TV Recap: The Alienist – What Compels A Man To Do Evil and To Do Good …

The Alienist
“Castle In The Sky” (Episode 110)
March 26, 2018

Joseph has been taken. Kreizler is despondent. The team is hot on the killer’s heels but still too many steps behind. This is where we are as tonight’s season finale of The Alienist begins. Before going any further, make sure you’re caught up on all of last week’s harrowing action with our deep dive recap & review here!

All caught up? Good! Then on to tonight’s season finale of The Alienist, “Castle in the Sky” … after the jump (spoilers ahead)!

Don Giovanni:
Give me thy hand, oh fairest,
Whisper a gentle ‘Yes’,
Come, if for me thou carest,
With joy my life to bless.

I would, and yet I would not,
I dare not give assent,
Alas! I know I should not…
Too late, I may repent.
– “Là ci darem la mano,” a duet from the opera, Don Giovanni 
(Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)

We open tonight’s episode with Kreizler still in his funk, listening to Don Giovanni, sitting at his dinner table (has he moved from there since he howled in his bedroom?!?), a delicious looking but uneaten chicken sitting before him. Who is cooking for Kreizler with Mary gone?

Don Giovanni‘s soaring romantic duet turns dissident and then gives way to a cacophony of noise as we move to the horrific crime scene at the bathhouse. A tortured body has been found.

Moore pushes past the assembled mob outside and into the pool room, his heart in his throat as he has been muttering “Joseph” to himself the whole way.  When John sees that it is Maxie’s lifeless body that’s been fished from the pool, we watch the anxiety and tension escape from his face and body.  It’s excellent body language acting from Luke Evans and also speaks volumes about Moore’s emotional connection to the boy.  At this point in the story, to Moore, some boys lives are definitely more important that others.

Police HQ. Sara rushes into Roosevelt’s office to tell him that, at the mayor’s direction, victim’s body is being brought to Bellevue for viewing. Also, he thinks Teddy should stay away from the situation.

“He’s also concerned that your presence may … inflame the situation.”

Roosevelt takes the news in stride and replies to Sara that his only wish when he returned to NY from the West was to clean up the city and cure it of it’s ills and crimes.  Sara reminds him that an honest politician shan’t expect gratitude.  Sara tries to buck up Roosevelt, telling him that they know who they are looking for and that they’re close.

“Not close enough.”

The Bathhouse. On the street, the police remove Maxie’s body as Moore looks around, helpless. He senses something is wrong … that Joseph isn’t nearby.

Title Sequence.

New Team Alienist HQ.  Sara enters the HQ to find a brooding John (one of two most common John moods). He is blaming himself for Joseph’s disappearance, for the boys all being turned out on to the streets.  Sara tries to assuage his guilt but Moore is feeling it pretty hard, he says that God put Joseph in his path and he failed Joseph just like everyone else had. Sara shifts the conversation to the killer and that no one can explain or understand him, not even “your friend Kreizler.” Interesting the use of your and not, “we.”

Moore, whose timing is always poor, decides now is the right time to profess his love for Sara. He admits that it’s embarrassing and uncivilized to speak of such things but … he’s got it bad for teacher. He tells her that in times like this, who can be civilized. He encourages her to turn him down but he forbids her to deny him his feelings. Then he kisses her. And she tacitly kisses back. And then Teddy comes in and breaks it all up.  Sara tells Roosevelt about Joseph also being missing and Roosevelt asks about Kreizler’s status.

Kreizler House.  We come into a Kreizler monologue in media res, talking of how he is angry and in awe of God all at once. He asks for forgiveness and we see he is speaking to Sara. She asks for his forgiveness as well, saying she pried into his life out of concern for Laszlo.  Kreizler gets up and turns away from her as he speaks of the night that his father broke his arm. He can’t complete the full story but we understand it now and so does Sara. She saves him from completing the story with sharing her own.  She tells Laszlo (and us) about how her father his “melancholia” from her but that it became so overwhelming, he tried to kill himself.  Sara found him and at the last moment, he changed his mind but the gun went off taking half his face. In such agony, Sara and her father held the fun together and gave him peace.

