The pilot episode for “The Alienist” aired as a special “sneak peak” last night on TNT, and included a few looks at some behind-the-scenes goodies and a preview of what we can expect for the rest of the series. If you missed it, you can watch it online at TNT’s website, or watch it when the episode runs again tonight. Just a bit of a warning – there is some graphic content – dead bodies, skeletons, gravedigging… the sort of things you would expect from a forensic pathology/crime procedural type show. There are also depictions of racial stereotypes, among other things, that some people may find triggering. This is a period piece. The depictions are within the context of a reflection of the time period in which this story is set.
Bodies of young male prostitues are turning up throughout poverty-stricken Lower Manhattan. The sex trade involves the mob (for lack of a better term) and the bribed beat cops can’t be bothered with a bunch of dead vagrant kids. We get a look at what may be the villain’s second victim – a young boy in a dress, his eyes cut out and his hand removed, among the other injuries inflicted upon him. Newly appointed police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt is actively trying to reform a corrupt department, and Dr. Kreizler is trying to help mentally ill people, with the goal of removing the stigma.
Daniel Brühl (The Bourne Ultimatum, The Colony, The Zookeeper’s Wife) is Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, the criminal psychological profiler – or “alienist,” as they were called. Dr. Kreizler enlists the aid of two assistants. Dakota Fanning is Sara Howard – the first woman ever on the police force, albeit in a secretarial capacity. Intelligent and ambitious, she wants to make detective in spite of the contempt from her male colleagues. Luke Evans is John Moore, a New York Times illustrator who is seemingly unsatisfied with being “just a society reporter.” He draws pictures of the victims and crime scenes for Kreizler.
Together, they use “new-fangled” forensic techniques and psychological/psychiatric profiling (still considered “quackery”) to conduct their investigations, like fingerprinting and forensic pathology. If you liked shows like “CSI,” “Bones,” or “Criminal Minds,” you will probably like this show. There are elements that feel like all of those shows wrapped up in this.
I’ve already set my DVR to record, and I really hope that we get more than just a miniseries. “The Alienist” airs in its regular timeslot on Monday nights at 9pmET/8pm Central.