The Alienist (S01E05): “Hildebrand’s Starling”

This week’s episode marks the halfway point in the series. The trio of Kreizler, Sara, and Moore is experiencing some tension, the investigation has stalled a little, and some people are beginning to get a little impatient. I didn’t say I was one of those people, but I didn’t say I wasn’t, either.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when you put two men and a woman together on television, things will probably begin to break down at some point. (Or else they become super friendly, but this isn’t that kind of television.). After Kreizler all but takes Sara’s head off when she suggests that the murderer may have been screwed up by a woman, she leaves, followed by Moore. We then have probably the cutest scene with the two of them where Moore maybe-I’m-joking-maybe-not proposes to Sara while she leaves him in a hansom while he’s getting his boots shined in the middle of the street. (It’s cuter than it sounds, you’ll just have to trust me on that).

Stumped, Kreizler seeks advice from an old professor (David Warner! Another awesome casting choice!) who reminds him of when he’d made him spend days studying a bird. Basically, his advice is to study until the murderer reveals himself. Whatever that means. This is why I didn’t go to Harvard. He gets Moore and they head to a prison to speak to a man named Jesse Pomeroy, who it seems was a real person, convicted of murdering several children when he was just a teenager himself. The most important thing Kreizler learns from studying this particular bird is that he really doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does. Who’d have thunk it? As a result, when Sara produces the results of her dogged and determined research, he is a lot more interested in other people’s ideas, and is interested in Willem Van Bergen.

Interested? Maybe. Convinced he’s the murderer? Not so much, as he tells Roosevelt the next day. The murderer is reliving his own childhood trauma, and would be looking for boys of his own social class. Willem may very well be the creepiest creep who ever creeped, but he’s not the man they’re looking for. Loosing patience, and aware that there are only five episodes left, Roosevelt takes charge, and orders Connor to get Willem’s address. When Connor has it, a bunch of policemen led by Roosevelt himself head over there. In some incredibly clever editing, we flip rapidly back and forth between Willem’s place, where he is giving a boy a milk bath and preparing him a glass of drugged champagne, and the door where Roosevelt knocks. Not the same place. Because of course it’s not, Connor deliberately gave Roosevelt a fake location. Roosevelt, a mixture of rage and embarrassment, relieves Connor of his badge and gun. (Well, there may only be five episodes to go, but we could hardly have an arrest already.). Meanwhile, the person knocking on Willem’s door who was not the police? It’s his mother, going a really good impression of the kind of mother who could turn her son into a serial killer. My advice Mom? Get him to Switzerland and arrange for him to ski off a cliff.

Other things:
– Am I the only one who was kind of pleased about Willem being a red herring? I couldn’t believe they would actually show the murderer as early as episode 4.
– Hildebrand’s starlings are very pretty birds, much more so than the common starlings we have around here.
– So, Kreizler has all,of the murders written in his diary, which included the religious festivals, in red, and HE NEVER NOTICED THE PATTERN?!? *headdesk*

“Doctor, we’re not talking about the gilded upbringing of a handsome but indolent member of the leisure class.”
“It is it just envy Doctor, why aren’t you out there chopping off people’s arms?”
“If the need for salvation did not exist, the Church would surely find its invention necessary.”