The Alienist is an American drama TV series based on the book of the same name, by the American author, Caleb Carr. The TV series is now available for streaming on Netflix.
Having just finished watching the Lost in Space TV series, I was at a loss as to what to watch next. I came across The Alienist by accident whilst browsing absentmindedly through the many shows Netflix had to offer, whilst being wary of shows that could potentially be cancelled! Don’t you hate it when you commit to a show and the buggers at Netflix decide they don’t want to continue on with future series, which leaves you in the middle of a cliffhanger? So I had a quick glance at some reviews (whilst trying to avoid spoilers) and saw that the season would, in fact, have a satisfactory conclusion and I thought I’d give it a shot.
The following comments are my own opinions and thoughts and spoiler free!
The events of The Alienist is set in 1896, New York City, a time of great strife where rich families forever kick the poor to the curb and police turns a blind eye to their wrongdoings. A killer, murdering cross-dressing, whoring children, is on the loose and the police department is reluctantly doing anything to stop it. It is left to a criminal psychologist, aka an Alienist, to come in and put together an ad hoc team to do what the police can’t (and won’t).
A pentalogy of characters made up the following: Criminal psychologist, Dr Laszlo Kreizler, played by Daniel Brühl (the bad guy from Captain America: Civil War). New York Times illustrator John Moore, played by Luke Evans (Dracula Untold, The Hobbit). Dakota Fanning (Twilight) plays the brilliant headstrong police secretary, Sara Howard. The Isaacson detective-sergeant twins are played by Douglas Smith and Matthew Shear (never seen these two before but they were fantastic).
The conflicts and politics of the 1890’s set the scene nicely for the story, allowing for the detective team to move in and work behind the scenes, much to the dismay of some in the police force, and for some of those in higher circles whose belief that should the ad hoc team discover the killer and not the police, it would reflect very poorly on them.
The dark theme of New York City gave the feeling of hardship and strife, making you realise that this was a terrible time to live in. It takes a reminder to remember that during these times, homosexuals and transgender were looked down on and cast out, far worse than it is today.
There are some fun moments of humour in the show, especially when poor Stevie Taggert, the young ward to Dr Kreizler, is thrown into a role he is not used to. I won’t say what he had to do, but there are laughs to be had.
The series is 10 episodes long and the story is carefully paced throughout, allowing bits of information to filter through at pivotal moments, resulting in various twist and turns. I never at any point thought the show was too slow or too fast. I enjoyed the pacing very much and it allowed me to adjust and take in what was happening and why.
The Opening Credits
The series opens up with the following text:
In the 19th Century, persons suffering from mental illness were thought to be alienated from their own true natures.
Experts who studied them were therefore known as alienist.
It was in episode two that an actual opening credit was introduced into the show. It opened up with an eerie theme tune and some clever visuals showing a New York City being developed (but in reverse). I liked it enough that I didn’t even skip the intro once!
The Visuals, Costumes and Sets
The visuals for the show were remarkable in my opinion, though at times when the scenes looked very similar to that of an old London era, I had to remind myself that this was indeed New York City. Most of the scenes are based in Manhattan, New York City, with a few trips to other states during the course of the 10-episodes.
The costumes were fantastic and the 1890’s New York sets were exceptional also. The illusion of 1890’s struggling America was maintained throughout and wonderfully presented.
The Characters and the Actors
The characters together fused exceedingly well, each bringing something different to the table. Dr Kreizler is the calm, scientific and logic seeking professor type. I personally found myself thinking how close Dr Kreizler reminded me of Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars prequels, which is great because Obi-Wan is one of my favourite characters. John Moore brings the Doctor Watson excitable, reliable and loyal sidekick persona. Sara Harding is the link between the team and the police department and is pivotal to the team for this very reason. You could argue that the Isaacson twins were very much a packaged deal, with both men offering similar characteristics and skill set, but working off each other to present a fun duo act.
I really enjoyed the actors performances, especially that of Luke Evans who captured how it was back in those days (or at least, how I would imagine it to be). I have often found when watching certain movies or TV series set in different eras how the language is not accurate, however, I did not feel it here.
The supporting cast carried themselves brilliantly too, including Brian Geraghty as Theodore Roosevelt, David Wilmot as Captain Connor, Q’orianka Kilcher as Mary Palmer, Robert Ray Wisdom as Cyrus Montrose, and Matt Lintz as Stevie Taggert.
The Alienist book was originally published in 1994, with a sequel The Angel of Darkness being released in 1997, which raises questions as to whether a sequel will happen. I certainly hope so! Although I would say to any potential watchers that the season does end with a sound conclusion, therefore you won’t be left in limbo whilst the big cheese at Netflix check their wallets and decide whether they can afford to approve a sequel into the works.
I have not read the book, yet. But it’s certainly on my radar now.
I loved the series!
Be ready for a binge-watching session people. I got through the entire series in two sittings and I am looking forward to watching it again.
You can purchase The Alienist book at the links below: