The Alienist– Episode 9: “Requiem”
Starring: Daniel Bruhl, Dakota Fanning, Luke Evans, Matthew Shear, Douglas Smith, Brian Geraghty, Robert Wisdom, Matt Lintz, David Wilmot, and Ted Levine
Written by: Hossein Amini
Directed by: Jamie Payne
The Alienist may be down, but the investigation is not out in the somberly scattered “Requiem,” the penultimate episode of the ambitious TNT limited series. Sent spiraling by the death of Mary, Dr. Kreizler turns away from this “wretched investigation” (his words, not mine), leaving John and Sara to pick up the pieces. And pick them up they bloody well do. They get a new ramshackle HQ in the bones of an old saloon and turning back to the bloody work of hunting the killer, Beecham. This episode isn’t exactly the bounce back that I would have liked from the series. Director Jamie Payne (“TIME OF THE DOCTOR,” Y’ALL and The Hour! and showrunner Hossein Amini set the table well at the very least as The Alienist head into its final bow.
Frustratingly, we find our core three scattered. Lazlo spends much of this episode mourning in his manse, as well as chewing a healthy amount of scenery in his grief. The rest of Team Alienist really rises to the occasion to carry the episode. Again, it is SUPES frustrating to have the core group broken up again for I think about the fourth time. (I will keep a tally once I binge rewatch this on an upcoming Murderino Sunday Funday.) Structurally, I understand it. I am sure you do too. It still seems such a shame to be taking Bruhl off the board for so much of this episode. Especially since, ya know, the show is CALLED The Alienist.
But, that aside, writer Amini still gives everybody else plenty to do. We see the Brothers Isaacson tensely questioning the dirty dicks that done Mary dirt. Amping up the tension between the bent ranks of the NYPD and Team Alienist. Even ol’ Teddy gets in on the fun. He takes it straight to the top and bowing up to Ted Levine’s Byrnes right in the middle of his smoky sin bin of a cop tavern. Each sequence is flatly, but effectively staged by Payne. He lets the actors simmer and boil over themselves while not pushing too far with the camera or overdirecting the scene. It’s a nice change of pace from other choppy examples of prestige TV.
The same can also be said of a juicy scene between Stevie and Cyrus. As they both rotely, and angrily go about the housework around Lazlo’s brooding. Stevie talks about how he’s been following Connor and knows his routine. Robert Wisdom’s Cyrus patiently listens to the angry young man while methodically sharpening a thin pocket knife. The boy talks about how it would be so easy to just cut his throat and be done with it. Cyrus disagrees. The leg is the way to go, just at the right artery, he says with his easy smile. Payne films it all with the banality of an episode of Downton Abbey, thus amping up Wisdom and Matt Lintz naturalistic performances. This whole side plot is really one of “Requiem’s” best qualities.
Over in the A-plot, John, and Sara, still overcome with their innate desire to do good and help people, move into a new shabby HQ and knuckle down on the legwork of tracking down Beecham. Bruhl’s absence is felt throughout the episode. The chemistry and working relationship that Luke Evans and Dakota Fanning drum up is really fun and watchable. Supported by the stalwart youth of Matthew Shear and Douglas Smith whose Brothers Isaacson stand as a ready-made duo cosplay should anyone want to go halfsies. The duo stands as a gruff, Nick and Nora Charles-esque alternative to Laz and John’s twee Holmes and Watson. It’s almost a pity we didn’t get more of this before the show reached its endpoint.
Verdict: Watch It (If You Are A Completionist)
Throughout my coverage of The Alienist, I haven’t just outright said an episode is skippable. I think “Requiem” might be the closest the show has gotten to that illustrious point. If you have been following along with the show from the jump (or even, at least, the last three episodes), this ninth installment is worth the time. Between you and me, nothing about this ninth episode would give the layman viewer any real incentive to go back and see what preceded it. Kind of a stumbling block for a show in this the age of Netflix, but, to hell with it, I’m still into it (and aware of its faults).
Until next time, fellow scene kids, be seeing you.