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The Alienist Recap: A Death in the Family

The Alienist

Psychopathia Sexualis
Season 1 Episode 8
Editor’s Rating *****

The Alienist

Psychopathia Sexualis
Season 1 Episode 8
Editor’s Rating *****

The Alienist is finally cooking with gas! As our heroes get closer to the truth, we’ve seen them get kidnapped, beaten up, and dressed down. Maybe it was inevitable that one of them would come to mortal harm. At the very least, this isn’t a show where happiness ever lasts long, so when “Psychopathia Sexualis” opens on Mary cheerfully going about her chores and Kreizler staring dreamily out the window, alarm bells should be going off.

Floating on that post-hookup high, even Kreizler’s usual needling has changed. Though he hassles Moore (sporting two black eyes following his scrap with Connor) about not visiting his former fiancée as they set off to find Bunzl, he follows it up with the classic first-crush move of asking what it’s like to be in love. I could devote the entire rest of this recap to Moore’s answer, but I’ll spare you except to say that it’s quite sweet. Mercifully, Kreizler doesn’t tease him about it, though they do start arguing about how the heart works, with Kreizler insisting that it’s just a muscle. Typical.

Kreizler’s poking around at the government hospital and Moore’s investigation at the Bureau of Indian Affairs reveal that Bunzl has died, but their trip hasn’t been for naught. Moore discovers records of the murder of a minister and his wife in New Paltz, attributed to marauding Native Americans out of what seems like administrative laziness, and Kreizler discovers notes about a soldier named John Beecham, born in New Paltz, who comes closest to fitting the criteria they have for their suspect. It’s a break in the case, if not in the tangle of their personal lives, but it’s also offset by misfortune: The two of them are being followed.

In the second prong of the investigation, Howard turns her disappointment at being left behind into action. After Moore tells her about the incident with the Dury family in New Paltz, she sets off for the town herself. When she arrives, she’s quick to note the lovely Shawangunk Mountains, which her appointed escort encourages her to climb, saying that there’s no reason she shouldn’t just because she’s a girl. It’s an instant bonding moment between the two, and it almost made me wish the show was about the two of them solving crimes together instead of the three-hander it is. Though they’re from different backgrounds and in different lines of work, they’re kindred spirits. They both have a sense of independence, and they’re both no bullshit. When the local sheriff tells Howard what happened to the Durys — that the minister and his wife were butchered, their older son Adam spared, and their younger son Japheth kidnapped — it’s the woman who tells Howard not to believe what he says.

The Isaacsons, as the last prong of the trident, have gone to speak to the captain who relieved Beecham of his duty. The trip there sees them dealing with their own emotional mishegoss: Lucius has discovered that Marcus’s sweetheart already has a baby, and Marcus seems to be in denial, telling Lucius that he doesn’t have any feelings for her, which is the kind of thing you can’t say in a conversation about your love life because it’ll sound like you’re lying even if you’re not. (Though, let’s be real: If you’re having the conversation at all, you definitely are.) They keep fighting when Marcus takes snapshots of Sitting Bull’s grave, with Lucius arguing that it’s disrespectful of the dead. They’re soon confronted with worse, as Captain Miller tells them that, during the Haymarket riots, he found Beecham repeatedly stabbing the corpse of a young boy. And that’s not the least of it: Beecham was naked, and, to quote Miller, “stiff as a flag pole.”

The rest of what Kreizler and Moore find also points to Beecham as the murderer — and not quite the man he’s said he is. Everything that Adam says about Japheth fits with what they’ve been looking for: Their mother was domineering and cruel, especially to Japheth, and Japheth suffered sexual assault at the hands of a farmhand who was found dead at around the same time that their parents were killed, with his throat cut and his eyes missing. The farmhand’s name? George Beecham. In other words, the soldier John Beecham and the missing boy Japheth Dury are one and the same.

As they head back with this new piece of the puzzle, the shadow that’s been tailing them finally takes action, shooting their driver and sending their carriage careening off of a bridge. Luckily, both of them survive the crash, though Kreizler’s leg is wounded in the fall. In his initial panic, he asks Moore to deliver a message for him. Moore, ever the optimist, tells him he’s overreacting. It’s only once they’re safely away from the scene that he questions Kreizler, asking if the object of his affection knows how he feels, and if his feelings are reciprocated. When Kreizler says yes (and given how something seems to have happened between Kreizler and Howard), Moore immediately jumps to the conclusion that he means Sara. He takes it about as graciously as anyone can when they think their crush has hooked up with their best friend, saying that at least he’ll be able to say that he introduced them, which is enough for Kreizler to get what’s going on and clear up the confusion.

To Kreizler’s credit, he knows that the relationship between him and Mary is somewhat inappropriate given that she initially came into his care as a child. But the heart wants what it wants (or so he says), and he admires her for her warmth and courage, qualities he tells Moore that he doesn’t think he has. It’s perhaps the only time that Kreizler has admitted to his own shortcomings without prompting and without any frustration, which only makes this week’s big loss all the more upsetting.

Neither the police nor high society are happy with the way the case is going, even though suspicion has shifted from the Van Bergens. J.P. Morgan puts the squeeze on Roosevelt to scuttle Kreizler’s investigation, but Roosevelt’s a strong man. Unfortunately, Connor isn’t. He folds like wet paper under Byrnes’s command to make sure that the police solve the case before Kreizler does — or rather, to swoop in and vulture the results if necessary. He goes to Kreizler’s house to try to put him off the investigation, but the doctor isn’t home. When his men try to subdue Cyrus and Mary, she manages to break free, attacking Connor with a knife. Connor overpowers her, throwing her off of the balcony. And just like that, she’s gone.

It’s an awfully disappointing loss, not least because she’s one of very few characters of color on the show (and one of basically two female characters), but also because, given how relatively little her character was explored, it seems like she’s being fridged for the sake of Kreizler’s emotional development. Doubtless, her death will be hanging over Kreizler’s head when it comes time to choose between his own integrity and fully submitting to the process he’s created while trying to catch the killer. Let’s just hope it’s the former.

The Alienist Recap: A Death in the Family