Back before the turn of the century (as in the turn from the 1800s to the 1900s) people with mental abnormalities were considered as being outside their own minds. Aliens, if you will. The people who treated them were, therefore, called “alienists.”
Now that that bit of background is out of the way, let us proceed. The Alienist is set in 1898 New York City. Imagine NYC with more grime, less color and flashy metal buildings, petticoats, and child labor. That’s the setting for the show.
The show opens with a dead boy in a dress. Just to warn viewers, this show doesn’t hold any punches. They show you all the gore you’d expect to find on HBO, as well as some gratuitous sex scenes, which is probably why it comes on at 9pm on TNT rather than at an earlier time.
Let’s get to the cast. Daniel Bruhl plays Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, the alienist referred to in the title. Luke Evans plays John Moore, an illustrator for the Post and a friend of Kreizler’s. He’s the one who illustrates the first crime scene for Kreizler since the police have no love for the good doctor and his methods. The first crime scene is where we meet a young Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty) who is trying to bring the police force forward into the 20th century and out of the stone ages of yesteryear. Something he is not loved for, so it’s understandable that he meets with some resistance from the former police commissioner and the lackeys he left behind.
The last of the main cast is Dakota Fanning’s Sarah Howard, a strong single woman and first female member of the police force. Mind you, she’s just the secretary to the new commissioner, but she’s well placed to get the necessary information for Kreizler and Moore, as well as keep the commissioner informed as to their progress.
The first episode is an introduction to the characters as well as the murderer, though, we don’t get too much of a glimpse into him as we do the men inadvertently protecting him by trying to keep up with the status quo. The rest of Season One plays out to perfection, building well onto everything established early on, as well as introducing plenty of new stuff to sink your teeth into. I won’t get into anything else about it as this is a SPOILER FREE review, but I will say if you like cerebral long drawn out crime dramas, this is definitely the show for you! If you’re looking for turn-of-the-century-Law-and-Order, well, not so much. This is the beginning era for forensics, so it’s interesting to see how far we’ve come in science.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, The Alienist is an excellent period piece, and an expertly-crafted TV series which promises many more great things for future seasons. Again, if you’re looking for the typical TV crime drama with a different setting, this one’s probably not for you, but if you like a good methodical pace and plenty of psychological drama, you’re in for a treat! – 8.0/10
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine