Critical Condition: The Alienist

The Alienist | Netflix, from Thursday

➢ “Part Gangs of New York, part The Knick and part Mindhunter, TNT’s The Alienist pairs gruesome, serial killer carnage with horse-and-carriage charm for this psychological thriller set in 19th century Manhattan. The 10-episode limited series is as much about a murder investigation as it is about the roots of our present day ideas on gender, mental illness and socio-economics … The Alienist is a gripping production that’s beautiful, disturbing and maybe even promising if its earnest characters can keep up with the wicked city around them.” — Los Angeles Times.

➢ “Caleb Carr’s best-selling 1994 historical crime novel … emerges onto the small-screen as two related trends in television reach their apex: upscale adaptations of haute genre fare (The Handmaid’s Tale, Game of Thrones) and prestige explorations of the mass-murdering mind (Mindhunter, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story). This presents the series with something of a dilemma: It must convincingly depict the attempt by Dr. Kreizler (played by the Spanish-German actor Daniel Brühl) to catch a killer of young boys in 1896 New York City as something convincingly new, daring and outstanding among a very crowded field of high-end period dramas. The series premiere is only partially up to the task.” — New York Times.

➢ “The Alienist plays like a time-traveling installment of True Detective — Cary Fukunaga was even set to direct at one point and retains an executive producer credit, along with several collaborators from previous incarnations — or a 19th century version of Mindhunter, still delivering in sumptuous period production values and strong ensemble casting what it maybe lacks in freshness.” — The Hollywood Reporter.

➢ “Given that it’s set in the late 1800s, The Alienist occupies the period-piece subcategory of the serial killer genre. But unlike Penny Dreadful or even The Knick, both of which depicted the roiling passions and psychological and medical obsessions of the era, the time frame does not add much to The Alienist, aside from the expected array of corsets and elaborate mustaches.” — Variety.

➢ “Despite lush production values and a disturbing plotline, the television adaptation of a 1994 literary sensation fails to excite. As did its source material, the show certainly has some interesting ideas about the era, its social stratification, and the elusive nature and provenance of evil. But, unfortunately, it delivers them with a certain dressed-up languor, emphasising style over substance.” — The Guardian.

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