Amidst the poison, lies, blackmail, recreational drug use, sex work, and sabotage, “Williams and Walker,” at it’s very heart, is an episode about love. Some more pure than others, but love nonetheless.
Of Minx and Beavers
“Now we can really fuck.” – Lucy Elkins
Bertie and Genevieve giggle incessantly during their first time being intimate. Like a couple of teenagers, they try to keep a straight face before boning. It’s an infectiously adorable moment, and the image of Bertie in a top hat and nothing else is — for lack of a better word — delicious.
Genevieve may have gleaned reproductive practices from the animals of her furrier uncle, but the real sly minx might be none other than Nurse Lucy Elkins.
If anything, Lucy is a woman who knows what she wants. She secured a date to the all-important Charity Ball with Roberston Jr. with the use of her skilled hands inside of his trousers, and it’s all too obvious that no one’s going to be jerking her around. She gets the funds for a dress made from the finest fabrics by returning to offer her services to noted foot fetishist Ping Wu, and is cool and confident in her banter with Roberston Jr.
Although, she continues to be underestimated. Cornelia pulls a Mean Girls move at the ball by gently reminding the ever so sweet and innocent Lucy that Cornelia’s brother is kind of a rake, and that he won’t be marrying a nurse, someone below his station, thank you very much.
Despite Cornelia’s warning, Lucy and Roberston Jr. end up in bed. He takes her lack of enthusiasm for delicacy. “Am I hurting you? Should I be more gentle?” he stupidly asks. She produces a couple vials of cocaine and before he knows what’s-what she’s doused his sex and is on top of him whispering, ever so coolly, “I’ll show you what I like.”
Damn. Girl’s got game.
Despite all the fucking, my favourite love story is that of Tom Cleary and (disgraced) Sister Harriet. They’re roomies now, with the curtain of modesty made by “the lady down the hall” separating their sleeping quarters.
“The only thing that will be cleaner than my mouth will be my fucking shirt.” – Tom Cleary
Their obvious love and mutual respect is so fucking cute I just want to explode. One cannot deny that they understand one another, and like the girls that sit at the kitchen table with Harry asking about rubbers, I want to know if the two of them are going to get it on.
But perhaps not. For the time being, the two are going into business with one another again. Except instead of providing “the fix” to young girls in trouble they devise a plan to provide condoms and contraceptive sponges to the lads and ladies in need so they can prevent unwanted pregnancies. Aw, you guys.
Even the once hard and vicious Dr. Thackery finds himself shot by Cupid’s arrow. He’s back with Abigail, after curing her of syphilis and giving her a new nose. He’s still shoving drugs up his own nose (and drinking Turpentine for the stomach issues it causes) and reeling from the guilt of killing a young girl in a cocaine fueled botched blood transfusion (he’s even bought the girl a $65 headstone as a sign of penance). When preparing for surgery on the two young twins, he forgoes drug use and instead calls Abigail, “I need you to tell me I can do this.” Her emotional support is his new cocaine (well, I mean, kind of).
Not all romantic relationships turn out as sweet as the above examples. Mrs. Cornelia Showalter’s been keeping herself busy trying to figure out what happened to Inspector Speight. After a chat with the Immigration Officer she finds herself closer to the truth that it may actually be her own family’s business that’s allowing black plague infested immigrants into New York. Perhaps they may have been part of making that pesky health inspector swim with the fishes…
It looks as though she might have to drop her case, after her new rapey-as-fuck stepfather brings her the earrings she had sold to feed the needy in San Francisco and tells her to cut it out and get pregnant already. When she confides in her hubby that she wants to leave and never come back he lets her know that’s not a possibility since her father owes Mr. I’llJustWalkIntoYourRoomAndThreatenYouVaguely and if there’s even a hint that there’s a problem between their families their stocks will plummet and Cornelia’s father’s fortune will be lost.
Gee whiz, maybe that’s something they could have discussed before marrying.
Cornelia’s husband asks what his creepy dad asked of her. “To make you happy” she says woefully. “Then make me happy” he says. You know, like a dickhead.
The Big Top
Despite Thack referring to his surgical hall as the “Big Top” in the past, it seems that like his tendency to quote Shakespeare, he’s abandoned it. Even though he’s using hypnosis to convince an alcoholic that liquor and the like are as disgusting as, “your mother’s feces” and he’s essentially kidnapped Russian omphalopagus twins literally from the circus, he impresses upon a packed operating theatre as he prepares to separate them that this is no, “sleight of hand”, “no illusion.”
We are given a shot of the first cut, the blood oozing from the offending flesh that connects the twins. However, we are not given the typical tense surgery scene as we have in the past from The Knick. Instead, the results of the three-and-a-half hour surgery are communicated through the playing of the motion picture that was captured. We see the smiling girls on the screen, healthy and no longer bound to one another by a genetic defect.
But there is trickery afoot in the halls of The Knick. Gallinger skips the grand festivities of the ball for something much sweeter—revenge. Utterly enraged Algernon plans on performing surgery on Garrison Carr, an African American, Gallinger decides to sabotage Algernon’s surgery by reducing two vials of Curare—a paralyzing potion Algie uses during the operation—and reducing it down to increase it’s potency. Through slight of hand, Gallinger trades the vials and when the man under the knife reacts by going into a state of paralyses, Everett is there to save the day.
Algie and Opal show up to the ball dressed to the nines and excited to see the performance, “William and Walker.” They even have tickets to the next show on Broadway. After all the buzz we see the two performers in black face performing a traditional minstrel show. It’s uncomfortable to watch to say the least, a racist form of entertainment from the not so distant past.
As we well know sitting comfortably in the future, 1901 America has a lot of work to do when it comes to race relations, but Algie doesn’t know that. I have to give it to Opal for pressing Robertson Sr. who treats Algie like a son, but doesn’t have the guts to tell him he won’t have a position at the new uptown Knickerboker.
Opal’s also there to console Algernon when he drowns his sorrows after being humiliated during the surgery. The final scene in the episode is her giving him a loving embrace. Who knows, maybe she’ll be what he needs to stop asking permission, and start taking action?
On The Operating Floor
When is Thack going to hypnotize himself? Seriously.
Herman Barrow might be a snake, but he’s no fool. When the head of the construction company gets wise to his skimming off the top ways and threatens to expose him, Barrow gets him fired and gets Jimmy to punch him in the face for good measure.
Abigail seems high maintenance. I mean, Thackery built her a new nose and cured her syphilis with fucking meningitis and confesses his undying love for her no matter what she looks like or where she’s been — and she’s still like, “yeah but my nose is crooked.” Jesus, what more does she want?