The show’s title is derived from the ‘Knickerbocker Hospital’, a fictional early 20th century hospital in New York, which serves as center stage for which the lives and struggles of our protagonists revolve around. The show shows us an uneasy time in the medical world where everything is in motion, and although the benefits of the so called “modern age” are already waiting around the corner, the situation for people without money looks extremely grim. Immigrants live in horrible unsanitary situations, little children are forced to work in factories, and social frictions and racial tensions run deep with society. Not only do we see the story of the doctors and the patients here, but also the people who are even more behind the scenes. We see the people who were apart of the city’s horse-drawn ambulance and also the works of the Health Inspector. I found this to be new and exciting.
This show is also visually spectacular. The shows producer and director, Oscar-winner Stephen Soderbergh, has presented a setting that feels so real and fresh. There are no vibrant colors to be seen and the dim-lighting gives off a vibe that I found to be appropriate for the setting. Each character’s look and costumes feel as though they have stepped right out of a photograph in the early 1900s. But what was most interesting is the musical score. The music has a feel of a modern “techno” sound, which may sound distracting for a period show, but actually felt as though it belonged. It added a new element and made me feel uneasy with the action it accompanied. Virtually every scene oozes of quality and depicts a realistic look of what early New York must have looked like.
The acting here is nothing short of perfect. The standout performance being from Clive Owen. His portrayal of Dr. Thackery, a passionate yet conflicted doctor who is always experimenting in ways to improve surgical tactics, is a gripping performance. Andre Holland, who plays Dr. Algernon Edwards, is a brilliant African-American doctor who must battle racism at the Knickerbocker Hospital. The rest of the cast are terrific and further cement the sense of realism that The Knick already succeeds at doing.
This show is far from the typical medical shows we may be accustomed to seeing. The Knick is a fascinating look at the dawn of modern surgery as well as an intense human drama. The fact that the show is set in the year 1900 adds a whole new dynamic that we are not used to seeing in medical shows. I sense that when Emmy nominations come next year, we will see The Knick in multiple categories.