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The Alienist - 1.02 A Fruitful Partnership - Review

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Continuing on to find out the true nature and family situation of the Santorelli boy, a good chunk of the second episode focuses on various social circumstances from the segregation of Italian immigrants to the poor man's morgue, to the likes of New Yorks' elite such as J.P Morgan and eventual President Theodore Roosevelt attending an evening at the Opera, as Dr, Kreizler and John Moore push Roosevelt for help and be allowed to conduct a parallel investigation.

"Yes, I too learnt scripture when I was young, but instead of answers, I found only questions. Why does God allow us to feel both pleasure and pain?" - Dr. Kreizler

The episode also more heavily encapsulates a theme of science of vs faith, where Daniel Bruhl's Dr. Kreizler does a fine job in displaying this dichotomy within himself throughout the episode. There are moments where he is faced with the relgious' beliefs that seem to counter scientific understanding, in which he ardently and genuinely makes a stand on the importance of putting science first and dismissing that of a brutal God he does not understand, but at the same time is then accused of using science to play God, which isn't just suggested by the episode's passing religious characters, but even John Moore playfully expresses his concern that Kreizler enjoys keeping others in the dark, which becomes evident with his dinner party and sudden interest in John's relationship with Sarah Howard. 

"She is not as strong, as she would like you to believe." - John Moore (about Howard)

"He is not as strong, as he would like you to believe." - Sarah Howard (about Moore)

The episode does not have the mysterious atmosphere that previous one had until it's final scene, but does a good job at looking at class and segregation at New York at this time, advancing on both polite society, it's corruption, and it's devastating gritty underbelly, but more so allowing the audience much more time getting to know the characters, as Sarah Howard proves her strong constitution and knowledge, which Kreizler embraces, as Moore seems concerned in wanting to protect Howard and Howard wanting to protect Moore. The Issac brothers too get a bit more screen time, adding some comic relief by being delighted at telling the others about one possible murder weapon used by the killer, the "Arkansas Toothpick", and telling the audience about finger-marking (finger printing), which is not yet fully acceptable science at this time!

"I'm surprised to hear you admit you have a weakness." - Sarah Howard. (about Dr. Kreizler)

The final scene is where the creepy tone of the first episode picks back up, as John Moore, offended at being Kreizler's puppet, takes to the streets instead of riding along in the carriage. A concerned Sarah Howard presses Dr. Kreizler to send Stevie to look after Moore, while Howard and Kreizler engage in an intriguing back and forth, in hopes that Howard will become the liaison between their investigative team and Roosevelt's police department.

"Fifth Avenues don't suffer enough."

John Moore's journey into the derelicts of the city leads him to the brothel establishment that Giorgio Santorelli worked at, where he was also known as "Gloria". Trying to get information, he tries to buy one of 'girls' called Sally. The story she tells him about how Gloria never left her room with one of her main patrons known as "Silver Smile", at first haunts Moore when she explained that there was no one in the room when they picked the locks, suggesting that they somehow where able to drop several stories. But he comes to not believe her, calling the young seductress out, when suddenly his breathing becomes restricted and then he becomes dizzy and falls onto the bed. We soon see the bar tender and the wealthy business man working with a corrupt section of the Police Department (introduced in the last episode) come into view discussing how they have a real a problem on their hands now. One asking, what should they do with Moore, they unleash the 'girls' onto him...

Overall the episode doesn't advance it's murder mystery plots very far, but instead makes a meal of it's time with getting to know the characters and dynamics of city better, before taking a deeper plunge, while more strongly setting-up themes about science & faith, the art of deception, the wealthy and escapism, proclivities of identity, and, seemingly, setting up a love triangle between it's three leads. Despite missing some of it's Gothic & Horror flare the previous episode so-well captured, this episode was still rather enjoyable and it may turn out to have been a smart choice to focus on character first as a bit of a breather, before advancing deeper into darker plots.

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