“I’ve learnt from you. We can either let it haunt us for the rest of our lives or we can accept it and use the memory of our pain to help others.”
“I’m not sure the choice is entirely in our hands”
“I disagree. If it weren’t, we’d all be murderers.”

The Alienist Ep 109 Photo by Kata Vermes

As she tells him that the team was hoping he’d change his mind, we head to commercials.  Holy shit, what a powerful scene. Those stories, the most intimate thing we can share with another is our deepest traumas … Kreizler and Miss Howard are so much alike and their bond, forged earlier and reinforced here through tears and shaky breaths, will emerge stronger than ever.

When we come back from commercials, Kreizler leaves his house and heads to the bathhouse. With some details supplied by the Bathhouse Caretaker (Simon Harvey), Laszlo gets to recreating the crime in his head, complete with finding the changing room that Joseph hid in (and tasting some blood on the wall, YUCK!). Laszlo is back in the game, folks!

New Team Alienist HQ.    Sara paces the office. She circles June 24 on her calendar. Google tells me this may be the Feast of St. John the Baptist.

The Alienist Ep 110 Photo by Kata Vermes

Kreizler is walking through the Mulberry Bend, towards the home of the killer. He meets the Isaacsons and together, we get to see the Killer’s lair in daylight for the first time. We learn that Beecham has a map of the City’s water and sewer network on his wall. They suspect he’s taken to moving underground since he probably knows they are watching the rooftops.  Also, water = Feast of St. John the Baptist is only 10 days away.  The Isaacsons downplay  the water connection as relates to all of the prior murders and Laszlo says he agrees. He asks for a moment alone.

Laszlo sits down on Beecham’s bed, snippets of the most recent conversations with the Isaacsons playing in his head. His mind expands and he’s replaying various conversations, including with Sara, and there is laughter – not gay laughter, malicious laughter. He lays down on Beecham’s bed. He pulls himself into a fetal position as he cradles his head. The shot dissolves …

And we move to Joseph, alive but tied up in a fetal position. He’s in some subterranean cave. It looks like a dry cistern, to me. A fire burns nearby. Beecham (Bill Heck) enters with a cat. With Joseph staring at him, Beecham smashes the cat against the wall, the ceiling, the floor. It’s an explosion of violence. Joseph squeezes his eyes closed as we go to commercials.

Interesting that we finally are allowed to see Beecham’s face. It feels like we are moving into a final phase. There is a classic trope that you only get to see the kidnappers face if they are going to kill you …

New Team Alienist HQ.  Sara tells Roosevelt their new theory that Beecham is committing these murders near water for a symbolic reason, the tie to John the Baptist.

John answered them all, “I baptize you with[a] water. But one who is more powerful than I will come …”
– Luke, 3:16

The Alienist Ep 110 Photo by Kata Vermes

Sara reads the Bible verse to Teddy and posits that this is why he took the Christian name, John, instead of George  when he assumed Beecham’s surname. He sees himself as a John the Baptist figure. She takes it further that the next murder, to be committed on the Feast of John the Baptist, will be in a high place with water … High Bridge Tower** (the highest bridge in the city). John and Sara ask Roosevelt for help.

Out on  the street, Esther finally catches up with Marcus. She tells him she wasn’t trying to trick him into being a baby daddy, she just doesn’t think she deserves to be alone because some scum bag refused to be a dad.  Marcus tells her that he’s not ready to take care of her or her child. Cold, brother, cold.  But, I respect the honesty.  She’s not asking for his charity, she says, just that he doesn’t cross the street when he sees her. Shame on you, Marcus!! Lucius stares on, awkwardly.

Moore House. John arrives home to find his grandmother and Laszlo having a conversation on serial killers. Grandma Moore seems to be all warmed up to Kreizler and John is suspicious. Laszlo invites Moore to the opera, Don Giovanni on June 24. Laszlo begins speaking in clipped code, trying to remind Laszlo of the importance of that day (KILLER KILLER KILLER)  but Kreizler won’t bite.  Moore tries again, suggesting that they all skip the opera all together.

“Unfortunately, that won’t be possible. Our presence is required as a necessary prelude to later events.”

WTF, John asks (paraphrasing), and Laszlo cryptically indicates that “certain followers of my work” will expect him to be there … on the street, we see that a carriage is sitting there. Watching Laszlo and his movements. “Shall we say, half past 7, then?”

