The Alienist (S01E07) “Many Sainted Men”

I think the title of this week’s episode is intended to be irony. Well, intended or not, it IS ironic. With the possible exception of Moore, the entire episode is about men being less than saint-like.

After last week’s action packed episode, this week was distinctly lacking in action. Instead, we have lots of speechifying. Different characters have meetings and conversations, some good, more bad, but not a huge amount actually happens. The big advance in the investigation is that they learn, via Roosevelt’s memories of seeing Plains Indian scalpings and Sara visiting a mental institution to question the warden, that the murderer is probably a soldier who had been out west. The soldier likely had seen some Native American ritual mutilation of corpses and used some of their ritual in his treatment of the boys he’s been killing.

The episode opens with a rioting crowd outside the police headquarters, which Kreizler and Moore have to fight their way through to get to the morgue where Rosie (R.I.P.) is laid out on the autopsy table. When the two of them leave again, they only escape the mob by being put into a waiting cab, one already occupied by John Kelly, one of the brothel owners we met in the first episode. It seems he orchestrated the mob scene,as a way of putting pressure on them to finish the case and reopen the brothels. (Or just reopen the brothels, I doubt he cares one way or the other about the murderer.)

Sara and the Isaacsons have the unenviable job of going through all the files they’ve accumulated on the mental patients who fit their profile looking for possible connections to the west. Once they find someone who was transferred from Blackwell’s Island to St. Elizabeth’s, a government hospital for members of the military deemed mentally unfit for service. Essentially, it’s a VA hospital. Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

Kreizler and Moore are having a more interesting time of it. They get kidnapped and taken to what I’m guessing is J. P. Morgan’s house, where Morgan is there with Byrnes and Bishop Potter, and they want to discuss the investigation. Morgan goes along with the idea that it should be left to the police before asking Byrnes and Potter to visit the Van Bergen’s to tell them that Willem is no longer a suspect. Once alone, it become clear that he couldn’t care less who solves the mystery, he just wants it solved. Not because he wants to see a murderer stopped and brought to justice. He wants the crimes to stop because they’re causing some civil unrest which is bad for business. (You don’t actually think he cares about these boys, do you? Yeah, no, he doesn’t care any more than Kelly does. In fact, there really isn’t much difference between the two men, essentially. It’s just a matter of scale.). Kreisler wisely turns down his offer of financial assistance.

In one of the episode’s most emotionally charged scenes in the episode, Sara asks Moore to convey the information to Kreizler, along with her decision to go to St. Elizabeth’s hospital personally. She asks Moore to tell Kreizler, as she refuses to see him. I can’t praise Dakota Fanning’s performance in this series highly enough. Behind Sara’s carefully maintained mask, she radiates stress and pain. Given her father’s history, the visit to the mental hospital must have been hard, on top of Kreizler hitting her. The scene is anything but romantic, but Sara stills ends up in Moore’s arms.

Meanwhile, Kreizler is continuing to piss people off. Cyrus is being tended by his niece, who works as a journalist and who went to college funded by Kreizler. She clearly isn’t very fond of him nd calls him out quite harshly, saying he uses his liberal ideas to keep Cyrus in thrall the way people used to use shackles. He is shaken, but it seems to give him pause for thought. He later offers to let Mary leave and start her own life, but that’s not exactly what she wants.

It’s an annoying trope, the expert of how people think having no idea how people think, but the end of the episode, he seems to have learned something. He invites Mary to have dinner with him. They don’t seem to be doing any eating. Fade to black.

Other things;
– When Kreizler said he made Mary leave her room, where do you think she moved to?
– When the men were discussing Willem being cleared of the murders, did any of them actually believe he’d left town? I had a definite feeling they all knew he was dead, even if no one was saying it.
– I absolutely love the countdown clock this show has during commercial breaks.

“We serve the rich. And in return, they raise us above the primordial filth. And God help us if we don’t keep our end of the bargain.”
“My uncle may take acts of kindness as marks of your decency, but I see keeping him downtrodden through kindness and progressive ideals as simply more effective as using shackles and a whip.”
“He was right about one thing. Given certain circumstances, we’re all capable of violence.”