REVIEW: The Alienist, S1 Ep3 – Silver Smile

alienist s1e3 kreizler moore howard crime scene

Last episode’s blackout cliffhanger of The Alienist left Moore at the mercy of Captain Connor and a horde of the brothel’s child prostitutes, his fate unknown. But Moore knows just about as much as we do when he wakes up in the company of Kreizler, Sara, and the Isaacsons, which is nothing. He was found wandering around alleys in rough shape and missing his pants; an earlier scene with Chief Byrnes (Ted Levine), Captain Connor, and gangster Paul Kelly alludes to some rather nasty business that may have included sexual assault. The gaps in Moore’s memory don’t help the investigation much, either, as any information he might’ve gained at the brothel is lost in a fog induced by drugs and alcohol.

Even though this episode focused on unveiling past secrets and painful backstories, maybe Moore’s night at the brothel is one memory best kept hidden. He has a good social standing and a grandmother intent on setting him up with a young woman of society, something Moore seems to take no interest in. Unlike the other men who’ve frequented the brothel genuinely looking for company, Moore continues to be disturbed by the case. The wealthy clients are adamant about keeping their activities a secret, even if it means perpetuating the murders of innocent children. But, if there’s something we know about The Alienist thus far, it’s that details don’t stay hidden for long. So Moore’s awful night will likely come back to haunt him in more ways than one.

alienist s1e3 moore

At Kreizler’s office, we explore more of the Isaacson brothers at work as they examine the finger mark left on the pocket watch found with the Zweig boy. They don’t have a fancy database or high tech electronics at their disposal—just a projection of a partial mark on a sheet and no match to make a comparison. Watching the small breakthroughs in forensic science, seeing them piece together these clues, is honestly one of the core points of intrigue in The Alienist, so here’s to hoping the show keeps developing that aspect over the course of the series.

On the hunt for a matching print, the Isaacsons visit the morgue (this one looks a lot more hygienic than last episode’s) where Giorgio Santorelli’s body has been stored. Only, when they open the rickety wooden coffin, it’s empty. As this is blatant tampering with evidence in an ongoing murder investigation, Sara tells Kreizler it’s clear that there’s a corruption problem within the police department. Commissioner Roosevelt finds himself isolated in his work, trusting Kreizler and his team to handle the case better than those he definitely can’t trust around him.

While Moore continues to self-medicate with alcohol, a fragment of his lost night comes back to him. He dashes over to Kreizler, revealing that Sally told him Giorgio “flew away” though he didn’t have wings. And the client that frequented Giorgio had what Sally described as a “silver smile.” The two of them track down Sally, who yields a little more information that could prove to be valuable: Giorgio may have trusted the person who killed him, and followed the killer willingly to his own death.

Frustrated that he can’t quite grasp the inner-workings of the killer’s mind, Kreizler seeks out the advice of Cyrus Montrose (Robert Wisdom), another employee in his household. As it turns out, Cyrus is the closest Kreizler will get to the mind of someone who has killed, though not in the same manner as their suspect. It’s revealed that Kreizler testified in Cyrus’ murder trial when he faced possible hanging because he killed a man who beat a woman. This wasn’t Cyrus’ first brush with murder, either; his mother was killed in front of him, leading Kreizler (who has a habit of psychoanalyzing close friends instead of holding genuine conversation) to believe that Cyrus’ act of murder was triggered by his memories. Cyrus likens the act to a certain kind of pleasure, a satisfaction. One, he says, that Kreizler will never understand—a confrontation between the two that ends with Kreizler storming off to take care of some ink on his sleeve.

It’s questionable whether this is actually ink because it looks suspiciously like blood… Kreizler struggles to undress himself alone. Though he’s insufferable when it comes to putting everyone else under a magnifying glass, it just becomes obvious how uncomfortable he is with his own flaws, as he’s reluctant to put them on display. (Hypocrite.) Kreizler’s struggles result in Mary coming to help him, wordlessly taking the soiled shirt, revealing Kreizler’s limp arm. We know so much more about everyone else around him, yet Kreizler is a complete mystery. Maybe this case, in time, will finally have him confronting his own demons and weaknesses.

alienist s1e3 kreizler moore howard

Mary gives him a tender smile, a loving sort of look—and at this point we’re going to need some kind of chart to keep track of all the romantic threads in The Alienist. But nothing tangible comes from their shared glance because Kreizler has other issues to deal with: there’s been another murder.

Commissioner Roosevelt gathers up Kreizler and his team to give them a head start on the invading police department. While Roosevelt keeps a swarm of reporters at bay, Kreizler and company find the body prominently displayed across the skylight of the immigration station. The showy setting of the murder lends itself to some stunning albeit grisly scenery, streaks of bright blood on the glass of a building awash in blue darkness. The building is in the process of being renovated for a new aquarium, so the team wanders through the abandoned maze of halls, past a whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling, and the whole sequence feels even creepier, somehow.

