When I first watched the first season of “The Knick” back in 2014, I was left somewhere on the fence with it. On the one hand, it had a fascinating setup that dealt with the doctors and patients of the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York at the turn of the 20th century, while on the other, it didn’t seem to want to do very much with that premise. No doubt the characters were interesting enough, including a chief surgeon who is addicted to drugs, a black doctor trying to make his place in a hospital that’s not completely open to such a “new idea,” and others who have their own sets of problems to deal with. Despite being under the master eye of Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”), the show felt like it was on a delay until around the last few episodes, but when it did get a move on, it was enough to leave a mark and make me curious as to where a second season of the show would go.
Picking up shortly after the first season left off, we find that Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) is still at the treatment hospital trying to overcome his addiction. Meanwhile, back at The Knick, Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland) has been made Chief of Surgery in Thackery’s absence, an idea that bothers Dr. Gallinger (Eric Johnson) so much that he decides to kidnap Dr. Thackery from his treatment facility and force him to get clean so that he can return to his duties. The plan is successful and Thackery does indeed return, but more problems begin to rear their ugly heads almost immediately, including having to treat someone close to him for a deadly disease, a pair of conjoined twins that he feels compelled to help, and even an eventual medical problem that hits much closer to home. All-in-all, these are just your average days at The Knick.
After binge watching the entire second season, the first and possibly most important thing I have to say is that I’m really, really glad I decided to give the show a further chance to prove itself. Unlike season one, season two wastes no time in getting started. From the very beginning we are thrown into the turmoil left behind by Thackery’s absence and his attempts (or lack thereof) to get better. Some may expect it to slow down after Thackery makes his grand return to The Knick, but in fact, the season is only just getting started.
Season two has a multitude of fascinating plotlines to offer, and while many of them may seem like they’re just one medical subplot thrown in after another (separating the conjoined twins, Abigail’s syphilis, Bertie’s mother’s tumor, etc.), the drama surrounding the characters is done so much better this time around that it all ends up flowing very nicely, leading to a far improved pace. As a result, we get a much more compelling season that pulls you in from the start (as opposed to making you wait several episodes) and doesn’t let go as it absorbs you into the many activities surrounding these characters.
And just in case you were concerned that it was all medical drama going on here, let me put those thoughts to rest by saying that there are a variety of storylines besides these that include Bertie (Michael Angarano) transferring to another hospital, Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) still trying to work his way out of debt and trying to swindle money out of the building of the new hospital, and Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan) trying to help out Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) after she’s charged with performing several abortions. There’s certainly no shortage of drama around these characters as well, making them a welcome addition to an already captivating show.
Just like in season one, Soderbergh directed all ten episodes of this latest season, and as before, he continues to lend a very natural look to the show. Much of the time, he will insist on handheld shots in which the camera is noticeably shaking, but it gives the show a fantastic “you are there” feeling, and even though it might look a little sloppy to some, it ultimately makes for a compelling and spellbinding point of view. Of course, this is on top of the show’s already impressive production design, which features outstanding sets, costumes, and copious amounts of exquisite period detail.
If there was any fault to be found in this latest season, I would have to say that it was in the last episode’s final few minutes. Without going into spoilers, it has to be said that the conclusion didn’t make a whole lot of sense here. What ends up occurring in the final episode’s big climax would never be allowed to happen, therefore it ends up feeling rather forced, as though the showrunners wanted to get to this conclusion by any means necessary, even if it wasn’t a logical fit.
That being said, it’s a somewhat minor complaint for a show that started off a little weak, only to come back bigger and better than before. At the moment, it’s not looking like we’re going to get a third season, an outcome that only seems fitting given the closing events of this past season, but if they’re ever able to find a way for the show to continue, then I (along with several others) would love to see where it would go next. However, if it has to end now, then there’s certainly no better way to go out. This second season was an incredible turnaround, and we simply couldn’t ask it for anything more than that.
“The Knick: The Complete Second Season” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.78:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. Every episode is beautifully sharp and clear from the first frame to the last, allowing all of the hard work that went into this highly-detailed period drama to stand out. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is likewise excellent, giving you all of the dialogue and score in exceptional quality. Overall, the show has been given marvelous treatment, which is sure to please its many fans.
Audio Commentaries: Tracks that contain some interesting behind the scenes tidbits, though they are a little overcrowded with participants.
Knicktoids: A collection of historical facts surrounding certain episodes.
Post-Ops: A series of featurettes that examine each episode, featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
Under Construction (10 Minutes): A fascinating interview and set tour with Production Designer Howard Cummings.
Inside the Costume Shop (6 Minutes): An intriguing interview with Costume Designer Ellen Mirojnick that gives you a behind the scenes look at the costume department.
Invitation to the Ball (6 Minutes): A featurette that takes you behind the scenes of the extravagant charity ball from episode seven, featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
Behind the Scenes Featurettes: A series of five brief featurettes that explores addiction, feminism, eugenics, race, and corruption.
"The Knick” comes back for its second season bigger and better than ever, featuring several captivating storylines, outstanding production values, and a terrific ensemble, all entwined in a compelling and fascinating medical drama. It’s a rarity to see such an incredible turnaround for a show like this, but I suppose it was better late than never, for with this more than likely being its last season, at least it went out on top.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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