“These Bloody Thoughts”
February 12, 2018
This week, the onion was pulled back further on Laszlo and his backstory which makes the episode worth it all by itself, but, we also learned some important details on the Killer and his “how” … even if we’re not any closer to the all important, “why?!?”
Let’s not waste time unnecessarily though, the deep diver recap (beware: Spoilers!) follows … after the jump!
We open on Kreizler going to visit a madam of sorts, who, from the conversation, would be called a Dominatrix in our modern speech. While sexual fetishes may be if not “common” today, they are at least not so fringe. But, in 1896, this must have been positively verboten. To wit, her tea serving maid is actually a grown man (complete with mustache, natch) in a classic maid’s uniform who by day is a foreman at the brewery but likes to be dominated under her roof.
Laszlo explains that he needs her expertise understanding the motivations of someone who is aroused by pain and blood. And not like a drop of blood but copious amounts of blood preceded by stabbing and mutilation. If she is shocked to hear this, she hides it well for her response is that “the mind is the most erotic organ of the body, Doctor.” Brass tacks: she breaks down pain pleasure seekers as typically chasing the opposite of what their normal lives provide. Using Laszlo as an example, she posits that given his superior intellect, he probably desires after someone for whom “intelligence means nothing.”
Kreizler is increasingly uncomfortable in this conversation and Daniel Bruhl does a fantastic job with his minute facial ticks and movements, they are subtle but reflect his mood changes clearly and without ambiguity. Madam moves closer to him, asking which of her (perverse) stories stayed with him the most when she was his patient?!? After a hard swallow, he responds that her “accounts of men’s vulnerabilities” had the most effect … he recognized his own weakness in her words and, as he says, “it gave me pleasure.”
These two be like …
Like every shrink ever, she throws his words back at him telling him he answered his own question … the killer is inflicting wounds because he has his wounds of his own; “the cripple in him is looking for the cripple in another.”
Police HQ. The press are waiting to pounce on Roosevelt as he descends from his carriage; all of the reporters are clamoring about the mounting deaths and maybe his interference in the investigation of this latest murder which we saw last week. I casually mentioned it last week, but I want to focus on two of the recurring reporters we have seen since the show began, Lincoln Steffens (Jefferson White) and Jacob Riis (Nicolas Bro). Read below for their historical significance which, like everything else in this show, is a great nod to NYC’s history.**
Inside Police HQ, its as chaotic as the cacophony outside as citizens and reporters are up in arms about Roosevelt and his apparent lack of doing anything. Miss Howard watches Roosevelt storm into his office and goes to fetch his messages. Inside, Teddy looks at one paper which has an editorial cartoon implying he’s on the dole of the rich at the expense of the poor and trashes the whole paper. Which is exactly what the amused Captain Connor was hoping to see. With a smile on his face, he tracks down Sara and asks for a word with the Commissioner.
Inside Roosevelt’s office, Connor advises Sara she should stay and listen, and then goes on to tell Teddy about how he found this interesting folio with all these detailed drawing of little dead boys. And, they are all initialed, J.S.M. Hmmm, Connor smugs and smarms to a silently stewing Roosevelt, for the life of him, Connor can’t crack that code … maybe he should have his best detectives look into it? Maybe those “smart Jewish boys can have a go,” he (un)helpfully provides. He takes his leave and Sara and Teddy just stare at each other uncomfortably.
Castle Clinton. Speaking of those smart Jewish boys, they are outside the walls of Castle Clinton, on the roof of which, you’ll recall, was where the latest murder took place. Through some good detectiving and a “lucky” bit of evidence left behind, they figure out the Killer used pitons (metal spikes you fit to your hiking boots) to scale the outside wall. Great but it seems suspicious to me that a Killer as meticulous as we have seen would accidentally leave behind a piton?
Kreizler House. Sara climbs the stairs to Kreizler’s townhouse but a Resting Bitch Face Mute Mary doesn’t go out of her way to answer the door when she sees who it is. Sara, who has Moore’s folio in hand, is saved from having to stand there by Cyrus who advises Miss Howard that Laszlo isn’t home … he’s off in one of his “trances.” The fuck does that even mean?!?
The Park. Cyrus most know a lot about these trances because Sara is able to locate Kreizler in the park (probably not Central Park as distance wise, that’s very far from where everything else is located. I don’t think its clear which is sad because I do love me some historical fact finding) without an issue. He’s staring into the distance when Miss Howard interrupts him to deliver the folio … at the request of Commissioner Roosevelt. She’s still hella-pissed about the whole “what’s your opiate for dealing with your dad’s suicide” conversation that ended last week’s episode.