While one of the Isaacson brothers’ fingers are knuckle deep in the boy’s vacant eye sockets, Sara needs a moment to collect herself from the gruesome tableau. It’s there, standing on the edge of the roof, that she begins to unlock another detail about the killer that might help them see into his mind. The killer is attracted to heights, though it’s not clear how he got to the roof of the building without breaking in or pilfering a key. All of his other victims have been found high above the city—the water tower, the bridges, and now this building. And Sara makes a second connection, that water might play a part in it.

The killer is closer than any of them realize when we see hints of a man in shadow lurking below them, clinging to the structural beams of the building… Since he’s now “evolved” to displaying his victims instead of hiding them, it’s likely he enjoys the chase with Kreizler’s team and waited around for the body to be discovered.

The Isaacsons determine Kreizler’s earlier hunch to be true: no defensive wounds on the boy’s hands means he trusted whoever led him there. Evidence of strangulation leads Kreizler to believe that the boy thought it was part of the sex act, further proof that trust had been established between the victim and the killer. The brothers attempt to photograph a finger print by placing it under a magnifying glass and hoping for the best. They’re pressed for time, as the police are on their way to rub their corrupt fingers all over the crime scene.

alienist s1e3 connor

Captain Connor (playing every bit of the raging Irish cop stereotype this episode) isn’t happy about being kept in the dark, arriving to the scene far too late to tamper with the evidence or, knowing him, cover it up altogether. In a shadowy carriage ride through the foggy city streets alongside Chief Byrnes, the two gleefully plot against Roosevelt, wanting to pin their rampant corruption on the well-meaning but overwhelmed new commissioner. For a man who’s since retired from the job, Chief Byrnes seems to be overstaying his welcome. Unfortunately for them, Roosevelt knows more about their behind the scenes scheming than he lets on. But does he have enough power to really fight against men who’ve been putting down crooked roots since before he took over the job?

While fleeing the scene so Roosevelt doesn’t get into trouble, Moore’s sketchbook falls from his pocket and finds its way into the hands of the killer…

Back at Kreizler’s office, Mary has laid out an impressive breakfast spread for the trio, but instead of being grateful, Kreizler scolds her and sends her home. Moore attempts to apologize on his behalf, and makes it clear that maybe everyone just needs to take a nap before they do anything else. Stubborn as ever, Kreizler presses on while the memories of the crime scene are fresh. When Kreizler suggests that to really get inside the mind of this killer, they have to learn to empathize with him. Moore is disgusted at the very thought, the brutal images of the boy’s corpse inescapable.

Instead of taking no for an answer, Kreizler falls back into his habit of psychoanalyzing, throwing snippets of Moore’s past in his face: a disappointed father, his brother’s death, and an engagement that was broken off. Then, in a moment that hangs heavy in the air and feels incredibly mean-spirited on Kreizler’s part, he asks Sara how she coped with the pain of her father’s suicide. It’s an attempt to see how different people deal with the past traumas in their life, since Kreizler thinks the killer may be doing the same through murder. It’s not certain if Kreizler meant the jab to sting like he did with Moore, but it seems callous anyway, a lack of empathy of his own. Or rather a sort of defense mechanism to ward off his insecurities, his weaknesses. He tells them to come back when they’re able to look inside themselves, but it seems like Kreizler should be the one doing some soul-searching. Finding empathy for a killer might not be such a good idea if he can’t muster compassion for what he’d consider friends.

alienist s1e3 moore and howard

In their shared carriage, Moore apologizes (somewhat, in his own way) for divulging the information about Sara’s father. He then reveals that Kreizler’s housekeeper Mary has a homicidal past as well: she burnt her own father to death. This leads Sara to believe that Kreizler’s show of concern led to his outburst, a flash of anger where he felt embarrassment for such a display. There’s a bit of banter between Sara and Moore here, wherein they slowly realize they’re both starting to sound like Kreizler. Barring the awkward kiss that Moore leaves on Sara’s cheek (that she’s really not into), it’s a nice moment of levity following such an intense confrontation.

The episode ends with glimpses of Moore’s sketchbook in the killer’s hands…and from the looks of things he enjoys Moore’s depictions of his victims. The Alienist has so far succeeded in teasing its audience with the identity of the killer, always in shadow, never whole. This episode is the most we’ve seen of him—sneaking around the murder scene, in a bath house with his back to the audience while he leers at a bunch of teenage boys and gives a close-mouthed smile. This episode actually opened on a luxurious dining room and introduced us to a wealthy couple by the name of Van Bergen. Chief Byrnes tips them off that their son has gotten into some trouble that he may not be able to get himself out of if it doesn’t stop. So, is the killer one of the wealthy elite? Or is this another attempt by the police to lead the case astray? Time will tell.