TV Review: The Alienist: “Silver Smile”

In this third episode of TNT’s The Alienist, the opening credits sequence switches from being just a quick glimpse at the series’ title with a still image of a silhouette in a foggy evening in New York City to fully introducing all of the actors involved in the series with a slideshow of different images playing in the background. The new introduction is very reminiscent of HBO’s True Detective in terms of style and tone. It’s fitting, since it is a grim miniseries so far, but it almost seems like TNT wants to continue it beyond this one season, and I don’t think that will work, if they only plan on basing it on the one book.

“Silver Smile” opens with a husband and wife being informed by Detective Inspector Thomas Byrnes (Ted Levine) about their son being a person of interest in regards to the case involving Giorgio Santorelli. The couple seems to not be too concerned with the information they are being told, as they find it hard to believe their son would be a frequent guest to the brothel. Later, Byrnes meets up with Captain Connor and New Paresis Hall co-owner Paul Kelly (Antonio Magro) in a bar. We already know the law enforcement has ties with the brothel and it’s a guarantee that they’re covering up the investigation of Giorgio’s death and others. Paul is concerned about all of the information that can possibly leak out due to recent events, but Doyle and Byrnes tell him that everything will be OK.

The second episode ended in a cliffhanger with John being drugged, and something was about to happen to him right as the episode ended. It turns out he was possibly sodomized, as he is shown recovering from the incident. Lazlo informs him that he was seen wandering down an alley near the Tenderloin. Sara hands him his pants and says he wasn’t wearing them when he was found. Lazlo is informed that John was at New Paresis Hall, and John has trouble recalling the incident. Sara and Lazlo aren’t impressed with the little detail he has given, and John storms out of the room upset.

One of the things that is somewhat frustrating about “Silver Smile” is that we don’t see what happens to John after the previous episode, but we are instead told what happened. It kills the suspense. It would have been much more intriguing to see John being rescued and then recovering afterward. Sure, the show can be dark, and this scene is more light with doses of humor to make the overall show not as grim, but I think it might have worked better to show the aftermath of what happened to John.

As the gang tries to get some more clues into uncovering the killer of Giorgio, the boy’s body winds up missing from the morgue. Both Sara and Lazlo acknowledge that there is corruption in the police department and that Roosevelt may have some involvement or at least knows of it. In addition, another body is discovered in the same fashion as Giorgio’s, so they have more work to do.

One of the concerns I addressed in my episode two recap was that I didn’t want a love story to spring up between John and Sara. The series kind of hints that one may be starting, but Sara also addresses at a gathering how she has interest in Lazlo. She doesn’t mention him by name, but she tells someone that the person with whom she is interested is a doctor.

There is a sense connection between Lazlo and Sara in this episode, and I have a feeling it will spark into something more as the show progresses. But it also seems like the showrunners are still hinting at a connection between John and Sara, especially toward the end of “Silver Smile.” So, to be honest, I’m not sure where this is going.

I did like how we got some more character development out of Mary, Lazlo’s housemaid. We don’t exactly learn her complete background, but there is a moment in which a revelation shows the viewer a key component about her and some of the questions I had were answered.

In some way, “Silver Smile” felt more formulaic than the previous two episodes in its approach. It’s still a good-looking show, and there are still some things to enjoy, especially the performances of the three leads. But the surprises and ground-breaking feel that the first two episodes had seemed to have withered away.

It feels more like a routine procedural drama this time around, only set in the late 1800s and with the characters learning about new methods such as fingerprinting. But The Alienist does have enough intrigue to it to make me want to return to the show week after week.

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David Wangberg

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