Having had the chance to listen to Josh Pederson’s latest Topicocalypse podcast touching on what shows everyone out there may be missing out on, I felt compelled to provide my own answer on what program may be flying under your radar that’s definitely worth a binge watch sometime soon. Addressing it even further, I reached out and challenged my cohorts here at the Pop Culture Cosmos and our friends at the TV Ratings Guide (TVRG) to provide even more answers on what shows you cannot afford to miss. That being said with many shows that have been in my sights recently (Star Trek Discovery, The Orville, Timeless, Elementary, Black Mirror) all seeing a break in the action of one sort or another as this is being written a show popped in January that has become a must watch for yours truly and a welcome sight once the next episode hits the air.
The Alienist debuted on Turner Network Television (TNT) to an audience of just over two million people and while a drop was expected the series has retained a significant amount of that viewership. As of this writing six episodes in nearly 1.725 million fans of the show are still tuning into the show according to the TVRG, which has captivated audiences in what would normally be a dead point in the television schedule. But what makes The Alienist so captivating to audiences that for the most part are coming back for more week after week? On the surface, it seems like it’s a mixture on who’s on the show and how it’s being presented.
Taken from a series of novels by Caleb Carr and set just before the turn of the 20th century, the series follows the exploits of Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Bruhl), a criminal psychologist brought in by Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (yes, that Theodore Roosevelt) to assist the New York Police Department in the apprehension of a serial killer that is targeting young boys. The term “alienist” derives from that time period’s apprehension and lack of understanding toward those who practiced the psychological, psychiatric and forensic medicines. Kreizler, determined to find the killer recruits his friend and occasional New York Times illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans), NYPD employee Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) and twins Marcus and Lucius Isaacson (Douglas Smith and Matthew Shear) to assist in tracking down the murderer.
Seeing how crime and mystery often fascinates our society, The Alienist proves to be in ways a modern approach in how to hunt down a killer in a time frame that often thought and acted in a backward fashion. The realities of New York in the 1890’s with its polarizing class divisions, rampant misogyny and fervent racism, violence, perversion and corruption and even a brief glimpse of the dawn of the women’s suffrage movement are all on display as this show pulls no punches and provides viewers with a gritty, hard-hitting look at that time period only few other entertainment offerings (Gangs of New York, The Knick, Penny Dreadful, Sherlock Holmes off the top of my head) have come close to even broaching.
While there are some small nitpicks one can take from the first few episodes of the show (Evans not having a continually interesting role to perform, Fanning’s somewhat emotionless delivery), there are a substantial amount of compelling reasons why someone may want to check out this show before the ten episode season ends. The deep roster of seasoned character actors to rely on (Sean Young, Michael Ironside, Ted Lily for starters) and a continually intriguing story provides for not only a possible insight into how serial killers were approached (for good and bad) at that time but also lays the foundation for an interesting look at the interactions between the frayed and often morally flawed main players themselves, even while we as an audience only get teases of who the killer might be. In this case not only is the hunt itself become a reason to come back to on a weekly basis but the relationships between the hunters themselves possibly crumbling before a murderer is found.
It’s easy to see why this show has not only kept but gained an audience over the last few weeks as the lack of original programming at this point in the year not on streaming options such as Netflix or Hulu has made a show like The Alienist even more enticing for viewers to give a try. Now mind you this show is not for the week of heart as it strongly pushes the boundaries of broadcast cable and its TV-MA rating with its very adult content. But for those searching for that next great viewing binge who are in need of following that next great crime drama, look no further than The Alienist. For it’s one murder mystery you should be tracking down by any means necessary.
The Alienist is a ten episode season running new episodes until 3/28 every Monday Night at 10pm. To watch previous episodes, check local listings for replays or head over to the official TNT/The Alienist page to stream it on a web ready device. Rated TV-MA for adult language, nudity, violence and sexual situations.