Every now and again, television throws an episode at viewers that we can only discuss in hushed, reverent tones—there will be no levity when speaking of “Get the Rope,” because the idiocy of racial politics in the time in which Steven Soderbergh’s medical drama is set is no laughing matter. That statement begs the question, of course, of whether that certain idiocy still exists, and of course it does—in pockets of ignorance scattered across this continent, and, to a worse degree, in places around the world where hate- and intolerance-fueled genocide and terrorism exist. (Are genocide and terrorism fueled by anything else, really? Maybe we don’t want to know the answer to that, as the truth may be too despicable to bear—Money? Power? Spite?—but I digress.)
In short, the episode is about a mob of people of one race seeking revenge for one act of violence on an entire other race of people because one person of their skin tone was responsible for the crime—that is, rather than lawfully seeking and punishing the one true culprit.
Say that this does not still happen today. You can’t, and that’s what makes “Get the Rope” so devastating, because somewhere out there a group of people is devising some heinous plot to murder innocent people based on hysterical/nonsensical/malicious/all-of-the-above notions of justice or in support of their own contorted version of Truth—yes, with a capital T, since we’re feeling philosophical.
Hysteria feeds the mob violence in episode 7 of The Knick: An Irishman approaches an attractive young black woman outside of the infamous Haymarket Dance Emporium and propositions her to come ply her trade under gangster Collier’s care and supervision. The woman is no prostitute and is offended. When her man shows up, he shivs the guy, who turns out to be policeman Sears (Collin Meath). Cleary picks up the victim and uses some colorful language to describe the assailant that we won’t repeat here, because of our delicate sensibilities. Suffice it to say that Cleary is a racist of the first order (until he isn’t—more on that later).
Following a mourning period for his infant daughter, Gallinger returns to the Knick and has to battle his way to the front door through the currently angry, soon-to-be-enraged mob. Gallinger arrives in the surgical theater to see Thackery, Chickering, and Edwards operating on the cop. Thackery asks for Nurse Elkins to wipe his sweaty brow. Me, too, says Edwards. Thackery says that when they’re done, he’s going to write a love poem to the suction machine. It’s all so damned genial between the doctors now. Confused Gallinger scrubs in and tells Bertie to step aside. When he asks what the machine is, Thackery enthusiastically calls it the “miraculous Edwards suction machine.” Edwards reports that he’s building another. Jolly Dr. Thackery retorts, “For my birthday, I presume.” Gallinger looks like his world has been inverted—and it has! “Has everyone gone completely mad today?” he later asks Bertie. When he tries to disparage Edwards’ invention, Bertie cuts him off, “It’s ingenious, I know.” Mic drop. Chickering out.
NEXT: Momma Sears calls for lynchings