Anyway, the folio. Laszlo is annoyed that John didn’t mention the missing folio and he realizes its no bueno that Captain Connor found it. She gives a weak defense that maybe he didn’t realize he lost it. Laszlo asks her to sit and when she balks, he goes all in, asking if she thought any more about that conversation which pissed her off in the first place. He response is that she doesn’t think she has it in her to kill a child (you’ll recall, Laszlo was lecturing John and Sara about needing to find empathy and understanding in the Killer’s actions) but Kreizler is all …
He convinces Sara to sit and digs in deep. He points out a woman sitting across the way who is rocking a perambulator (baby carriage) and tells Miss Howard that the woman is from a good family, is married, and has a boy and girl. Sara is all, “Boring. And?” Kreizler tells Sara that the woman in the park is very similar to her … save the married and having children part, Miss Howard is quick to point out. “Had children,” Laszlo corrects. You see, six months after having her daughter, she drowned both her kids in a bathtub … for no apparent reason. Being from a rich and important family, she didn’t go to jail or receive treatment in a loony bin but instead, spends her days rocking an empty baby carriage around the park. Sara chews on this for a second and then grits out that she can find no empathy for a woman who would kill her kids. Kreizler follows with this gem:
“But you understand the expectation that our society bestows on women … to marry, to have children, to smile when you feel incapable of smiling. If you can empathize with that, you know better than most that that poor young woman with an empty baby carriage did not form herself. Rather, society formed her. You say you cannot see the world from the perspective of a child killer because you could never kill a child. I believe we all possess the raw material required to commit horrible acts, we just need the right or wrong combination of events to make the raw material combustible.”
And with that, Laszlo takes his leave, mic sufficiently dropped. Sara, who didn’t blink the entire conversation but rather just stared wide eyed back and forth between the woman and Laszlo, is left sitting there, trying to remember why she was mad at Kreizler in the first place because obviously he is right and she realizes she could just as easily be that woman in the park.
The Tenderloin. Moore heads to a shuttered brothel (not Paresis Hall) which has been closed by order of the Police. He’s there to look around … for something?!? I guess, I can’t quite understand why John keeps heading to these boy brothels. Moore pokes around the darkened hallways but all he finds are some young boys (too young to be even Biff’s girls) rolling dice and Marcus Isaacson who appears like a ghost and says, “Welcome to the Golden Rule.” Commercials.
When we return, Marcus explains that the Commissioner shuttered the place after the latest body was found and the identity learned (we don’t know it yet though) but we don’t learn anymore before a headmistress of a kind (her name is referred to as Scotch Ann (Kate Dickie) in the credits) comes shuffling down the hall yelling at them to leave because they are closed. Marcus says they are on official police business but she wants to see some badges … though, without much more prodding, she nonchalantly repeats everything she says she already told the police. The dead kid was sold to her by his father to pay off a gambling debt. Also, he was just another immigrant from somewhere she doesn’t know, so no biggie. But John knows, John knows he was from Syria and his name was Ali ibn-Ghazi. Marcus is here because he wants to know if there is any access to the outside walls — clearly looking for a pattern to the Castle Clinton walls. She shows them a room all the boys use which has tiny tiny window set in it. But, it would be big enough for a small boy or a limber adult to shimmy through.
On the roof, Marcus locates strands from a hemp rope, same as at Castle Clinton though no piton holes here. Marcus surmises he tied off the rope and rappelled down the shaft to access the boy. Our Killer is a man of above average strength and/or fitness (that’s my own surmising). We pull away from the two men as we take in the view afforded to the Killer because of the height from which he operates. John likens him to having the power of the Devil whereas Marcus sees the Killer acting as like God. You’re both wrong, “he’s a Saint,” adds in “Bernadette” (another young boy in girl’s clothing) who like Marcus earlier, has materialized as if from thin air. Wearing the all white gown adds to his otherworldliness.
Once Bern sees Marcus’s badge, his voice drops to its real level and he says his name is Joseph. He’s only ever seen the “pigeon man” on the roof top. Marcus takes his leave to keep investigating while John puts on his detective cap with yet another young boy prostitute. *sigh*
Who is this Saint you mentioned, Moore asks? “Fatima” (Ali, the dead boy) used to refer to a client as being a Saint. Bernadette never saw this Saint but he knows he’s real because of how Ali used to speak about him. This Saint promised Ali he’d take him away to his castle in the sky. As he wipes off some of Joseph’s over done makeup, Moore warns the boy to never ever go with the man with the Silver Smile. No, John says to come see him instead and hands Bernadette his card (Oh John, please stop giving your digits and deets to underage boy prostitutes!!).
