Every show has their “jump the shark” moment. The writers need to keep the audience’s attention somehow when things start to go stale. And very often, the decision is not a good one. The Alienist is not an exception. Last week, Kreizler suggested that Van Bergen was not the killer because, mentally, he wouldn’t have any reason to kill poor boy prostitutes. And while I prayed that it was a red herring, it turns out that Kreizler was correct. Willem Van Bergen may be a very disturbed man, but he is not our killer.
Since Kreizler and Moore have realized that the killer strikes according to the Christian calendar, this gives them enough time to conjure up a plan. On the next holy day, Ascension, Kreizler will disguise his servant boy, Stevie, as a boy prostitute. He will wait on the streets while the detective sergeants, Moore, and Cyrus spy from a rooftop. Kreizler and Sara are excluded from this mission because “it is no task for the weaker sex or cripples.” Curious as to what they meant by cripple, she asks Kreizler why he refers to himself as one. According to him, he was born with a congenital disability that caused his arm to never fully form as a child.
Unfortunately, the stakeout is a bust, and the gang is back to square one. Perhaps Ascension doesn’t mean anything to the killer, or the closed brothels scared him off. No matter the reason, it leaves Kreizler feeling defeated and self-conscious about his own theories. However, the next holy day, Pentecost, is only nine days away, giving Kreizler another opportunity to get his man.
Meanwhile, Moore and Sara continue to develop sexual tension between each other, with Moore hoping that Sara would teach him how to use a typewriter. But Sara has another reason to talk to him. She beckons Moore to read a past article about Kreizler’s childhood. Apparently, he was a child prodigy who had mastered Mozart’s Concerto for Piano #20 D-minor. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like anything. But this story is significant: Mozart’s Concerto for Piano #20 D-minor cannot be played with one hand. So either Kreizler is a piano super genius, or he’s lying about his deformity.
A peaceful church scene signals that Pentecost is here. While the bishop is holding the dove, Willem Van Burgen is drinking his rage away in a dark, murky room. His mother is forcing him to leave for Buenos Aires, but he doesn’t want to go. There’s something else he needs here. He’s sweating and looks like he hasn’t eaten in days. Tonight might be the night that he will kill once more.
Later that night, a little bird has told Connor that the Van Burgen boy is not on the boat that is headed for Buenos Aires. Feeling that this is the only chance he has to get this case erased, Connor stalks Willem to the docks, forcing him to leave the city. “You can’t touch me,” Willem says, “I’m a Van Burgen.”
While privilege and power might have scared away anyone else, Connor isn’t easily swayed. In an impulsive response, he shoots Willem in the head and dumps his body into the river. What’s supposed to be a shocking twist turns into a major eye roll. Willem Van Burgen was built up to be a fascinating case study and nemesis for Kreizler, but is wasted for shock value.
Meanwhile, Moore and the Isaacson brothers are still on the lookout for a killer. They suggest that Stevie goes undercover inside the brothel to scout out the scene. The Isaacsons will spy from a rooftop across the way, while Moore will sit inside and look out for the potential killer.
Stevie gets some lessons on how to seduce a man with his lashes while Moore checks in on Joseph to make sure he’s safe. In the midst of his conversation, Moore doesn’t notice that Stevie is being approached by a particularly menacing customer. This faceless individual attempts to seduce him with the promise of “taking him to a castle far away.” That signature line has Stevie on high alert and Moore and Matthew on the run.
The chase leads them back to the rooftop where an unconscious Cyrus lies after being hit in the head. Why would the killer go after Cyrus? And then it clicks. The team realizes that they have been tricked and led astray from the brothel, while the killer got to go back for his next victim. Now, another boy (little Rosie who was giving Stevie seduction lessons) lies dead and dismembered, and the operation starts all over again.