The Cistern.  Joseph is still tied up and still crying, as Beecham approaches. We see Joseph urinating himself and Beecham calls him “dirtier than a savage.” Except, I don’t think he’s really talking to Joseph (as he throws a rag down on him) but rather, replaying events in his mind from his time with his mother. “She only loved me when she bathed me,” are some of the muttered lines. He backs away from Joseph.

New Team Alienist HQ.  The calendar tells us it’s June 24. Outside, we see Sara locking up the office (we finally see the old Bar sign that hangs above, the “808 Bar and Inn.”

Photo: TNT

Without saying it, the Team is busy making their goodbyes. We see Marcus apologize to Esther for being a douchecanoe. They kiss  At the Roosevelt house, Teddy kisses his wife and kids goodbye. Their’s is the most fraught with, “might not see you again.”

The Alienist Ep 110 Photo by Kata Vermes

Don Giovanni Opera.  Apparently, no one actually gos into the opera during Act I? The lobby and stairs are packed with people, even though the opera has clearly started.  John, not in tux, is waylaid by Jack Astor (Ben Lamb) who clearly has some sort of history with Moore. As proof of this, John intimates that Astor diddled his former fiance, Julia. Moore rebuffs his request for drinks and goes to find Laszlo …

Who is already in his box, watching the opera. At least some people have manners. We see Byrnes, among others, are in attendance and eye fucking Laszlo’s box. Moore joins Laszlo and is in a huff, still, about being here at the opera on this night of all nights.  Kreizler asks for where everyone else is? Roosevelt is watching the Brooklyn Bridge while Sara and the Isaacsons are expecting them at The High Bridge Tower. “Laszlo, we have GOT to go,” Moore whisper urges. Laszlo is … unmoved.

“They’re all out there tonight. Guardians of the social order.”

Laszlo hands Moore his opera glasses so he can see Byrnes in his box. Watching the watchers.  Moore checks his watch. We see Roosevelt and his men standing guard. We see Sara and Lucius at the water tower, standing guard and anxiously awaiting Laszlo and Moore’s appearance. We cut between Sara being anxious, Byrnes watching Laszlo, Laszlo watching Don Giovanni and now, Beecham preparing to take Joseph … somewhere.

As Don Giovanni reaches the climax of Act II (Don Giovanni is surrounded by demons and carried down to hell), complete with fireworks and lots of on-stage action, Kreizler, seeing that Byrnes is momentarily distracted by the opera, makes his leave with Moore. “Now John, let’s go.”

Outside the opera house, we see John and Laszlo hurrying away but then we also see Connor has been skulking around … he was waiting for them.  Commercials.

The High Bridge Tower. Sara, sensing something is wrong with Kreizler not yet being there, asks Marcus to walk her through his conversation with the good doctor when they were in the Killer’s lair. If anything popped that seemed to grab Laszlo’s interest? Marcus mentions the water and sewer map.

While this conversation is happening at the Tower, Moore has realized that they are not going to High bridge. Kreizler says the team and the police will be very disappointed but the killer isn’t going there. Moore is confused.

“He didn’t take the eyes this time.”

Kreizler is explaining to Moore that the killer is changing, the ritual is changing.

The High Bridge Tower. Sara begins to study the map that so interested Kreizler. Let’s see if she can crawl inside his brain …

In the carriage, Laszlo is leading John through his thought process. The heart in the box? It was Beecham’s mother … pain can reside ni the heart alongside love.

The High Bridge Tower. Sara tells the Isaacsons that she’s going to see if she can find out what happened to Laszlo and Moore. She’s figured … something out.

As Moore is scolding Laszlo for lying to them all and abusing their trust, the carriage pulls up to the Croton Reservoir.***

Once inside the reservoir’s tunnel, it’s not long before they catch Beecham’s scent. Well, Joseph screaming “help,” well, helped. The chase is on! Beecham knocks Joseph out and carries him up a ladder like a rag doll. Moore easily pursues but one arm Kreizler struggles a bit more – especially while holding a candle.

