The Alienist recap: 'Psychopathia Sexualis'
The search for a suspect takes the team on a series of journeys, but another threat is brewing close to home.
With a title like “Psychopathia Sexualis,” you might have thought this episode of The Alienist would do a deep dive into all things intriguingly pervy…which just makes it that much worse that it turned out to be a giant, heartbreaking bummer. Did you enjoy that tender moment between Kreizler and Mary last week? I hope so! Because you’re never getting another one — and we’ve all learned an important lesson today about expecting the Victorian child sex murder show to let us have nice things, ever.
The last time we saw John Moore, he was getting pummeled in an alley by Captain Connor, who has emerged against all odds as the most hateable villain on the show (sorry, mister cannibal serial kid-killer; you’re a distant No. 2.) This week, Moore turns up on a train with Kreizler, sporting a big black eye that he refuses to talk about — which, for the record, is going to end up being a huge mistake. The two are on their way to Washington to look up the psychiatric records of discharged soldiers, having determined last week that their suspect might have spent some time in the Army. They are also clearly being followed by a towering creepster in a bowler hat, something neither of the characters notice but the show makes sure to point out, the better to punch up the sense of impending dread. It’s working!
It’s on this trip to Washington that the case finally starts coming together. Kreizler learns about a man named John Beecham, a former soldier with a disfiguring facial tic who spent some time in the government’s psych ward before being discharged to places unknown. Beecham, it turns out, was born in New Paltz — which was also the location of a grisly family murder that has all the eye-gouging, genital-severing earmarks of their perp’s MO.
It’s the most promising lead thus far, and the whole team take off to chase it: Sarah heads to New Paltz to rendezvous with local law enforcement and learn more about the case. The Isaacson brothers hop a train to North Dakota to interview Beecham’s former military supervisor. Moore and Kreizler head for rural Massachussetts to chat with Adam Dury, whose parents were the victims of the so-called “Injun massacre” in New Paltz. And while it’ll be a while before the team can get together to compare notes, we don’t have to wait to conclude that they’ve clearly got their guy.
For one thing, the man known as John Beecham was discharged from the Army after his commanding officer found him sitting naked on top of a dead body after the Haymarket Square riots in Chicago: stabbing at the corpse while sporting a pronounced erection. (“Covered in blood and stiff as a flagpole” is how the officer puts it, more poetically.) But the plot thickens in New Paltz, as Sarah learns that the Durys were a pair of fear-mongering religious maniacs who terrified their children with tales of Indian massacres. One of those children, Adam, had already left home by the time his parents were killed; but the other, Japheth, was still around…and he was an accomplished mountaineer with a freaky facial tic. The final piece of the puzzle falls into place when it turns out that Japheth was raped by his climbing partner, an older man who was murdered and thrown off a mountaintop around the same time that the Durys were killed. And that man’s name?
Albert Einstei— okay, no, just kidding. It’s John Beecham. Obviously.
At this point, we the audience can connect the dots: Japheth Dury, the disfigured son of an abusive mother (side note: good call, Sarah!) killed both his parents and his rapist, then assumed the latter’s identity before continuing on — to the Army, the psychiatric hospital, and finally, presumably, to New York.
Thanks to their interview with Adam Dury, Moore and Kreizler have pretty much the whole story (minus the stabbing-a-dead-body-with-a-boner-in-Chicago part, but do they need to know that? Does anyone, really?). It’s only a matter of time before they find and catch their killer, and it’s all very exciting. It’s so exciting, in fact, that you might have forgotten they’re being followed…
…right up until the shooting stars. A gunshot takes out their driver as the horses spook and bolt, crashing the carriage in the middle of nowhere. And while both men survive, it takes them a long time to make their way out of the woods and back to safety. Kreizler uses the opportunity to tell Moore that he’s in love with Mary.
Unfortunately, at the same time, Connor and his goons are paying a visit to Kreizler’s home — which is something that seems like it might possibly have been prevented if Moore had just mentioned at any point that Connor is clearly, violently unhinged and increasingly fixated on the investigation. Instead, everyone gets caught off guard, both Cyrus and Stevie get chloroformed, and Mary attempts to stop Connor singlehandedly by running after him and swiping at him with a knife. The good news: She gets in one quality stab that definitely spells death for Connor’s hideous brown tweed suit.
The bad news: Connor throws her over the second floor banister rail, and now she’s dead. And even for those of us who read Caleb Carr’s The Alienist and knew this was coming — indeed, that it had to come — it’s ghastly and incredibly upsetting. This episode gets an A for its perfect pacing, but Mary, you’ll be missed.