(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Series: The Knick
Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max
The Pitch: The life and times of several people connected with a hospital in 1900 New York City.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: The Knickonly lasted two seasons, but they’re two great seasons that you can binge through in no time. Although maybe you should pace yourself – the series is often quite bleak and bloody. But that’s part of its charm.
At some point, Steven Soderbergh announced that he was “retiring.” And while other people may use retirement to kick back and relax, Soderbergh kept busy. He only retired from movies, and that didn’t stop him from directing every episode of The Knick in the meantime (side-note: Soderbergh eventually came out of his movie retirement as well, kicking things off with Logan Lucky in 2017; he’s made five other movies since then).
Created by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, The Knick is set primarily in the Knickerbocker Hospital, a fictional New York City hospital in 1900. It follows a myriad of characters: there’s brilliant, smug, drug-addicted chief surgeon Dr. John W. “Thack” Thackery (Clive Owen); Dr. Algernon C. Edwards (Andre Holland), the Black assistant chief surgeon who lands a job at the Knick and immediately faces racist backlash; Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance), the head of the hospital’s social welfare office who also serves on the board of directors, and who has a relationship with Algernon; Eve Hewson as Lucy Elkins, a nurse who ends up getting drawn into Thackery’s world; Chris Sullivan as Tom Cleary, a burly ambulance driver; Cara Seymour as Sister Harriet, a nun and midwife; and more.
All of these characters have their own plotlines running through the show, and more often than not, they’re all frequently butting up against each other. In the midst of all of this are a series of increasingly gruesome turn-of-the-century medical procedures, all of them rendered with ghastly realism. And yet, the show looks gorgeous, thanks to Soderbergh’s direction and cinematography (he also edited the entire show himself, because the man’s a machine).
The series aired on Cinemax – and that’s probably the reason it didn’t survive very long. Cinemax didn’t exactly have the hottest original shows, and the hope was that The Knick would help the network reach the lofty heights of HBO. That didn’t happen, and The Knick got nixed after two seasons. However, everyone involved saw the writing on the wall, and thankfully, the series doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. In fact, the final episode moves at breakneck speed wrapping almost every single storyline up – but be warned, the way the stories are resolved are not exactly what you’d call a happy ending.
There may be some life left in The Knick just yet. Soderbergh recently revealed that star Andre Holland and filmmaker Barry Jenkins were working on a third season/revival. That hasn’t been given a green light yet – but it probably will, if more people start streaming The Knick now that it’s on HBO Max. So get to it!
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