TV Review: The Alienist: “Castle in the Sky”

Although The Alienist has always been proposed as a miniseries, and its main story comes to an end in “Castle in the Sky,” there are still some subplots that go unanswered, and it’s as if TNT hopes they can continue the show as a full-fledged television series, as opposed to just one run of 10 episodes.

“Castle in the Sky” has its characters facing something, whether it is from their past or some decision or decisions that have cost them in their present situation. It’s a moment for each of them to self-reflect before diving back into the investigation and putting an end to the killings.

Lazlo’s self-reflection and mourning of Mary’s death simply consists of listening to opera music while having a fancy dinner to himself. This doesn’t last the entire episode, though, as Sara confronts him and tells him to face his demons. During this discussion, Sarah reveals that she has demons of her own, namely helping her father commit suicide.

The body of another boy is found, and John is disturbed and concerned about Joseph. Like Lazlo blamed himself for Mary’s death, John blames himself for Joseph’s disappearance. Sara tells him he is not to blame for anything. He questions her feelings again for Lazlo, to which she responds by saying she was joking. But then, John informs her that it is he who actually loves her. He slowly kisses her cheek and then moves to the lips. The moment is interrupted by Roosevelt’s appearance.

Prior to this, Sara tells Roosevelt about case update, and informs him that his presence may make things worse. This concerns Roosevelt, who goes on about how his dream of becoming a New York hero has kind of withered. Sara gives him reassurance that the killer will be found.

Even though Sara has demons of her own, she seems to be the one central character who is able to bring everyone together and comfort them in a time of need. It makes the performance by Fanning all the more intriguing, and the chemistry she shares with each character is incredible.

One of the subplots that briefly got mentioned earlier this season was the fact that Marcus Isaacson had a previous love interest with a woman named Esther. In this episode, he confronts her about her already having a child, and she retaliates by saying she just wants Marcus to stop avoiding her. He apologizes for his actions, and they share a kiss.

It’s as if whatever was left hanging in previous episodes or had some hints throughout the season get more of the spotlight in “Castle in the Sky,” but it’s expedited to get to the murder investigation. There’s hardly any time to fully develop the subplot any further than what we get, unfortunately, and the result is something that feels rushed.

As hurried as “Castle in the Sky” felt, there are some character-defining moments that work and, if there happens to be a season two, will change the way the central protagonists approach certain situations. Sara continues to be the strong female in the bunch, even though she is always defined as weak because of her sex. When John and Lazlo head to the reservoir to confront Beecham and rescue Joseph, they are met by the slime ball Captain Connor. Sara appears and shoots the man dead, a moment that is justifiable and symbolic for Sara. But, of course, Connor is given a farewell by the police force and is credited as being the key to capturing Beechem.

Beechem is confronted and killed, leaving Lazlo and everyone else clueless as to what the motive was behind his killings. Despite the unfortunate fact that they will never know, the gang meets up for dinner and celebrates the closing of the case. But before the series comes to an end, it diverts to Lazlo confronting the spirit of his father, saying that he has persevered when it didn’t seem like he would, and, in the end, he has become a better person because of it.

As a whole, I liked The Alienist, but I felt “Castle in the Sky” could have benefited from being a two-hour finale as opposed to just the standard one hour. The show is a new approach for TNT, and it shows that they can follow in the same big footsteps other networks have when it comes to expensive projects. It’s a strongly acted miniseries, but the final episode felt too crammed and too hurried to be fully appreciated. It’s as if they wanted to conclude everything, but also make way for a possible season two, which becomes a hindrance to the show’s main storyline. It is a fine episode, although it is a letdown at the same time.

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David Wangberg

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