Beecham stops and sets Joseph down. Then, he smashes a light bulb.  This sound allows Moore to get back on tracking and he finds Joseph, alive but unconscious.  Laszlo brings up the rear and leaves John to trying to revive the boy. In one of the creepiest scenes ever, as Kreizler is trying to follow some thumping sounds, we see Beecham over his shoulder, hanging from a pipe on the ceiling tracking Laszlo silently from behind. It’s chilling.

Laszlo gets the “I’m being followed” feeling a tad too late and Beecham attacks. Hearing a noise, Moore looks up and realizes he’s quite alone. Leaving Joseph, Moore goes in hunt of his friend and he gets the same quiet stalking from  Beecham. Slam Slam Slam (just like the cat) and Moore slides down the brick wall, unconscious. Laszlo gets himself to his feet and runs back to his friend and gets taken down again.  Geez Louise, you guys.

In the hallway farther behind the action, Connor emerges from the shadows.

We cut to Sara in a carriage, racing … somewhere. Hopefully to the Reservoir.

Beecham is straddling Laszlo. Kreizler calls him “Japheth” and Beecham draws a biiiiig knife.

“I could take your eyes … but I want you to see.”

He commands Laszlo to stay and walks off.

Sara has arrived at the Reservoir.

“I know who you are,” Laszlo pleads from the floor. “I know what’s been done to you.”

Sara (where’d she’d get the freaking lantern)  hears Laszlo pleading with Beecham, she knows she’s on the right track to finding them.

The Alienist Ep 110 Photo by Kata Vermes

As Beecham is scooping up Joseph for the final ritual, Kreizler tells him that killing an innocent boy won’t erase what Beecham’s mother did to him. Beecham turns to Kreizler, incredulous that he thinks that’s why he’s doing what he’s doing …

“Where do you think you’re going,” Connor shouts as he draws his gun. With Beecham’s back turned to Connor (and Joseph in Beecham’s arms), the former police captain fires a bullet into his back. “Noooo,” howls Kreizler from the floor. Sara, hearing the gunshot, stops momentarily but then keeps on. She’s got her own mission to complete.

“Looks like I walked in on a bloodbath and covered myself in glory.”

I really fucking hate Connor.

Connor continues to villain monologue his plan … as he cocks his gun in Kreizler’s face, he’s talking aloud about how he was just too late to save all these people “from the madman.” Sara enters the chamber and Connor spins on her.  He approaches her and tells her police work is no place for a lady, and then he grabs her in a one hand choke hold. As her eyes go wide, a gunshot erupts and Connor loosens his grip.  We pan down and see smoke rising from a little snub nosed pistol Sara is holding in her right hand.


Laszlo calls after Japheth, who is gone, while Sara revives  Moore. Moore comes to and rushes to Joseph’s side. Laszlo heads up the obvious ladder that Beecham would have taken but when he gets to the next level, there is no Beecham. There is some blood, though. Following the blood trail, Kreizler heads to the roof of the Reservoir. Beecham is there, dying on the floor.

“What made you kill them? Tell me why?”

As Kreizler cradles his head in his lap and screams his name, Japheth expires without ever answering Laszlo’s last and most important question. Why? Why? Commercials.

Photo: TNT

Old Team Alienist HQ. We return from commercials and Teddy has some fucking questions. Namely, what happened with Connor? Moore tries taking the blame (credit?) for killing Connor but Sara isn’t having it. “I shot Captain Connor, sir,” she tells Roosevelt.

“You’ve always had the courage to do what’s needed to be done. Your father would be proud of you.”

The Alienist Ep 110 Photo by Kata Vermes

The Isaacsons begin an autopsy of Japheth, beginning with slicing into his brain. Kreizler watches over their shoulders. Sometime later, in the main HQ room, Kreizler tells Roosevelt that the brain was perfectly normal. No abnormalities at all.

“God works between the lines.”

Roosevelt tries to compliment Laszlo, telling him how remarkable it is to find a killer with zero connection to his victims; they stopped a monster. Kreizler isn’t feeling all that, though. Laszlo thinks that Japheth wanted to be found, wanted society to know he was a “living reminder of all the crimes we commit behind closed doors.”

“We set out to find a monster but all we found, was a wounded child.”

Alone with Sara, they discuss that there will be more chances to interview psychopaths and figure out what causes men to do evil. “And to do good,” Sara adds. Laszlo agrees.

