I don’t subscribe to Cinemax, but that hasn’t stopped The Knick from becoming one of my favorite new shows of the year. The Knick is a medical drama set in a struggling New York hospital at the dawn of the twentieth century, just as medicine (and surgery in particular) is leaving behind its grisly sawbones era and entering an age of innovation and revolution. The show has earned a reputation for its depictions of gory and decidedly unsanitary surgical procedures, but the amazing cast is the real reason to watch. Clive Owen is tone-perfect as an arrogant yet brilliant chief surgeon who embodies both the best and worst tendencies of his time. He spends coke-fuelled weekends in his lab devising new surgical procedures and instruments, yet he is openly hostile to the first African American surgeon to join the hospital staff (played with seething intelligence by Andre Holland).
Steven Soderbergh’s direction infuses every episode with a kinetic energy that is bathed in both harsh light and soft shadow. It’s probably one of the most meticulously composed shows since Breaking Bad. And Cliff Martinez provides an electronic score that should seem anachronistic but somehow fits with the show’s theme of messy, halting progression. The Knick was renewed for a second season before it even aired, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the show and its characters evolve. It may even persuade me to subscribe to Cinemax.