The Alienist: Old Wine In A New Bottle?

‘The Alienist’ is a period, murder-mystery series by Netflix, an adaptation of a Caleb Carr novel.

Set in the 19th century New York, the show gives you glimpses of some other famous shows of the resembling genres like Sherlock, Hannibal, and True Detective, and this is where it fails to leave an impression.

The show starts with a brutal murder of a boy prostitute, and with scenes of his gouged out eyes, split torso and severed hand, it succeeds in setting up the brutal and grim tone.

Dr Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Bruhl), an alienist – a psychiatrist at that time – gets to know about the murder and sets out to solve the mystery with his friend John Moore (Luke Evans), a newspaper illustrator.

Soon they are joined by police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, his secretary Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) and the Jewish detective brothers Marcus and Lucius Isaacson (Douglas Smith and Matthew Shear).

Dr Kreizler is a difficult genius – we’re told that as the show proceeds, who believes that to catch  criminal you have to think like one. Remember Will Graham from Hannibal?

This awe and frustration about his character has an artificial air about it, and selfishness and insight about people around him seems like copied from Sherlock Holmes, but it never reaches that level of perfection.

Moore and Sara are street smarts with their own ways of investigating by talking to people and getting things done.

The Isaacson brothers provide the team with cutting-edge forensic expertise, something which is looked upon with suspicion by the police department.

With the whole focus on criminal psychology, forensic science and  smart detective work they make a turn-of-the-century geek squad.

The Plot

The show starts of well, showing first brutal murder victim in first couple of minutes. The plot is simple and there aren’t much complicated sub-plot lines going on.

As the show proceeds, it gets kind of slow and seems to be dragging itself though the muck and misery of 1890s New York Streets.

But after the first half, it slowly gains momentum again and the last two episodes are really something to look for.

The show is visually very appealing. Wide angled shots of old New York buildings, filthy streets, immigrants living in miserable conditions – every detail has been given proper importance and looks amazing.

You’ll feel like you’re in the world of Gangs Of New York, brutal but splendid in it’s own way.

Characters of The Alienist

The character development of the lead role, Dr Kreizler, seems to be the weakest link the whole series.

Other supporting characters, as the show proceeds, seems more real and likable and we’re no longer interested or impressed by the forced excellence of the alienist. Other than that,

‘The Alienist’ is overall a good show, nothing to clear your calendar for, but something you will definitely enjoy if you like period and mystery shows. You’ll feel some resemblance with the other famous shows, but if you haven’t seen them or you can keep them aside, ‘The Alienist’ is worth your time.

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