Police HQ. In the yard, a body wrapped in a shroud is delivered to the police. Attached is a note identifying the body as “Japheth Dury.” The other note says, “this is the man who killed the boys.”

Teddy delivers a very polite eulogy of Connor’s heroism in stopping the horror of the serial killings, praising the good police work and his sacrifice.  He presents Connor’s family with a medal and Byrnes looks on from the front row.  He leads the standing ovation and the chorus of clapping hands.

The team has a final meal at Delmonico’s. Laszlo and Moore lead a round of toasts to friendship.  Kreizler quietly slips to Moore an engagement ring he had purchased for Mary …

On the walk home with Sara, John tries to take their relationship to the next level but she shuts him down … for now. She calls herself a cab which John promptly gets into. As he pulls away, he talks of the future the 20th Century holds, “women might even get the right to vote.” Sara yells at him for stealing her cab as it pulls away. They smile.

The next day, we can get an overshot of a very modern looking Manhattan and down on the ground, the cobblestone streets are very clean and quiet. Inside Kreizler House, all is in order but the house is empty. We cut to Kreizler in a carriage pulling up to a care facility.

Laszlo sits across from an old man, this is his father. He begins to speak in german and then switches to English. The long short of his speech is that he blamed his father for his life difficulties for a long time but really, they were Laszlo’s own doing. Also, he understands that his father was trying to prepare him for a difficult life when he taught him that man can never be more than nature intended, only less. But, Laszlo also knows, now, that his father was wrong.

“I still believe we can be better than nature intended even if you can’t. You did the best you could. Goodbye, Papi.”

After Laszlo kisses hsi father goodbye, our final shot is of him walking way; a man freed from his deepest burdens.

And Scene.


And THAT is how you end a season! Luckily, we know now that we’ll get more The Alienist but boy, howdy, they left it all on the field with this one.  While I still think “Requiem” was the peak episode of this season, watching Laszlo get back in the game tonight and work through the final missing clues – connect those final dots (and then to watch Sara make the same connections once she was sufficiently motivated … code for, stood up by Kreizler), it was the show going back to the well of things that made this show so engrossing all season long.  Solid, logical reasoning done for extreme dramatic effect.  Never did The Alienist feel campy or even particularly far fetched. NO easy feat, given the premise of the show.

When I pitch The Alienist to friends, I say it’s Sherlock Holmes meets Silence of the Lambs.  While it could be wholly unnerving and stomach turning at times, most of the unease that The Alienist made you feel was the implications and mood created by the writing, the acting and the natural tension of old timey-New York, the unsung hero of this series.

For one hour every week, The Alienist transported you back to 1896 and you totally forgot there was the internet, indoor plumbing and a complete lack of properly dressing up for dinner … the hallmarks of modern times.

With the sad, twisted, violent story of Japheth Dury wrapped up, I cannot wait to see where we go next season but, I suggest we all get busy reading Caleb Carr’s follow-up novel, The Angel of Darkness. Whenever and wherever Kreizler, Moore and Miss Howard return to our screens OI hope you join me for the ride. Until next time, fellow Alienists!

** The High Bridge Water Tower is a real place, sitting on High Bridge, which connects the Northern section of Manhattan to the Highbridge section of The Bronx. Closed in the 1970s, High Bridge was finally restored and reopened a few years ago. The High Bridge Water Tower, though, remains closed to the public.  The Wikipedia page for the High Bridge also has some great photos of the Water Tower.

The High Bridge water Tower today, closed to the public.
The High Bridge when the Water Tower was under construction …

*** The Croton Reservoir, from Wikipedia, “also known as the Murray Hill Reservoir, was an above-ground reservoir at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It supplied the city with drinking water during the 19th century. The reservoir was a man-made lake 4 acres (16,000 m2) in area, surrounded by massive, 50-foot (15 m) high, 25-foot (7.6 m) thick granite walls. Its facade was done in a vaguely Egyptian style. Along the tops of the walls were public promenades, offering panoramic views.” Today, Bryant Park and the NY Public Library stand where the Reservoir stood.  According to this article from Gothamist, the Croton Reservoir  was torn down in 1900 to begin making way for the library.

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