Advanced Review of The Knick: “Method & Madness”

You may have seen our earlier post describing the wonderful yet disturbing promotional items Cinemax sent out in promotion of their new premium drama series: The Knick. That treasure trove of oddities also included an early review copy of the first episode of the series titled “Method & Madness“. This review won’t contain any major spoilers but I will be describing some of the plot points, characters and general feel of the show so if that level of information bothers you, continue at your own risk.

For those leaving us now I can tell you that this series looks to be well worth your time so be sure to check it out for yourself on Friday, August 8th at 9PM on Cinemax.

For those of you wanting a bit more, let me set the stage.  It’s 1900 in New York City and a Hospital called The Knickerbocker employs several surgeons, nurses and aspiring physicians in a time when medicine is  just becoming more of a science and less of a guessing game. Enter our main character: Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen), a very ambitious surgeon who is looking to push the boundaries of medical science (maybe a little faster than is completely safe). He smelts his own cutting edge surgical tools in the basement of the hospital, isn’t afraid of “trying out” a new surgery on his patients and doesn’t have time for “weakness and incompetence in his ward.”


You’re probably wondering: Is this Clive Owen from Children of Men and Inside Man?  Or is this the Clive Owen who sometimes appears in.. questionable roles from time to time? In this reviewer’s opinion we’re being delivered a very strong Clive Owen performance. His character has issues,  including a crippling (literally) drug problem, a self-centered demeanor and a healthy dose of 1900’s racism.  But even still you root for Owen because he’s blazing the trail that the viewer knows leads to modern medicine. If a few botched experiments and wounded egos are left in his wake I think many would forgive this troubled man for his contributions to science. He is a man of his time, to be sure. I’m not sure I’d let him date my daughter in 2014 but he certainly has some interesting qualities as a character on a 1900’s premium drama.

We don’t spend much time with many of the other characters in this first episode but there seems to be a strong cast around Dr. Thackery and I’m interested in learning more about their backgrounds.  Just quickly: there are strong women, men of color, younger as well as older characters in this show. Good and bad, weak and strong also  make their presences felt. I wonder how prominent they’ll become as this first episode was rightfully focused on the show’s main protagonist.  Will this be like Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones where everyone has a moment in the sun?  Not so much in this episode but they did lay the groundwork for some of these other characters to shine later on. I was very satisfied with the ensemble’s acting all around. This isn’t a cheap PBS period piece.


The production value in The Knick is wonderful.  This is certainly an HBO-caliber production. The city scenes look incredible and realistic. The costumes seem appropriate and are fun to examine with an historical eye.  The look and feel of the show is of very high quality, almost movie-like which makes sense given Steven Soderbergh’s involvement. I did watch this on the review DVD which sort of took away from the rich color and definition you’ll get on your 60 inch plasma in full HD once it airs next week. But even still, it looked and felt great. You’ll have no trouble imagining yourself in 1900’s New York. If you love that historical transportation feeling you get with Boardwalk Empire or Downton Abbey you’ll get that again here, though in a much darker, grittier time and place.

I watched the pilot with my wife who is currently about 7 months pregnant. The opening scene involves a very gory procedure/experiment on a equally pregnant woman and her unborn child. Needless to say it made both of us squirm, my wife most of all, which speaks to the realism of the surgical scenes but also to the unflinching nature of the show that you should be aware of. Think of this as “period piece meets medical procedural with a healthy spicing of dark, grittiness thrown in”.  This isn’t ER and it isn’t Boardwalk Empire.  But combine the two, put it on HBO (or Cinemax in this case!) and crank up the dark realism and you’ll start to get the idea of what The Knick is like.


I’m looking forward to continuing this series on Cinemax in the coming weeks. The first episode draws you in and leaves you wanting more. There are no 20’s line dancers or colorful celebrations in The Knick but this series may take us to darker corners of humanity that even the often horrific Boardwalk Empire could not. There’s nothing quite like The Knick on TV right now and that’s a good place for a new show to be. Let’s hope there are enough engaging stories and characters to carry this thing through the first season and beyond. So far, though? The Knick is 1 for 1, batting 1000 as far as this writer is concerned.

To be called “HBO’s sister station” is a high honor indeed. It looks like Cinemax is living up to that title and I couldn’t be happier about that as a long-time subscriber to both HBO and her sister.  I’m in, Cinemax.  Keep the good shit coming like a well-placed syringe to my final uncollapsed vein.

You can decide for yourself what you think of Clive Owen and The Knick this Friday at 9PM on Cinemax.  Here’s a trailer if you’re looking for a bit of a taste:


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