Outside the Brothel, Marcus voices the same query we all have; if the Saint doesn’t have wings, how is he getting up and down the buildings with such ease?
Tom O’Rourkes Bar. Thanks to a great picture of the window and some reverse reading, we now know where Byrnes and Captain Connor have there food pow wows. Connor accepts his free lunchtime beer and makes his way to Byrnes’ table. Byrnes makes a comment about the pious prick, Roosevelt would have Connor’s badge if he caught him drinking on the job. Apparently, Chief Byrnes thinks its cool or maybe, just doesn’t care any way. Down to business: Connor asks the Chief what he wants done about Willem (Van Bergen, son of the Van Bergens from last week’s cold open). Nothing beyond keeping an eye on him, Byrnes says; his real concern is Mrs. Van Bergen as she can’t seem to keep her son from cutting up little boys.
You know the joke about the only thing worse than a sodomite? A rich sodomite! *rim shot* No? You don’t know that one? Hmm, Captain Connor’s distasteful language must not play well outside of anywhere beyond Captain Connor’s head.
Van Bergen House. Mr. Byrnes tells the still very dower Mrs. Van Bergen about another murder and how there is concern in certain circles about her son’s involvement. She plays dumb (Sean Young is great in this role) and he suggests they make it so Willem would not be in a position to be questioned by the police. Disappear him as it were. She turns to leave his presence without answering him but Chief will not be denied; he lets Mrs. Van Bergen know, for clarity sake, that he’s not asking her permission. This (whatever this specifically is) is happening.
The Tenderloin. We watch a Young Man (in his early 20’s I’d guess) at a dressing table and mirror, lotion up his arms excessively before slipping on long white dinner gloves like ladies would wear from a certain age. A boy in girl’s clothing and make-up enters (I can’t tell if this is one of the Boys we have come to know) and confirms that the Young Man asked for him again? Young Man, I don’t know that this is Willem though we’re certainly supposed to think that, says he wants to take the boy out, spoil him. When the boy demurs (“we’re not supposed to leave”), the Young Man says they do lots of things they’re not supposed to do. Just.Ew.
Kreizler Institute. Laszlo is interviewing a young psychotic, Charles Blythe (Ash Matthews), from Bellevue about his habits of torturing and killing his neighbors’ dogs. He tells Kreizler that he tries to stop (I don’t think he does) but the compulsion comes back and he has to do it again. The point of this is that Charles feels no real sympathy, regret or remorse. He did say he was sorry though … so that’s something. In the end, they’re just stupid dogs, no bigs.
Outside, in the Yard. Helen, the attendant watching the children, blames the full moon for the mis-behavior the children are all exhibiting. Laszlo forcefully restrains himself from smacking her for saying something so stupid and instead, just tells her she is wrong. Laszlo, refocusing his attention, engages a young boy, Ezra, who is busy kicking his foot against the brick wall. Ezra is particularly miffed because his parents didn’t come visit like he was expecting. Kreizler redirects his aggression to a ball he and Ezra begin to kick. The motivation here is that Laszlo allows Ezra to think of the ball as the person he wants to hurt most … his mother, as it turns out. So, there they go, Ezra enthusiastically kicking the shit out of his mother … metaphorically speaking, and Laszlo watching, quite pleased. After a couple of good kicks, Ezra stalks off and Kreizler takes a turn at an enthusiastic kick of the ball … as the entire courtyard is standing still watching him. Yeah, something is wrong with the Boss.
Kreizler House. Moore shows up as Mute Mary and Cyrus are trying to trap a runaway chicken. The chicken escapes out the door John left open so, well, that work is finished. Nope, Cyrus hasn’t seen Laszlo since he went to the park with Sara (at her name, Mute Mary flashes eye daggers at Cyrus and storms passed them). Never missing a chance to be weird or make a poor life decision, John interrupts Mute Mary in the kitchen and tells her to get dressed up, they are going out on the town! *sigh* John, John, John. You make me sad for you. In Moore’s mind, this is a tit for tat — if Laszlo and Sara can be together, so can these two.
The Date. John walks Mute Mary down the street, he looks like a peacock spreading his feathers, as she takes in all of the action of life that normally passes her by. His coup de grace is taking her to see Thomas Edison’s Vitascope (fun fact from Wikipedia: “Vitascope’s first theatrical exhibition was on April 23, 1896, at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall in New York City” – this show and its wonderful details!), the first kind of moving pictures any one had ever seen. It was a pretty big deal back then. The crowd gasps and oohs in delight at the sight of ocean waves crashing up on the beach and Mute Mary is enthralled with the zeal of a child as Moore takes in her pleasure.
