For the last few years, there has been several shows that have centered during the early 19th century, as if the barbaric nature of that time period is a poetic foil to our supposed crisp society. The newest show to enter these ranks is The Alienist, a TNT cable network that places itself right at the forefront of that changing society. The Alienist holds no bars when it comes to fitting into the gritty society of the 19th century, raising TNT’s status as a major cable drama contender.
The Alienist, which is a term used for those who studied psychological disorders, revolves around a conglomeration of professionals as they try to solve a brutal crime against a young boy. Each of these characters have their strengths and each serves their purpose for the larger goal, all the while traversing the complicated societal regulations and devious behaviors. The first two episodes set up a fascinating show, but there is an underlying worry that they bit off too more than it could chew.
Episode One, The Boy on the Bridge, immediately sets up your chess players and board. Within the first few moments you are introduced to one of the complicated characters of the group, John Moore (played with conviction by Luke Evans) as he’s called to sketch a crime he knows nothing about. The cat and mouse game between John’s associates and the police department set up a nice whisper of intrigue. We aren’t quite sure what lines this mysterious group walks, but the audience is up for the adventure.
As the episode continues, we are introduced to the other core members of the team, the brilliant yet misunderstood Dr. Lazio Kreizier (Daniel Bruhl) and the unfettered working woman Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning). These characters have strong yet frayed lines connectioning them, setting it up for a continued battle of wills between the three core members. Without divulging too much in the first hour, The Boy on the Bridge, welcomes the audience into the muddled world of The Alienist and straps them in for what’s to come.
It’s not until Episode Two, A Fruitful Partnership, that momentum shifts and the first big plunge of the ride happens. The concept of the show, the importance of each player, happens during this episode, and it comes in a way that wouldn’t be possible without The Boy on the Bridge. As the details of the show fall into place, the audiences attention becomes more secure. There isn’t going to be an easy way towards the end goal, but that’s what is keeps the audience enthusiastic. The chemistry, and complications, between Dr. Kreizier, John, and Sara continue to grow, making the show just as much about their relationship as it does about the gruesome crime they are investigating.
From the moment the show starts, The Alienist aims to be included in the cable drama powerhouses originally set by HBO and FX. It may have taken TNT a while to get on the macabre stories, but it was well worth the wait. The care that has been put towards every element of this show can be seen, from the extraordinary cast, to the bewitching visuals, to the ponderous plot. The Alienist fits well among the ranks while staying true to the type of show it wants to be, an evolution of the past to create the future.
However, in it’s attempts to stay independent of what’s come before, it has introduced several minor storylines into the mix on top of the desire to solve the case. There is a lot going on in the show, and while it’s all warranted, I fear that it might get the better of the concept and become deluded with overreaching elements. We are of a time of smart audiences, the ones who can keep up with whatever is thrown at them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they need a cluster diagram to keep up with the plot throughout the season.
Either way, though, the intrigue set up in The Boy on the Bridge is enough the keep the audience coming back each week to follow these individualists through the murky waters they find themselves in.
The Alienist airs Monday nights at 8pm CST on TNT starting on January 22.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by TNT