When season one of The Knick ended with Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) having his cocaine addiction treated with heroin, everyone knew that when we next revisited with the New York hospital, things would not be getting any easier for him, which meant everything would be all the more entertaining for us. Whilst the first season allowed us to get to know all of the key players, this one delved deeper into what the characters had to do to survive – not only around the hospital, but in early 20th century New York as a whole. It also gave more of an idea of how all of these characters came to be there in the first place as opposed to the last time where there was a real mixed bag of people from all kinds of backgrounds that had been thrown together in the huge melting pot of NYC. And there was also an underlying murder mystery for the length of this season’s run, so there was plenty to keep viewers interested.
Performances this time round were as good, if not better, due to the very reason you got to know the characters very well. I’ll start with Clive Owen, who was my main purpose for watching the first season. He was tremendous again as the cocaine – and now heroin – addled head of surgery, John Thackery. He is probably the perfect anti-hero and always hugely entertaining to watch. There was certainly a more human element to Thackery this time as he initially tried (and failed) to fight his addiction, instead of just feeding it, which I personally think allowed you to connect with him more than when you were first introduced. But still, as personally tragedies hit, Thackery unraveled and the superb, edgy performances that Owen displayed during season one returned, just in case anyone had forgotten his capabilities as an actor.
Juliet Rylance stood out for me this time as she once again stepped out as Cornelia Robertson. Whilst season one was still playing out, I must admit, I did not fully see what significance Rylance’s character stood to play other than to show the difference between the rich and the poor, however it was always clear that she was more than just a high society lady – the big question was whether she would do something with the position her charmed life had given her, or whether she would conform with tradition and turn a blind eye to the hardships of the city. In season two, that question was answered, and I was quite impressed if I’m completely honest with you. Cornelia gained a lot of depth and was most certainly one of the more complex characters of the season.
I thought the writing for season two was far superior to that of season one. There was the doubt in my mind that it would closely follow Thackery’s cocaine addiction again which, somewhere during the course of the twenty episodes, would surely get tiresome. However, the addition of a whodunnit was a nice touch and kept the levels of intrigue high throughout.
Overall, my highly anticipated return of The Knick was well worth the wait. It offered far more than the very watchable season one which seemed to serve more as a prologue to this season. However, with a number of the major characters having left and the Knickerbocker’s benefactors withdrawing funds, the main concern is whether The Knick will be returning for another check-up, or if we have all just been discharged.