Kreizler sidelines himself in mourning while the rest of the gang double down on the investigation
You’ve gotta hand it to The Alienist: Sidelining your titular character in the second-to-last episode of the season is a bold and risky move, but this penultimate installment of the Victorian procedural — in which we barely see the alienist at all! — is one of the best yet. Having fully found their groove, Kreizler’s team of investigators and allies gamely step up to keep closing in on the killer, while the man himself takes a hot minute to wallow in self-destructive grief over Mary’s death. The result is another A-grade episode — and a little bit of sadness that this ride is almost over, just when it was starting to get really good. (Although Caleb Carr did write a book that could be adapted into a second, Stevie-centric season of The Alienist, TNT hasn’t announced one, so the future of this limited series is still unknown.)
We open at Mary’s funeral, a small and rainy affair at which Kreizler’s grief and guilt are in sharp, clear focus while everyone else (quite literally) fades into the background. Moore tells his friend he’s not responsible; Kreizler replies, bitterly, “Who then, if not me?”
It’s not hard to see why Kreizler blames himself, especially since the men who did the murder aren’t exactly being punished for it. When the Isaacsons question Doyle, he answers like a caricature of your drunk racist uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, calling Lucius a “heeb” and claiming that Mary brought Connor upstairs for sex. It’s enough to make even the most level-headed fellow retreat into solitude and do violence to himself with a broken wineglass…which pretty much sums up Kreizler’s screen time in this episode.
But while the alienist grieves, his assistants get busy. After all, they know who their killer was (Japheth Dury) and who he is now (John Beecham), and all that’s left is to fill in the blanks: for instance, why he adopted the surname but not the first name of his first victim. (Side note: Last week’s recap failed to note that Japheth Dury’s climbing friend was named George Beecham, not John. My bad.) The search leads them to the census office, where they make a surprising discovery: The man’s name is all over the records, because he worked there as an enumerator. It’s a short hop from there to Beecham’s former address, a boarding house where the landlady, who is also a cat lady, is still trying to rent out his old room. She remembers that Beecham left right around the time her tabby, Jib, went missing — and if you didn’t guess right then and there that the gang would find Jib the Cat’s dismembered body stashed under the floorboards upstairs, you haven’t been paying attention. (Uh, also, can we get a reality check on the rate of feline decay, here? Because Jib is remarkably well preserved for a cat who got murdered six months ago.)
Meanwhile, lest we’d forgotten that Connor is still the most loathsome bastard on this show, he drops by the gang’s new headquarters just long enough to terrorize Sarah with an extremely explicit rape threat — and I’m just going to say right now that if they end this season without giving him a well-deserved and extremely painful death, I will consider it a personal betrayal. For now, Cyrus and Stevie are clearly circling the idea, with Cyrus even making an abortive attempt to kill Connor when he steps out for a late-night pee. It doesn’t work out, though, but hopefully only because they’re setting the stage for a showpiece death in the season finale (and maybe so that Cyrus can find a more appropriate knife for the job, because the one he’s carrying is comically tiny).
It is now the eve of The Feast of Saint Barnabus, when the killer is next expected to strike. Kreizler’s team is closing in, having figured out that Beecham bonds with his victims over their hatred of their parents, and tracking him to his employer, a local debt collector to whom all the dead boys’ fathers owed money. And while that’s happening, we the audience enjoy a terrifying sneak peek at the murderer’s… butt. Yep, there it is! Your first real glimpse of Beecham: completely naked, climbing all over the walls like a giant salamander. It’s not hard to understand why a hard-assed bartender describes him as “no man to cross”; the guy’s muscles have muscles. But Sarah, Moore, and the Isaacsons persevere, breaking into his apartment, where they find Beecham’s cookstove, photos, calendar… and various and assorted human body parts in boxes and jars. Man, that is a big jar of eyeballs. And it’s so full! He’s going to need a second jar!
No, seriously. He’s going to need a second jar, like, immediately. Because while Kreizler’s gang is ransacking his stuff, Beecham is dismembering his latest victim in a bathhouse — and little Joseph, whom Moore has been trying so hard to keep safe, is about to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Stumbling upon the killer in murderous flagrante, Joseph runs and hides in a dressing room. But to no avail: Just when we think he might have escaped notice, the door flies open, the camera trained on the boy’s terrified face. Will he survive to see how it all ends?