Everything wrong with medicine in 1900 seems to show up in The Knick‘s season 1 finale, “Crutchfield”: back-alley abortions, primitive and misinformed medical procedures, uncontrolled drug administration, unsanitary conditions, a lack of coordination and cooperation in the medical community, and on. Looking back on the season, which touched on all of the above in one or another episode, it becomes apparent that this disastrous tornado of dysfunction was inevitable—that is, you can’t say they didn’t warn us. The Steven Soderbergh–directed series wraps up its first season not in a happy place, but instead with every character in jeopardy, which is pretty much exactly where a show with a season 2 order perhaps should end.
Dr. Thackery’s drug addiction has been escorted to the next level by well-meaning doctors administering a new drug as an answer to his cocaine addiction. Cornelia’s creepy father-in-law sees the newlyweds off, while the bride has arranged a payment (surely only a first installment) of abortion-related hush-money to Cleary. Dr. Edwards challenges the boxer who frequents his favorite bar and who he’s been told to not take on lest he find himself dead on the street; surely he survived, but he certainly looks mostly dead in his final pose in the episode. Ping Wu confronts Barrow with the knowledge that the hospital supervisor had owed definitely dead Collier $9,000, and now Barrow owes Wu. Dr. Gallinger is thoroughly broken by his wife’s mental health issues. Nurse Elkins incurs the wrath of Chickering over her relationship with Thackery. Even the hospital itself faces closure, a move uptown, and whatever upscale horrors await there.
Cornelia’s fedora equals “furtive” at the head of The Knick finale, as she waits on a damp night. A carriage rolls up: “You,” she says, half question-half statement. It’s Cleary, who, no, won’t tell her where they’re headed. At a shabby apartment, Cleary reveals Sister Harriet. “Yes, I’m the one who does it. You don’t want this rhinoceros doing it, do ya?” Harry asks, nodding at Cleary. Cornelia gets the episode’s first tearjerker moment when she says, “We’re friends, Harry—you could have told me.” Harry gets the second: “So could you. But then neither of us could, could we?” Cornelia nods sadly. The series’ ongoing abortion storyline has led to this moment, in which a character we are invested in faces a heartbreaking choice.
Harry, of course, tries to talk her out of it and offers to act as midwife and claim that Cornelia was impregnated on her wedding night and the baby came early. Cornelia still does not reveal that the baby is Dr. Edwards’, but Harry understands her silence and leads her to the bed where the friends comfort each other before proceeding.
Later, Edwards drops in on Cornelia at home: “Are you all right?” She: “It’s done.” He: “Was it terrible?” She nods yes: “It was our child.” Cornelia says she thinks they made a mistake. He doesn’t give her a chance to elaborate, but barrels through a speech about how their affair was a mistake, she’ll marry her fiancé, bear him many children, and they’ll put the whole mess behind them. Cornelia tries to grab him and says, “No,” but Edwards won’t listen—he won’t stay for the wedding luncheon and please convey his regrets. At Cornelia’s luncheon, her wedding gifts include, as “something old,” stunning sapphire and diamond earrings from her fiancé’s family—notably, the gift was insisted upon by that creepy soon-to-be father-in-law.
NEXT: Edwards addresses the Thackery problem