“The Knick” Season 1 Episode 1 “Methods and Madness” aired on Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, at 10:00 p.m. on Cinemax. In the year 1900, the Knickerbocker Hospital, a.k.a. the Knick, in New York City was well-known for its groundbreaking methods, with surgeons, doctors, nurses and staff who tested the boundaries of medical procedures. At that time, antibiotics wasn’t invented yet, and death due to diseases was common. Dr. John Thackery, newly minted at his post as the head of surgery of the hospital, has to step up and prove himself, while battling an addiction to cocaine and opium, as well as dealing with the demands of being a chief surgeon. Find out what happened in this episode by reading below.
Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) is awakened by an Asian prostitute. He was staying in a brothel and getting his addiction fix. He had to be up by a certain time because there was an important surgery he needed to attend to. It was a Caesarean procedure, with the mother exhibiting placenta previa, a condition that, at that time, had 100 percent fatality rate. The surgeons, including Thackery and his boss and mentor, Dr. J.M. Christiansen (Matt Frewer), were attempting to correct this procedure. But despite their efforts, the mother and her baby died. Dr. Christiansen was devastated as they failed yet again. This was their 13th attempt. But Thackery assured him that it wasn’t his methods. The procedure was just really complicated. Later, Christiansen ended up shooting himself.
The surgeons called the Knick their circus, and with Christiansen dead, Thackery has been made the new ringmaster. His team included Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson) and Dr. Bertie Chickering, Jr. (Michael Angarano), who are junior surgeons. The hospital is managed by Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb), the administrator who sometimes has issues with Thackery. In a meeting following Christiansen’s death, Thackery was told by Barrow and Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance), who is from the hospital’s board, that a new deputy chief will also be added to his team, Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland), a Harvard graduate. But Thackery did not warm up to him well because first, Thackery was not keen on changing the dynamics of his “circus,” and second, Thackery, on top of being straightforward and abrasive, was also a bit of a racist. Edwards happened to be a black man. When it was clear that he wasn’t wanted in the team, he said he would leave the Knick.
The patient, Mr. Gentile, was operated on by Dr. Gallinger. In an earlier round with the surgeons, Dr. Thackery commended his junior surgeon for a job well-done with this case. They thought that the patient was on his way to recovery from an accident. But hours after the operation, the patient showed symptoms of post-surgery septicemia and could die if left untreated. Gallinger, Chickering and Edwards argue about doing the operation as soon as possible, but Thackery was still not present. Chickering instructed one of the nurses to fetch their boss at his house. When she found him, he was suffering from what looked like the effects of drug dependency. But he instructed the nurse to inject cocaine in his penis, and within a few minutes, he was fine and ready to perform the operation on the patient at the hospital.
Mr. Gentile's case was in a 1900 surgical journal. His trolley accident was real as were his injuries & the subsequent surgery. #AtTheKnick
— The Knick (@AtTheKnick) August 9, 2014
There were some risks to the procedure as Mr. Gentile was wide awake. So that he doesn’t feel any pain, Thackery performed a tricky spinal injection, using cocaine to numb his brain’s ability to recognize pain. This was never tried before, except on an animal. The procedure worked, much to everyone’s amazement (as the surgery always had an audience), and they carried on with saving the patient’s life. This prompted Edwards to change his mind about leaving the Knick.
Dr. Edwards (addressing Thackery): “I’m not leaving this circus until I learn everything you have to teach.”
— The Knick (@AtTheKnick) August 9, 2014
Elsewhere in the episode, viewers were also introduced to Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour), a nun with a bad smoking habit who took care of the orphanage next to the hospital; Jacob Speight (David Fierro), the corrupt health inspector who gets a finder’s fee when he sends patients to the hospitals, and Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan), the ambulance driver, also gets paid extra whenever he sends patients at the Knick.
The episode closed with Thackery visiting the brothel again, ready for his next opium kick.
And that’s it for “The Knick” Season 1 Episode 1 “Methods and Madness” recap, which aired on Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, at 10:00 p.m. on Cinemax. Were you able to catch the first offering? Was the realism a bit too much for TV or did you like that it was authentic? Sound off in the comments below.
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Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons/Tony Shek