Film | Wide Angle

‘The Knick’: Still gnarlier than ‘The Walking Dead’

by Giovanni Fazio

A number of auteurs have dabbled in TV series, such as David Fincher with “House of Cards” and Martin Scorsese with “Vinyl”; but with “The Knick,” Steven Soderbergh becomes the first to hands-on direct every episode of a show from beginning to end. The result is a two-season arc of absolutely gripping television, now available on Hulu.jp.

Set in 1900, in a Manhattan hospital named The Knickerbocker, “The Knick” has Clive Owen playing the glory-driven, guilt-ridden chief surgeon John Thackery, heading a deep ensemble cast featuring Andre Holland, Juliet Rylance and Eve Hewson (Bono’s daughter). It’s a series that defies expectations. The turn-of-the-century costumes and upper/lower-class divide resemble an urban “Downton Abbey,” yet the surgery scenes are the gnarliest thing this side of “The Walking Dead.” Its most outlandish scenes — self-surgery, a city-wide race riot or rat-stomping as a spectator sport — are actually drawn from history.

The series’ most brilliant move is to look at the era not through the prism of nostalgia, but to make you experience it as a time of dizzying technological innovation — electric lighting! X-rays! cosmetic surgery! cocaine! — and Cliff Martinez’ squelching analog-synth score only highlights the retro-futurist feel. Mix that with opioid addiction, seething racial and anti-immigrant tensions, and it all feels eerily predictive of 2016.

Season two of the”The Knick” is now available on Hulu: www.hulu.jp/the-knick