Police HQ. Miss Howard follows the Commissioner out into the yard where he accepts delivery of the newest Colt revolvers. Sara tells him she delivered Moore’s folio to Kreizler as requested. Roosevelt replies that he feels “pity for John” because Kreizler can be a real asshole when things don’t go his way. Trust her, Sara knows. Feeling emboldened, Miss Howard asks the Commissioner what exactly happened between him and Laszlo, as she has eyes and ears that work, she can tell there is an unresolved issue between them. Roosevelt, surprisingly, indulges her request and we get a peek into Laszlo’s past. In college, Teddy successfully got the best of Laszlo one time (I am assuming he means intellectually and/or academically) and it made Kreizler so mad, he challenged Roosevelt to a duel. Teddy chose combat via fists which, sure, makes sense. Its very Far and Away Irish immigrant of them to duke it out. At the time of the duel, stripped to their waists, Teddy saw the emaciated arm of Kreizler (it “looks like a broken wing held tight to his body”) and knew he couldn’t follow through on the duel. He goes on to say that everyone in the gym watching them was bothered by his disadvantage … everyone but Laszlo himself.
Kreizler House. Laszlo is trying to undo his shoes one handed but having no luck. Also, no Mute Mary to come at his beck and call. Going in search of his quiet maid, he snoops her room hard core without a thought of hesitancy. Boundaries man, boundaries! Under her bed, he picks up a dressing gown and of course, sniffs it, because of course Laszlo sniffs Mute Mary’s dressing gown. Thank God he didn’t find her underwear.
Commercials – thank God before he does anything else weird!
Kreizler House. We return just in time to see John returning Mute Mary home. Laszlo is of course waiting for them and, not overbearingly, tells Mute Mary she has to tell him when she’s going out. She takes her leave and once alone, Kreizler begins to grill Moore immediately about where they have been and what they have been doing. At the Vitascope … he came looking for Laszlo but when he heard he was with Sara, well, tit for tat and all that (he doesn’t say but his school boy immaturity is showing). Pivoting, Kreizler tells John he has something for him and presents his returned art folio. Moore makes the best “oh fuck” face I’ve seen yet on this show and Kreizler asks why Moore didn’t tell him it had been lost? John equivocates on what does “lost” really mean but thinks the real issue is that Laszlo is jealous. Laszlo does that dry chuckle which is so dismissive and patronizing and asks Moore to help him with his boot (the one he couldn’t do himself).
As John assists Laszlo, he fills him in on the learned details for the newest murder, the Saint and all that but Laszlo isn’t listening, no, he wants to know if John was really the jealous one — not about Kreizler and Miss Howard but when Julia left him for another man (Julia is the ex-fiance). Laszlo promises he’s not poking at John for funsies but is genuinely curious. Of course he was jealous, Moore admits. Kreizler asks if that jealousy has “become part of his sexual ritual” when he sleeps with the prostitutes? Moore tries to play dumb to what he’s being asked but he understands. After some prodding he says, that Julia leaving him left with a sense of shame – one that brings him pleasure and pain, Laszlo finishes for him. Kreizler bridges this to the murders — the Killer is “eroticizing a past trauma,” mirroring something done to him in the past. Moore still fails to see how searching their own minds will bring them closer to finding the Killer. Kreizler counters that neither will searching for men with Silver Smiles; meaning, chasing clues always keeps them steps behind the Killer. If they can figure out what’s behind the actions – the can catch up or predict what happens next.
Kreizler tells him to go talk to a dentist if he’s so bent on his silver smile theory and Moore asks why he’s such an asshole? Laszlo, as only an asshole can do, turns the question around and asks John why he stays by Laszlo’s side if he’s such an asshole. And, he says with an obnoxious shit eating grin on his face. “Button your own boots,” Moore says as he leaves.
Dentist Office. John takes Laszlo up on his suggestion and visits his dentist to ask what may cause someone to get silver teeth? The dentist’s patient mumbles in the language only dentists can understand, that Mercury salts could do that to your teeth. And, why would you need Mercury salts? STDs, the dentist patient mumbles but in much more flowery language than I used.
The Isaacson Brothers. We get a quick cut of Marcus and his lovely, Jewish girl, boning hard in a crowded room that includes at least one sleeping adult and a cooing baby. Back at the Isaacson house, Lucius lays into Marcus as soon as he sneaks in the door. People are talking about you, he accuses his brother. Whatevs, Marcus says, she’s a good Jewish girl. And anyway, the Torah says that sex is a desire equal with hunger and thirst. Lucius is like, “Right, except the Torah says the complete opposite of that.” And in fact, controlling your sexual appetite is what makes man different from beasts. Marcus puts himself somewhere between the two. Ha!
