In case you, as I, missed the first season of TNT’s “The Alienist,” let me bring you up to date.
First of all, you might wonder what in blazes an “Alienist” is anyway?

I did my research, and discovered that Dr. Laszio Kreizler (Daniel Bruhl) came upon that name by his “use of pioneering forensic methods and early psychoanalysis to crack cases.”

The opening brought in a reporter, John Moore, (Luke Evans) and a secretary, Sara Howard, (the truly grown up Dakota Fanning) at the ancient NYPD to pursue and catch the evil doers responsible for a series of horrible child killings.

Somehow, the future president, Theodore Roosevelt, (Brian Geraghty) at the time the NYPD police commissioner, got into all of this. Our Sara was his secretary.

But none of this is important now, because you, dear viewer, saw all of that, and you’re now only interested in what’s happening back in the wretched, corrupt New York City of 1897.

“The Alienist” season two

Wow! (Dakota Fanning, aka Sara) surely put in her hours, because she is now the CEO of her own detective agency, which is pretty cool considering in 1897 women were either going to teas every day, or washing their clothes in the East River. So we should be impressed.

Sara has massed a staff of aggressive, supportive women and is paying the rent by investigating the complaints of rich women, who think their help is stealing from them.

Meanwhile, a series of mysterious kidnapping and child murders is hovering like a cloud over the Hudson River.

Sara and crew are now trying to get a poor, weeping woman off death row before they put her in the electric chair. It appears that she’s convicted of murdering her baby. How do they know? The DA can’t find the baby’s corpse. Oh, New York.

The woman is convicted and taken to the chair, while Sara and Dr. Laszio Kreizler, and the rest of us watch with members of the press and city officials.

The use of the “chair” is pretty graphic, so scroll over it.

Poor Sara can’t get a break. A larger case is at hand. With headlines about the approaching Spanish American War about to break out, a Spanish low-level diplomat heads to Washington, leaving his lovely wife (Senora Linares) and infant child behind.

Aware that an anti-Spanish fever is growing in New York, he cautions her never to leave the house and keep the baby safe.

Of course she scoffs. “Darling,” she says with a smile, “Don’t be silly, we’re in New York, what can happen?”

Off she goes to the park where director Caffrey fills the sunny park with the rich and poor, gay society figures and the wretched and scary crippled poor.

Later, while she bathes in her tub, someone enters the house, the baby cries while lamps flicker. Stay tuned.

Producer Cary Joji Fukunaga and her co-producers have decided for reasons unknown, to shorten the suspense time by hitting us with two hour sessions each viewing. That’s a lot of sitting.

But we do get to meet a parade of historical figures, including Alice and Edith Roosevelt and William Randolph Hearst.

The show has so many producers, techs, cinematographers and wardrobe designers it’s impossible to praise them all, but this season, at least, is properly dark, scratchy, mildewed and full of rat infested streets; we have to praise them all for giving us the best rotten days of old New York since Marty Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York.”


“The Alienist” debuted July 19 and shows on TNT.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and screen actor.

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