The Alienist recap: 'A Fruitful Partnership'
After a series of high-speed chases through the streets of old New York in its debut episode, The Alienist slowed down and moved indoors this week, luxuriating in the details of some of its most gorgeous sets and letting the intrigue simmer in the dusky corridors of its tenement buildings and brothels…and morgues!
That’s where we find ourselves as the episode opens: a room full of bodies, each lit by a burning wick inserted directly into its chest, presumably fueled by the gases released by the decomposing body (pro tip: googling for information about this may result in you learning more than you ever wanted to know about Exploding Corpse Syndrome). Kreizler is there, looking for the owner of the disembodied tongue that was left in his carriage last week. But the mortician is not just unhelpful, but hostile; he says that Georgio Santorelli, last week’s murder victim, “had it coming” — which is an opinion also seemingly shared by the police, who are trying to bury the case.
Unluckily for Doyle and the other boys in blue, Sarah Howard remains intrigued by Georgio’s murder; along with Moore, she pays a visit to the squalid tenement where his surviving family still lives, and where one of Georgio’s brothers lets slip that other boys have also disappeared. Other boys, you say? Yep: Sarah finds the files for two more unsolved cases — what one grizzled detective calls “OLD DAWGS” — hidden in Doyle’s desk.
Sarah takes her findings to Kreizler, who is quickly reaching peak annoyance at the way vulnerable, marginalized children are mistreated by religious and government institutions alike. He’s just kicked a priest out of his Institute for slut-shaming his new patient (she’s an enthusiastic masturbator, and P.S. there is nothing wrong with that), and now a serial murderer is terrorizing the city while the police try to cover it up?! Unacceptable.
It’s time for the alienist to officially bring his team together, and also time for The Alienist to show off some of its most gorgeous gilded-age sets. First, the Met Opera, where Kreizler confronts Roosevelt with his plans to conduct an independent investigation. Then, Delmonico’s, where the food is exquisite and the gang’s all here: Kreizler, Moore, Sarah Howard, and the Isaacson brothers. “To the beginning of a fruitful partnership,” says Kreizler, raising a glass (and giving the episode its title).
With Sarah’s police connections, the Isaacsons’ forensic skills, Kreizler’s analytical genius, and Moore’s dogged curiosity, the group is going to get their man…unless he gets them first, Kreizler cautions: “We know the killer’s thoughts are fixed on violence. If we get too close, that violence may well spill over onto us.”
(Side note: Not sure why we’re still saying the violence “may” spill over when the killer is already leaving severed human tongues inside people’s vehicles, but you do you, Kreizler.)
Despite that warning, the reigning vibe after the dinner is happy and excited — especially for Sarah, who is clearly feeling herself in her double agent role as she struts home. But where she’s confident, John Moore is downright careless. Drunk and annoyed (and maybe a bit jealous of Sarah’s obvious regard for Kreizler?), he meanders through the streets and ends up in the boys’ brothel where Georgio Santorelli worked, seeking information.
He gets what he’s looking for: A boy who calls himself “Sally” tells Moore that Georgio had a client with a “silver smile” and disappeared on the night of his death from a locked room three stories up. Unfortunately, Moore has also consumed a drugged drink, and in the last moments of the episode, things aren’t looking good: He lies on a bed, sweating and panting, as Sally steals his wallet. Three men, including Doyle, loom over him. Moore looks like he’s about to vomit, or die, or both. And with a sick-sounding grunt, everything goes black.