The Boy on the Bridge
A Fruitful Partnership
These Bloody Thoughts
Many Sainted Men
Castle in the Sky
Gritty melodrama The Alienist is a stylishly produced detective series set in the late 19th Century. Boasting impressive cinematography, realistic costume design and a host of well written characters, The Alienist is certainly one of the better crime series out there. A few anachronisms and a bloated middle portion of this 10 episode story does detract a little from the overall appeal but there’s enough here to whet your appetite and make this a worthy show to check out.
The story begins with a brief explanation of what an Alienist is (a mental health doctor) before thrusting us straight into the moody, dimly lit streets of New York. A visceral, shocking murder of a boy whore causes uproar among law enforcement and what ensues is a scramble for illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans) and Alienist Laslo Kriezler (Daniel Brühl) to try and track down the serial killer before he kills again. To complicate matters, internal tensions between the social outsiders and the police cause problems with the investigation on more than one occasion with the wildcard, spunky Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning), sets out to help Laslo and John whilst simultaneously striving to become the first female detective in the station. As the episodes progress and the murders continue to pile up, all this tension builds toward a climactic finale to the main plot line as well as the supporting characters that inhabit the world with our social outsiders, bringing a satisfying end to this serialised story.
Based on the original book of the same name, The Alienist does a good job bringing its characters to life here through some well written, deliberately chosen dialogue between the different characters. Although there are moments where some of the lines feel forced or stifled, these are fleeting and thankfully overshadowed by the methodically paced plot that remains tthe centre focus through most of the series.
When it comes to the production value of this period crime drama, The Alienist is impressive to say the least. Slow moving establishing shots show off a broad range of different areas in the city and whether it be a bustling market place full to the brim of people or a dank alleyway illuminated by a solitary flickering lamplight, there’s no denying that The Alienist nails the mood and tone of the time period. There are a few anachronisms here; attitudes toward transgenders and different races are distinctly missing in what’s otherwise a tumultuously depicted America on the cusp of change. The inclusion of societal issues gripping the nation, including the Suffragette moment, is certainly a clever one and helps make The Alienist’s world feel like a living, breathing city rather than an expensively constructed TV set.
For all the positives, the series does feel a little overlong at times and accompanied by the delivery of some lines in the script feeling contrived, does make some of the episodes slower than they perhaps should be. Having said that,the positives here far outweigh the negative. Although it’s difficult to say how faithful this series is compared to the book, given the fact we haven’t actually read it ourselves, what’s presented here is a stylishly depicted, methodically paced detective drama well worth checking out.
Verdict - 8/10