Credit where credit’s due: Things could have been a lot worse. “Castle in the Sky” is surprisingly bright, considering how dark The Alienist has gotten, but I suppose that’s to be expected from a finale.
Joseph is alive, thank God, though the other boy was cut into pieces and dumped into the public bath. It’s enough to shake Moore, who blames himself for not taking Joseph in, and seems to be processing that guilt in a very “live like you were dying” way. When Howard tells him that she was joking about being in love with Kreizler, he takes the opportunity to tell her once again that he loves her. And, in a moment of clarity, he tells her that he doesn’t mind if she turns him down — so long as she doesn’t pretend that he doesn’t have any feelings for her. I don’t want to get too Team Edward versus Team Jacob about this, and I know I complained about the age difference in casting earlier, but I’m really rooting for Moore.
Kreizler, as expected, has done enough introspection to realize that he’s no good to anyone moping around the house. With a new fire lit under him, he apologizes to Howard for his behavior. It’s a tender moment, as both share their memories — good and bad — of their fathers. Kreizler tells Howard that his father, who’d possessed a fierce temper, had fractured his arm for next to no reason. In turn, Howard relates the circumstances of her father’s suicide: He’d blown off half of his face after changing his mind too late, and he and Howard had had to finish the act together. Kreizler sees the memory of this pain as an inexorable force; Howard sees it as something that must be used to help others. Otherwise, she says, we’d all be murderers.
After Will Graham–ing his way around the bathhouse where the last victim was murdered, Kreizler meets up first with the Isaacsons, with whom he deduces that Beecham has taken to using the sewers to get around rather than traveling by rooftop. Then he goes to Moore, inviting him to the opera and mentioning that certain folks will expect them to be there.
Those “certain folks” are, of course, No. 1 alienist fan Byrnes and his coterie. When Moore and Kreizler show up at the opera, he’s staring daggers at them from across the theater. Moore gets the picture — they can’t exactly go on the hunt with Moore on their tail — but he’s understandably antsy given that Joseph has yet to be found. But Kreizler has a plan. As soon as the opera reaches its climax and the attendant round of pyrotechnics finally gets Byrnes to look away, they get the hell out of there. The opera du jour is, of course, Don Giovanni, which involves parental specters, abuse, and a man being dragged to Hell. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how this is fitting, especially as we get glimpses of Beecham scaring Joseph out of his wits, bringing him a cat specifically to make him watch as he stuffs it in a bag and beats it to death, and muttering gibberish as he looms over the poor boy.
Meanwhile, the Isaacsons are sorting out the last of their personal drama, as Marcus confronts Esther about her already having a child. Exasperated, she tells him that she’s not trying to trick him into taking care of them, and that all she wants is for him to stop avoiding her. Marcus, a little cowed, apologizes. It’s a weird interlude insomuch as the entire story line has felt half-baked, but hey.
Back to the action! The team makes their way to Croton Reservoir, where they believe Beecham is hiding out. On the way there, Kreizler explains that the killer’s MO is changing (the last victim’s eyes were left intact), as well as noting that the heart-in-a-box we saw when they combed through Beecham’s apartment was likely his mother’s. As soon as they get inside, they hear Joseph screaming for help. Through a combination of stealth, strength, and being a straight-up Resident Evil monster, Beecham overpowers both Moore and Kreizler, but there’s no accounting for — you guessed it — Connor.
Easy as you please, everyone’s favorite blowhard shoots Beecham in the back. For a second, it looks like he might be about to redeem himself, but naturally, that’d be asking for too much from a man who possesses so little good. He threatens to kill Kreizler and pass it off as Beecham’s work. When Howard arrives before he can do so, he threatens her, too, starting to choke her before another shot rings out. This time, it’s Howard who’s got the gun. When Roosevelt discovers what’s happened, he rightly commends her, telling her that she’s always had the courage to do what needed to be done, though he cedes some ground to Byrnes by awarding Connor a posthumous medal.
With the case closed, the dream team goes out to dinner. Kreizler is still a little blue, as Beecham’s motive for killing will forever remain a mystery, but the gathering is cheery nonetheless. In one of the quieter moments of the evening, he slips Moore the ring he had intended to give to Mary, telling his friend that he hopes he’ll find someone to give it to. Obviously, we cut to Moore walking Howard home. He confesses his feelings to her yet again, telling her that he’ll wait until she becomes chief of detectives if that’s what it takes. It’s a peaceful kind of reckoning, with each gently ribbing the other until Moore steals Howard’s cab and rides off into the sunset. (Also, where is Joseph? Did Moore adopt him? Is he back on the streets? I need to know!)
Kreizler’s final reckoning is a little more fraught. He goes to visit his father, and, in a monologue that lies at direct odds to his attitude at the beginning of the series, says that he now believes that people “can be better than nature intended.” In other words, his studies have just begun. It’s a pretty neat conclusion to an extremely twisty series, if perhaps a little too neat. Perhaps it’s setting up for a second season, given Kreizler’s new outlook and the developing bond between Moore and Howard. Either way, it’s been plenty fun getting from point A to point B.