The Alienist (2018) s02e02 – Something Wicked

This episode we meet Luke Evans’s editor at the newspaper—I think he’s at the New York Times; doesn’t really matter; Demetri Goritsas plays the editor. Goritsas is terrible. And somewhat indicative of the show’s casting choices. It really doesn’t care if anyone’s good. Not if it can get the… scares, I guess. Thrills? Chills? Grosses? “Alienist” is grosser than it is scary or thrilling or chilling. Anyway. Bad script by Stuart Carolan again, barely competent direction from David Caffrey. And only if you don’t count the performances against Caffrey. If you did, well, “Alienist” would just be entirely risible.

There’s more of what one would call character development if Carolan’s script weren’t so bad and the performances weren’t—generally—so wanting. Evans’s girlfriend (or fiancée) Emily Barber is daughter—in actuality illegitimate daughter but the show doesn’t address it—of Matt Letscher’s William Randolph Hearst. Barber’s not good but the writing for her is atrocious. And everyone in the show keeps reminding Evans he’s really in love with Dakota Fanning, though he still plays his scenes with her brotherly enough. She’s abjectly disinterested in him—seriously, all the show’s got going for it at this point is Fanning’s performance is captivating. It’s not even necessarily successful, just captivating. The way she moves, how she reacts, Fanning puts in a lot of work.

As opposed to top-billed Daniel Brühl, who doesn’t put in any real work. He just does the thing where he’s knowingly obnoxious and socially awkward—actually, more like imposing—then doesn’t react at all when people seem put out. I wonder what the script pages look like for this show; are they giving Brühl direction or no. Like, first season he was a would-be movie star turned cable limited series star… this season he’s just a TV show actor. He gets zero prestige whereas Fanning—much more deservingly, obviously—gets it all.

Robert Wisdom gets shoehorned in for a pointless cameo, there are some red herring street toughs, Ted Levine’s silly in his leprechaun audition, and Michael McElhatton is terrible as the doctor. I don’t think there are any more babies in danger this episode—oh, wait am I saying, there’s a caged Spanish baby. Though “Alienist” isn’t making any statements. Statements would take more than Carolan’s got.

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