Team Alienist HQ. Moore busts in on Kreizler and non-sequiturs “Syphilis!” Pardon? Moore explains that syphilis could cause the silver smile and Laszlo cannot believe they are having this conversation. Yes, Syphilis could disfigure your teeth but he’s never heard of it discoloring them. “I spoke to a dentist, Laszlo,” Moore defends himself … though to be true, it was the Dentist’s patient that gave you this information so, maybe, hopefully, you double checked this fact? Anyway, Kreizler finally adds “silver smile” to his facts and suppositions board which is a definite win for John. But, unfortunately, this still doesn’t answer Kreizler’s pressing question — not how he kills, but why. And, also, when. As in, when will he kill again.
Santorelli House. The older Santorelli boy follows his mother into the street begging her not to go to the police with whatever letter is in her hand … they won’t care, he says. Please don’t, he begs over and over again. But she’s crying and she’s determined and she’s going. Commercials.
Brubacher’s Wine Garden. One by one, all of Team Alienist assembles at Brubacher’s Wine Garden (a real restaurant back in the day, located near Union Square). Anyway, all of the Team received indirect messages from “Laszlo” to meet at this appointed time in this appointed place, except Laszlo who received a message from “John” to do the same. The last to arrive is Sara who traveled across town by herself to the meeting (she was also summoned by “Laszlo”). Why are we all here? The Killer is the reason.
That note we saw Mrs. Santorelli carrying earlier? it was a handwritten note from the Killer. The Isaacson Brothers are on it with their nifty portable tweezers as Lucius carefully extracts the letter and passes it around to Laszlo to read. its a single page, handwritten, front and back. Thinking fast as the facts unfurl, Kreizler wants to know if Sara came straight there from Police HQ? She did, why, she asks? Why is the thing, isn’t it? Why isn’t killing the boy enough? Why send the letter? The Team starts to put some answers to the questions … the Killer was watching the Santorellis – he sent the letter to see their agony play out, the killing wasn’t enough pleasure, he wanted the pleasure of watching the family suffer too. And the Letter led the Killer from the Santorellis to Sara. And from Sara to all of Team Alienist. The Killer is there, watching them. Which of course makes them look at everyone as if they are guilty and unfortunately, the Killer is not wearing something easily identifiable or holding a sign.
The Letter. Having terrified everyone at the table that the Killer is in their midst, Laszlo finally gets to reading “the Letter.” The highlights (I should paint the scene …. as Laszlo reads, we cut back and forth from him to various spots around the tenements and Tenderloin, flashing in on various night life scenes in progress): The Killer isn’t sure if its them (the Santorellis) or the police and reporters spreading LIES about him in the papers but it might be them and in which case, he’s wants to set the Santorellis straight — where dirty immigrants, like the Santorellis, come from its common to eat other people since food is so scarce AND, no human tastes as good as the ass of a small child. On February 19, the Killer saw Giorgio in drag and decided to wait until he saw him a couple of more times before deciding to take “him away from that place.” [Note: we have been holding steady on watching some young boys get ice cream at the counter of the Cafe Bella Napoli Ice Cream Shop while outside … someone in a bowler hat is watching them through the window.] The letter continues and the Killer calls Giorgio a “saucy boy” he knew he had to eat. The Killer went straight to the Bridge with Giorgio, “trussed him and did him quick.” He talks about taking the boy’s eyes and his ass, which fed him for a week in a cannibalistic feast. BUT, and this is the Killer point – he never fucked Giorgio, he died unspoiled by the Killer and the papers should make that clear! Principles and Priorities for this Killer.
As Laszlo finishes this last line, the man in the Bowler hat steps into the Cafe Bella Napoli Ice Cream Shop and asks which of the “girls” are up for a little fun?!?” And then we see the Silver Smile … finally:
Riis, another beat reporter turned muckraker, became a champion of the poorest of the poor who lived in the worst slums of NYC. He is know for using photography to highlight the plight of the downtrodden and advocating for more habitable and affordable housing. A massive housing project on the Lower East Side (you can see it when driving down the FDR Drive) still bears his name to this day, the Jacob Riis Houses. What I did not know prior to doing some research, in real life, Roosevelt was deeply moved by Riss’ work and made it a point to befriend him. The two were close for their respective lives. I am curious to see if the show plays out that relationship in the same way.