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5 Reasons Why You Should Be Watching 'The Knick'

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The Knick’s second season begins tonight. After catching the first two episodes at a recent Film Independent at LACMA screening, we can tell you that if they’re any indication of the rest of the season, the Cinemax original series is one of the best shows on TV right now.

Created by Executive Producers Jack Amiel and Michael Begler (who’ve written most of the episodes) and directed by Steven Soderbergh, The Knick stars Clive Owen as a brilliant, but drug-addled, surgeon at an early 20th century New York hospital.

The show mixes historical events with sometimes gruesome scenes of early modern medical practices and social issues. The characters are wonderfully rich and complex, complete with faults and real-life issues with which to deal. Just watch one episode. Trust us. If you need more convincing to binge season one or start off with season two tonight, here are five reasons why:

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1. Steven Soderbergh. The Knick is directed by Steven Soderbergh, and it’s beautifully filmed (especially evident watching it on LACMA’s Bing Theatre big screen). Read this entire Vulture piece to learn how a master director operates on this show. Here’s just a snippet: “Soderbergh has now directed 20 hours of a lavish costume drama at the speed of a run-and-gun indie film: Both seasons wrapped, according to The Knick co-creator and co-writer Jack Amiel, in about 150 days, “which is less time than a lot of crews would spend shooting one big movie.” The Knick shoots eight to nine script pages a day, double the typical rate for a TV drama, and burns through an hour-long episode in just seven days, versus the industry norm of ten to 14.”

2. Clive Owen as a dope fiend. He is seriously good as a turn-of-the-century junkie doctor. In season one, he’s hooked on cocaine, and he’s sent away to rehab at end where they treat his addiction/illness with...heroin. This storyline is based on the life of the life of Johns Hopkins physician William Halsted, and not so far from the truth. Thackery’s struggle with addiction is ugly and hard.

3. Andre Holland and race relations. Andre Holland plays Algernon Edwards, a Harvard-trained surgeon who faces racism in and outside of the hospital. He’s proud and stubborn and his dilemma still resonates loudly today. We agree with The Guardian’s description of Andre Holland in the finale: “[He] stole every scene he appeared in thanks to a combination of charisma and melancholy that was impossible to ignore.”

4. Bloody medical stuff. The Knick has gore—just enough to keep you on your toes. But there’s generally medical history behind the procedures, diseases, operations and treatments. For example, in addition to treating cocaine with heroin, we learned that an experimental treatment for madness was extracting teeth!

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5. Forbidden love. Despite the grit and grime, there are pockets of love at The Knick. Last season, Dr. Edwards engaged in an illicit affair with Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance), who heads the hospital’s social welfare office and sits on the board. She and Edwards have been friends for years—his family worked for hers since they were kids. Also last season, Thackery’s womanizing included young nurse Lucy Elkins. A naive West Virginia girl, she falls head-over-heels for the troubled doctor, while another young surgeon Dr. Bertie Chickering, Jr. (Michael Angarano) pines for her. Fun fact: Hewson (Bono’s daughter) is quite good in the role and nails that accent.

The Knick returns tonight (Oct. 16) at 10 pm on Cinemax.