TV Review: The Alienist: “These Bloody Thoughts”

When it comes to these whodunit type of mysteries, the killer ends up being someone whom the audience already knows, and then all of the clues found by other characters that lead them to the person who kept their other identity a secret for the duration of the story. I’m not sure if The Alienist is going to go that route. Granted, we’re already four episodes into the TNT miniseries, but we may have just met the person who is responsible for the killings based on some clues that have been given to the characters – and the viewers – so far. Then again, the murder-mystery genre is really well known for tricking its audience, so it might be someone who fits the description, but not the actual person.

At the end of last week’s episode, “A Silver Smile,” John Moore lost his illustration book at Castle Garden while doing some further investigation and a random person snatches the book and goes through it – leading the viewer to believe that it may be the killer, and the killer might be going after John next. The truth is, it was actually Captain Connor who found it. Since Connor and others in the police department are possibly covering up a lot of details in regards to the cases of murdered boy prostitutes, it is presumed that Connor is taking extra caution toward the cover-ups and I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to frame John as the murderer.

Sara is then given the book and instructed to give it to Lazlo, so he could give it to John. Lazlo asks her to stay and have a brief discussion at the park. She hesitates at first, but then later complies. Lazlo tells her the story of the lady at the park with an empty carriage, who once was happy and had kids. Sara immediately takes this as an insult, thinking that he suggests that she will be happy if she has children. When he states that this woman actually killed her children, Sara is repulsed. Lazlo suggests that the woman’s act has now led her into a state of depression and she feels sorry for herself for what she did. Lazlo then states that Sara should find more empathy for people, no matter what they have done.

It’s an intriguing moment in the episode, as Lazlo gives Sara something to think about, especially when it comes to the case on which they are working. One eerie moment that happens during this scene is when kids are jump roping in the park, and the song they are singing sounds like it was concocted because of the woman’s actions. It gave me a very Nightmare on Elm Street feel.

This whole episode focuses on the fact that people’s weaknesses give them pleasure. Lazlo talks about that briefly in the beginning with a patient, and she discusses how if a man defiles women, he’s considered more dominant, but if a man is beaten, he’s considered to be more of a bully. Later, Lazlo sees another patient named Charles whose weakness is that he kills dogs. The way he sees it, they can be replaced. He has no empathy toward people who lose an animal, because he doesn’t feel anything for the animal.

One of the things I liked about “These Bloody Thoughts” was that it put a few historical moments into the episode and toyed with the fact that these fictional characters are experiencing these events that changed American history. They’re not exactly given a lot of screen time; it’s more like a quick glimpse as to what was happening during the year in which the story is set. But it was interesting to see John and Mary walking through a march for women’s right to vote and experiencing one of the first motion pictures.

What I also liked was how this episode focused on Lazlo trying to understand people’s weaknesses and how they become addictions. One person he tries to examine is John and his love for prostitutes. Of course, with John being unwilling to hear what Lazlo has to say about how he views his lifestyle, he gets a little upset at what Lazlo has to suggest as to why John is behaving the way he is. It’s almost polar opposite of how Sara reacted when Lazlo told her to find more empathy for people.

Like the last three episodes, “These Bloody Thoughts” does end on a cliffhanger, leading us to believe that we may have found the killer. I’m going to assume that this is just another trick by the writers, since that is how the other cliffhangers have resulted. It’s becoming more and more like an old-school serial that begs the viewer to tune in next time by giving them a little tease that something bad will happen to a certain character or characters. I’m kind of hoping that whatever the result is in the next episode is not just another trick, but something that is actually surprising.

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David Wangberg

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