Sarah Howard looks past the bloody horror and sees a clue to the killer's identity
Last week’s episode of The Alienist left the plucky John Moore in a serious predicament: drugged, incapacitated, and surrounded by a half dozen people who wanted to rob him, rape him, or rough him up…or maybe all three at once. And what happened?
Uh, maybe all three at once? After a mysterious non sequitur of a cold open (more on this in a bit), we’re ready to find out what happened to Moore after that grunty cut-to-black at the brothel last week. But rather than go into detail, the show plays coy: Moore wakes up disheveled and covered with lipstick at Kreizler’s mansion, where his friends tell him that he was found stumbling through the streets with no explanation and also no pants on. (You can tell this is a mannered era because Moore’s friends, rather than drawing wieners on his face while he slept, are all concerned and vaguely horrified by the whole thing.)
“It’s not what you think!” John says, which is of course what everyone says when they’re found wandering semi-nude through the Flatiron District. But, across town, Captain Connor tells his friends that Moore “won’t be sitting down for a week,” which seems to suggest that things took a pretty dark turn for our hero in the amnesiac moments between then and now. Connor, you monster, what did you do?
Meanwhile, the mystery of the murdered boys is getting murkier: In the cold open, an upper-class family named Van Bergen learned that their son might have been involved with the murdered boy prostitutes, and in a later scene, an unnamed young man (presumably said son) sits in a bathhouse and smirks like a snake wearing a human suit. This moment is shot like it’s meant to be significant, but who knows; if there’s one thing The Alienist has in abundance, it’s ominous, sneering, leering dudes who don’t necessarily advance the plot. And there’s a bigger problem: Giorgio Santorelli’s body is missing, leading to a loaded, breathy conversation between Sarah Howard and Laszlo Kreizler about how crappy and corrupt the police department is. (Side note: This is also apparently how Sarah flirts, because in the next scene, she’s telling a former Vassar classmate that she’s got a li’l thing with “a doctor.”)
It has now been five minutes since Giorgio’s body disappeared, and Kreizler is going mad: Despite all his efforts, he still doesn’t really understand the man they’re hunting. He needs the insight of someone who knows what it’s like to kill, which is how we find out that (a) both of Kreizler’s house employees have sordid murderous backstories, and (b) it’s best not to ask about them unless you want the conversation to get real awkward, real fast. An intense discussion with Cyrus segues into a silent but equally intense confrontation between Kreizler and Mary. He angrily removes his shirt, revealing one limp and withered arm, and the way she looks at him…well, let’s just say that Sarah might be a tad overconfident about her crush on the doc. Unfortunately, this moment is interrupted with some bad, bad news.
Remember that little boy who was followed down an alley in the season premiere, last seen asking an unseen someone, “What’s wrong with your mouth?”
Yep, he’s toast.
It’s a race against time as Kreizler’s team heads to the roof of Castle Garden, immigration station-turned-aquarium, to gather evidence before the corrupt cops arrive. While one of the Isaacsons sticks his finger into the corpse’s empty eye socket (ewwww) to feel for gouge marks, Sarah makes a connection: All these bodies left on roofs and bridges? Their killer is attracted to heights! (Yes!) In fact, he’s so attracted to them, he’s still hiding right under the roof, listening to their entire conversation. (Nooooo!) And when the group leaves in a hurry, Mr. Killer is right there to find what they’ve left behind: Moore’s sketchbook, and all his murder drawings.
With another innocent child dead, Kreizler is desperate for answers — and demands them from Moore and Sarah, asking them to confront their own past horrors (the suicide of Sarah’s father, the death of Moore’s brother) in the hopes of understanding the killer’s past. The awkward moment as they both refuse to answer goes on forever, until Kreizler dismisses them, scolding them to “come back when you’re able to look inside yourselves.”
Here’s hoping they can do that soon! Because in the meantime, the killer is looking inside Moore’s sketchbook…and if the accompanying grunting sounds are any indication, he really, really likes what he sees.