The Alienist (2018) s02e06 – Memento Mori

Thank goodness this episode isn’t by the writer I like—though no blame on credited writer Alyson Feltes, whatever’s wrong with “Alienist” at this point isn’t going to be fixed by a better scene here or there. In addition to having to sit through Daniel Brühl and Lara Pulver on another date, where he kink-shames and she corrects him—see, the first season would just let them be close-minded nineteenth century bigots instead of trying to reinvent them (unless the source novel got a little woker)—but as the conversation turns to sex… Brühl seems to forget he used to have a live-in de facto sex servant last season.

It’s both a weird omission and also not. “The Alienist: Season Two: Angel of Darkness” tries hard to make its heroes as heroic as possible given their constraints. With Brühl it gives him so little to do—though there’s something with kid patient Lucas Bond this episode—while Luke Evans has had his nothing plot engaged to cultural menace Matt Letscher’s illegitimate daughter Emily Barber and waited for a chance to romance Dakota Fanning again. The plotting of this season is entirely ginned up. I wasn’t even a fan of the first season’s mystery but at least it was a mystery. This episode sets up the grand finale and it’s all fairly ho-hum.

Rosy McEwen, who in addition to wanting a baby and being willing to kill the ones she doesn’t like, plays Lady MacBeth for criminal type Frederick Schmidt. What’s funny about Schmidt is he’s this broadly cast nothing character when he technically ought to be the second most important villain. But terrible plotting. Also Schmidt probably couldn’t handle it. McEwen’s fine. She’s got better moments and worse ones, but even having better ones puts her ahead in “Alienist.”

So the last two episodes are apparently going to be everyone teaming up to save a rich baby—the last rich baby wasn’t rich enough for everyone to get involved, just the good guys, but now Ted Levine is along but he’s not going to take orders from Fanning because she’s a she. And, oddly, it does seem wrong. I’m not saying for sure “The Alienist: Season Two: Angel of Darkness” is abjectly ahistorical, but… it sure seems abjectly ahistorical. The show’s verisimilitude is a shrug in “what do you expect, it’s basic cable.”

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