The Alienist Recap: Something Rotten

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Photo: Kata Vermes/Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc.
The Alienist

The Alienist

Requiem Season 1 Episode 9
Editor's Rating 4 stars

I know this is a show about murder, but there is a lot of murder going on (like, more than usual), and it is making me very nervous! But first things first: Last week’s episode saw the first major character death on The Alienist, and the ramifications are pretty immediate. Kreizler breaks up the team in the middle of Mary’s funeral, blaming himself for bringing all of them into danger. Roosevelt (who, as much as I love the main trio, might be my favorite character on the show, especially after dressing down Byrnes and ragging on the entire police department in the process) tells him that it’s fine to grieve, but it’s not like Kreizler has ever listened to anybody but himself.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Kreizler, but I can’t say I felt that much pity for him spending all of “Requiem” moping around the house. I get the impulse to be a shut-in, but the iron is too hot right now for inaction to look good, at least not without some further context. For now, we’re stuck with Kreizler refusing to answer the door, going through Mary’s things (notably picking up the movie ticket from when she and Moore went out), and then having something of an existential crisis. And by “existential crisis,” I mean “breaks a wine glass and stabs his bad arm with the stem as he stares down a photo of his father.”

It’s down to Daniel Brühl’s performance that this doesn’t come off as completely wild. We know that Kreizler has some demons of his own, stemming from what seems to have been a contentious relationship with his father. This is the first time that we’ve seen him properly wrestle with them. Granted, it took Mary’s death to get us here, and apparently a whole other episode for him to get to a place where he’ll take action. (I can’t imagine him sitting out next week’s finale.) Let’s just hope it’s worth it.

Mary’s death also leads to one of the more nerve-racking sequences in the episode, as Cyrus takes matters into his own hands and makes his way out to Brooklyn to give Connor his due. Since the only people saying otherwise are an urchin (Stevie) and a black man (Cyrus), Connor and his pals have gotten away with saying that Connor killed Mary in self-defense after she’d lured him into Kreizler’s house. At this point, despite how much I love David Wilmot, I wouldn’t be too sad to see Connor go. He’s only gotten more and more reprehensible as the story has progressed, and when Cyrus sneaked up behind him with a razor, I wasn’t scared for Connor so much as I was scared for Cyrus, should he be found out. Connor gets out of it by the skin of his teeth, as the appearance of one of his kids is enough to get Cyrus to hide and get the hell out of there.

Meanwhile, as always, Howard is the one getting shit done. After Kreizler starts throwing his pity party, she quickly takes over an empty saloon to serve as the new headquarters for the investigation, and sets about trying to find Beecham. After some musing over Beecham’s assumed name, the team (now Moore, Howard, and the Isaacsons) head out to check the census records for any indication of his name and address. As in any group project, there’s an uneven distribution of labor — Moore can’t concentrate, or rather, he can’t stop staring at Howard — but Howard eventually cracks it: Beecham isn’t recorded in the census … but that’s because he was the enumerator. After some wheedling, they get Beecham’s address from the man on duty, as well as a further clue: Beecham was let go from his job because he was accused of getting too close to the 12-year-old daughter at one of the houses he visited.

The house doesn’t turn up much. According to the landlady, Beecham moved out a while ago after losing his job. She doesn’t mean his job at the census, though; apparently, Beecham had done some charity work, as well. The girl offers up a similarly small detail, saying that Beecham had never laid a hand on her, and that the only thing they’d talked about was how much she hated her father. Joseph says something similar, noting to Moore that the conversations the murderer had with the boys he’d taken had been in that same vein. (Kinda makes you wonder how Kreizler would fare with them in a roundtable.)

The common thread leads our heroes to another revelation: The boys all had deadbeat dads, all of whom seemed to have a weakness for gambling. So they follow that thread to a local gambling den, then to an enforcer, and then to a bar, before finally (!) finding where Beecham has set up shop. I don’t want to be melodramatic, but Beecham’s apartment is gross. There’s a human heart in a box and a jar full of eyeballs. Thank God they didn’t find any human parts in the stove because I might actually have thrown up.

Unfortunately, the fact that Beecham isn’t at home means that he’s out and about, i.e., on the hunt for a new victim. He’s a specter throughout the entire episode, with shadows and mysterious figures dotting the landscape, as if to make sure we know that nobody is safe. I had hoped that Joseph would make it out of this ordeal alive — his relationship with Moore is one of my favorite things about the series, as it’s built up so quietly and so naturally — but he may not be so lucky. I can only hope that Moore adopts him if things turn out okay. (They won’t, I know, but let me have this.)

After giving him another warning, Moore gives Joseph some cash to stay off the street. When Joseph discovers that his money has been nicked by one of his friends, he goes back to the bathhouse where he’d left him to get it back. His pal, as it turns out, has earned the distinction of being Beecham’s latest victim. Joseph doesn’t see the whole corpse, but the blood all over the floor and the sound of flesh being chopped up is more than enough to convince him to flee. He hides in one of the lockers, but it’s a poor hiding spot. As the murderer drags the other boy’s body across the floor, he hears a whimper sound from the other side of the hall. If you’re listening, TNT, for the sake of my sanity, it’s not too late to change who lives and who dies in the finale.

The Alienist Recap: Something Rotten