Saturday, February 3, 2018

Pilot Review: The Alienist

The Alienist (TNT)
Premiered January 22 at 9pm

This show was so heavily promoted for so many months that I think I had assumed it would be transformative and incredible. It’s certainly an in-depth, well-decorated series, but it’s also one that surrounds itself purposely in darkness to make its content all the more effective. Starting out with the title card explaining that alienists were so named to draw out the alien influences of the mentally ill wasn’t a clear indicator of what this show’s true purpose is, which is to follow the investigations into a serial killer by three very different people with their own ways of approaching these gruesome killings. I wasn’t sure if this show was going to fall into the horror genre, which it doesn’t really since, while truly disturbing and grotesque, it’s not based off of supernatural influences or jump scenes. I’m a fan of Daniel Bruhl’s from his work in “Rush,” “Inglourious Basterds,” and a handful of other films, and it’s good to see him in a lead role. I know Luke Evans primarily from his participation in the “Fast and the Furious” series, and so it’s my first real chance to see him act here, and Dakota Fanning, an early star in films like “I Am Sam,” is back with a regular role, and she’s far less charismatic and energetic than her younger sister Elle. I was pleased to recognized Ted Levine’s voice as the retired chief, and it’s always good to have him around in a project. This pilot didn’t win me over in any real way, since it seems to go down this rabbit hole you have to encounter a whole lot of darkness and misery along the way without the promise of much fulfillment in return.

How will it work as a series? The three protagonists will have to work hard to keep what they’re actually looking for under wraps, which won’t be so easy in this shady area filled with corruption. I can only imagine that they’ll encounter many more murders along the way before they solve anything, and this show can only remain interesting if it shows some progress being made by the good guys in the process. I think it will likelier be off-putting.
How long will it last? Reviews seem to be mixed, just on the side of positive. More importantly, the debut was trumpeted by TNT as record-breaking, which all but guarantees it a long and productive future. Episode two, which has already aired, also did well, and so I’d say that a season two renewal can be expected any moment to capitalize on this show’s well-publicized debut and draw in even more viewers for the rest of season one.

Pilot grade: B-

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