).

The show starts to explore the growing practice of fingerprinting and using other forms of science to help solve crimes. Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) assists the commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty) but becomes involved in the case and finds important clues. The group joins forces to solve the case centering a man who supposedly has a silver smile due to an illness. John Moore investigates the brothels where one of the victims is from and ends up being drugged. The city of New York is growing restless near the end of the 19th century as the murders mount up and Roosevelt has to deal with the political fallout. He faces criticism from Thomas Byrnes (Ted Levine), a police department leader and his officer henchman Captain Connor (David Wilmot). 

Kreizler has helped various people throughout his career and kept some of them around to help him including Cyrus Montrose (Robert Wisdom) and Mary Palmer (Q'orianka Kilcher) with whom he begins to have a romantic relationship. Sara Howard also sees him as a romantic interest but their disturbing discussions about the ability to murder put her off somewhat. Sara enquires into Kreizler's past which angers him. As the group profiles the killer, Sara grows closer to John and continues her investigation of Kreizler. The group tries to set up a trap to catch the killer but things go wrong and the killer evades them.

Thomas Byrnes tries to cover up the proclivities of a wealthy family's son that Kreizler suspects so Captain Connor tries to shut him up by sending him away but goes too far with the effort and murders the young man. Connor continues his rampage bringing it to Kreizler house where he injures Montrose and kills Mary Palmer in a part where I actually started paying a little more attention. The group travels to various areas. The Isaacson brothers go to South Dakota where they hear disturbing stories of a crazed soldier while Moore and Kreizler go to D.C. to learn more about the suspected killer. Somehow the clues come together just as a boy's life is in danger. The climax is disappointing as the conclusion adds no real twists and the killer is not someone I recognized from early plot deals though admittedly I did not pay attention. Connor turns out to be a bigger villain and Sara takes him out.

The Alienist looks to be TNT's biggest attempt at jumping into prestige television but this limited series has a lot missing from an entertaining show even as the topic intrigued me. I wanted to get lost in the period piece with the great costumes and sets but even the great actors Brühl and Evans and actress Fanning could not bring the plot out of the convoluted episodes. Plenty of things happened but they never seemed to matter until important characters were murdered later though that hardly made up for the slow pace of the show. I don't think I'll revisit the show but I would like to read the book it is based on one day. 

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