African Americans are told to be “humble” and wait on the Lord’s day. Well, I think it is here. “The Knick” begins its first season in an uproar. The 1900’s post-Reconstruction was a prickly era for African Americans, – dangerous at best. “The Knick” exploits the African American learned characteristics, genius and pride tempered by restraint, compassion and “subterfuge,” to create the amazing character, Dr. Algernon Edwards played by Andre Holland. He is the assistant chief surgeon in a New York hospital, forced to endure barbs and overt racist messages while expected to teach and develop surgical techniques for his white colleagues. Edwards is a genius, but the creators of this series, Jack Amiel and Michael Begler are not too shabby either.
I watched the first three episodes, which drew 3.6 million viewers of Cinemax’s 13 million subscribers according to Mike Hale’s New York Times review, but the first 9 minutes of the fourth episode had me reeling. Dr. Edwards must lead his team through a surgery he has developed. The chief surgeon demands that he “instruct” but must not touch the patient. How Edwards handles this situation is priceless. Definitely a must watch.
Mike Hale’s review is most salient in that it attaches the same rife racist tremor as the series, denoting resilience and fortitude as smugness, yet he cannot fail to give the same space to Edwards as the character Gallenger throughout.
Mike Hale (NY Times): When the white surgeon Gallinger Eric Johnson — whose attitude toward the interloping black doctor, Algernon Edwards Andre Holland, has been an interesting mix of pure racism and wounded professional pride — called his rival a “smug bastard” on Friday night, you thought, wait a minute, he’s right — Edwards, the show’s most sympathetic character, IS kind of a smug bastard. Mr. Holland makes us see how smugness and egotism coexist with, are inextricably bound with, Edwards’s reserve and compassion.
Will Andre Holland swoop in to take the lead in this drama? It looks so. Gallenger, as most racist, must put-Edwards-in-his-place. But who is breaking who? Instead, Edwards owns his racist. He is the puppet master midst a status quot meant to break him, yet Edwards maximizes his power to show genius top-side, while working secretly to provide healthcare to the indigent African American population below. Incredible story line, cast, and rendition of a history told over decades.
Although Clive Owens is heralded as the star of this television period piece, Andre Holland’s performance continuously overshadows reviews with an eerie similarity with the show’s running theme. Watch ‘The Knick,’ 10pm, Friday night on Cinemax. #OYRchallenge