Steven Soderbergh kicks off The Knick with death, drugs and buckets of blood (S01E01)
Dr. Christenson walks into a room full of spectators. Other doctors are standing by to help him perform an emergency C-section, a procedure that failed at least a dozen times before. Blood is gushing all over. They are failing again. And Steven Soderbergh has set the stage for his intriguing new drama The Knick.
Based loosely on the life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted, the Cinemax series (airing on HBO worldwide) follows surgeon Clive Owen in the 1900s as Dr. John W. Thackery. Just like Halsted, he's convinced of the effectiveness of cocaine as a local anesthesia. But after doing several experiments with the drug, he became addicted to it himself, as well as to morphine.
When Steven Soderbergh directs a tv series, any film fan must feel obliged to watch it, no? In this day and age, when much of the best story-telling is on tv. Disappointed in the business of making film, the director turned to HBO last year to release the successful film Behind the Candelabra. But with the Knick, he's directing 10 full episodes himself. And the show has been renewed for another season even before its release last Friday.
The benefit of a tv series of course, is that it can start to set the stage and make an impression. It doesn't have to tell the full story. So as intriguing as the pilot is, there's not much clarity on where the series is going. For now, we're watching the dark ages of medical science. Freestyle surgery: few rules and extremely experimental.
There's drugs (with some nudity), death and some buckets of blood. And on the character side we have the self-centered doctors not accepting the new forced upon black surgeon — by the family financing the hospital. A corrupt health inspector for delivering new patients — and others are simply taken out of other ambulances with baseball bats. And then there's the new nurse who has to get Dr. Thackery from his home where he's lying in bed having withdrawal symptoms.
It all makes for an intriguing timely intro to the world of medical science early previous century. There's some (purposely) oddly placed electronic music here and there, but The Knick: Method and Madness is one of the best pilots of the year for sure.