If there’s one thing The Alienist has done right so far, it’s been keeping the psychology present in the show. So often, crime shows abandon the psychological aspects and focus more on the “whodunnit” elements. And while the latter is still a substantial part, The Alienist doesn’t let us forget what it’s deep-rooted in: getting to the deepest, darkest parts of one’s soul.
Episode two ended on a cliffhanger with John Moore getting drugged at the brothel where Giorgio worked. He wakes up in Kreizler’s house, not knowing how he got there. According to Kreizler, he was seen walking around sans pants in an alleyway. Kreizler tries to push Moore on what happened down there, but Moore shrugs it off by saying he doesn’t remember. It’s clear that he’s lying and is trying to suppress his trauma. All he says is that Giorgio was popular with the wealthier clients and simply disappeared from his room to follow “the man with the silver smile.”
In the meantime, Captain Connor and his conspirators reassure themselves that Moore is taken care of and heavily point to him being sexually assaulted while he was drugged (Connor jokingly says that he won’t be able to sit down for a week). Unfortunately, the showrunners seem to quickly move past Moore’s trauma to continue the case and look at the bloody fingerprints that were found on the necklace. With some inconsistencies in the prints, Kreizler and Howard go to attempt to get more prints off of Giorgio’s body. However, when they arrive at the morgue, Giorgio’s body is missing. Kreizler and Howard don’t hesitate to confirm that police corruption is city-wide and Roosevelt shouldn’t trust any of his men. This, coupled with a scene of Connor counting his bribe money out in the open, makes the police corruption theme a little too on the nose. Similar to the past two episodes, the showrunners continue to lay out breadcrumbs for the audience to follow.
For the most part, “Silver Smile” takes its time to let our main characters develop and flourish. Through interactions with his grandmother, we learn that John had a failed engagement, lost his brother in a drowning accident, and isn’t on speaking terms with his father. As the only unmarried woman at her college reunion, Sara confirms that she has feelings for Kreizler. And the good doctor himself has some complicated feelings for his deaf servant, Mary, following an emotional outburst and late-night exchange.
Once again, Daniel Brühl proves that he can go to deep places as the troubled Kreizler. He has no problem making his peers relive past traumas to get inside a killer’s head.At one point, it’s revealed that his footman, Cyrus, has killed a man and is trying to move past it. Kreizler pushes him to the point of breaking to try to know what he felt while he was brutally murdering this man.
The character development quickly comes to an end when another murdered boy prostitute is discovered on the top of the aquarium. With no forced entry, the team is at their wit’s end about why the killer has chosen this place and how they got out. But after going over past MOs of the killer, Sara has cracked the case. Kreizler’s previous patients were found in a water tower; Giorgio was located on the Brooklyn Bridge and this victim was found on the top of the aquarium. The recurring pattern is water and heights.
With such a significant turning point in the case, Kreizler is driven to the point of obsession. While John and Sara are more interested in the “how” aspect, Kreizler is very much obsessed with the “why.” Similar to how he treated Cyrus, Kreizler attempts to dive into Sara and John’s minds to see how they have coped with the tragedy. Kreizler knows that John has turned to the bottle to deal with his problems, but he’s particularly interested in how Sara has been coping after her father’s suicide. This utter lack of privacy results in both John and Sara leaving in a rage, leaving the doctor to his work. In this situation, Kreizler feels very much like a Sherlock Holmes character. He’s so obsessed with his work that he will make his peers relive terrible traumas so that he can get an answer. For someone who is supposed to understand and help troubled people, he is remarkably ignorant of social boundaries.
While slower than the first two episodes, “The Silver Smile” jam packs a lot of material into an hour. We become much more intimate with the team and have a big lead on this mysterious child killer. The Alienist is warming up and has finally paved its path.