Belly of the Beast
Returning this week with another double bill of episodes, The Alienist continues to deliver tense and twisted drama within a high pressure thrill-ride. As Libby starts to unravel and our characters band together to stop her, all of this crescendos beautifully into a dramatic final few scenes.
With Libby revealed as the killer, Episode 5 of The Alienist Season 2 begins with desperate raps on Matron’s door. Libby immediately dismisses Matron’s neighbour and returns to baby Ana, whom she calls “her” baby. As she looks up, it’s revealed that she has Matron’s corpse strung up like a doll sitting at the kitchen table.
At the Lying-In Hospital, Dr Markoe and Byrnes contemplate how much Sara Howard knows. With some light threats toward the secrecy of Markoe’s work, news of Matron’s absence at work spreads to Sara Howard. Sensing this could be linked to Libby, she heads up there with Lucius to investigate.
Entering the apartment, she finds a trail of blood leading to that familiar room we saw Matron in earlier in the episode. With Libby nowhere to be found, the grisly sight of Martron dead at the table is enough to bring in the reinforcements.
Laszlo arrives along with forensics who examine the crime scene amidst interspersed flashes to what happened in the past. Libby’s eerie, ominous humming acts as the proverbial glue that ties both timelines together. As they realize with dread that Libby’s sanity is starting to slip away, time is running out as Libby continues to unravel.
That much is especially evident as we see her dressed in black with a very different persona to the one we’ve been accustomed to. She sits on a park bench, listening to the cries from Ana whom she’s dismissed since the babe bit her nipple earlier in the episode.
Thankfully, the group stumble upon a lead that could help track Libby down. Sara and the others learn that Libby has been going under a false alias all this time. One of those alias’ are known to be from around Hudson Street; Duster Territory.
John Moore takes charge and heads out with Sara to speak to Cyrus. Handing him the picture of Libby, it turns out Cyrus knows who she is – and so does GooGoo. Before they can follow up on this, Sara returns to the agency to find the lights on and an upturned book on the floor. Libby. Confirming as much, Sara look in her drawer and finds her Father’s gun missing. Opposite the room, almost acting as a taunt, is a chalkboard sketch of eyes with the word “stupid” scribbled underneath.
With the only address they have deep in Duster territory, Sara contemplates whether to head up there or not. At the same time, Laszlo meets Karen at a diner and turns to her for help with the case. Handing over what he knows so far, including the sketches, he admits that the female mind – and that of Libby in particular – is unpredictable and enough for him to need her assistance.
Sara makes her choice and arrives in Hudson Street, gaining help to track down GooGoo. As she investigates, Sara spots him with Libby and as we soon see, they’re clearly romantically involved. It seemingly goes deeper than that though as Libby sits atop him and makes him suck on her nipples – something that feeds back into that desire for being a Mother.
With Sara following and alone, John takes his leave to race up and meet her. Receiving little comfort from Violet before he leaves, John hurries up to Hudson Street where Sara follows Libby from afar.
This stealth game leads her to an abandoned house which she creeps up to with a gun in hand.
Unbeknownst to her, Laszlo shows up outside but before he can get out his carriage, a man named Fat Jack lies in wait and stops him with a knife. Laszlo explains that he’s a doctor of the mind and starts to show off his intelligence to the man. It’s just enough of a distraction for Marcus to point a gun at him.
Inside the house Sara is not so lucky. She walks right into a trap as Libby ambushes her and holds a gun up to Sara’s back. Thankfully Sara uses her wits and manages to outsmart the girl, finding the baby and leaving while Libby goes into hiding once more.
With baby Ana returned and the danger quelled for now, John and Sara sit and talk plainly together. However, this soon turns into much more as the feelings between the two are unable to be hidden any longer. As the episode closes out, the duo make love.
The Review Write-Up
The entire episode plays out as a race against time but with a decent amount of cat-and-mouse antics along the way. The dramatic showdown in the abandoned house is a nice way to end the incident with baby Ana but it leaves Libby on the run. It seems likely she’s going to go after another child to fill that void and it’s going to take all the team working together to stop her.
There’s some nice character work here too and seeing Laszlo meet his intellectual equal in Karen is a nice touch and one that helps level his persona out. Their scenes together are brief but it’s clear there’s something more between them that, hopefully, will be given the time to blossom.
So far though, The Alienist has done a great job with its second season and quite what will happen next, remains to be seen.