The Alienist. Review and Discussion Space. Episode Five

The Alienist is based on a 1994 book by historian Caleb Carr. It takes place during the Gilded Age of American Society in New York City, and features historical figures from the era. TNT has produced a ten episode miniseries based on the book, starring Daniel Brühl (Inglorious Basterds and Captain America: Civil War) as Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds and Man on Fire) as Sara Howard, and Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast and The Hobbit) as John Moore.

Title: “Hildebrandt’s Starling”

Directed by: James Hawes

Synopsis: The Issacsons analyze the handwriting with the help of a colleague, Alexander Macleod. The killer was trained in the use the Palmer method of handwriting they are able to determine the age of the killer. They also found a fingerprint. Kreisler starts breaking down the content of the letter. Sarah suggests that a woman was key in the killer’s development, to which Kreisler strongly disagrees.

Sara storms out and John follows, and jokingly proposes to her. Kreisler visits an old friend Professor Cavanaugh, who suggests that Kreisler take another look at his methods, as he might fall victim to confusing the killer with himself. John and Kreisler head up to Sing-Sing prison to visit Jesse Pomeroy, a murderer. They are there to discuss his upbringing. Pomeroy has a bad eye and was constantly harassed about it and wanted kids to stop staring at him, and his mother withheld affection.

Roosevelt runs into Mayor Strong in the park. He warns Roosevelt to leave certain families of the 400 alone. Roosevelt demands that Conner reveal his suspect, and issues firearms to the Issacsons. Sara visits Kreisler at Delmonico’s to let him know the police have a suspect. The issacson also have dinner, where we learn about their names. Sara has found similar incidents and complaints in police files.

Kreisler talks to Archbishop Potter, and he lets slip that the complaint was about William Van Bergen. Kreisler connects Giorgio’s murder with Ash Wednesday. Kreisler reveals to Roosevelt that the suspect is Van Bergen, but he not the killer. Kreisler believes that the killer is Catholic and is choosing immigrants.

Roosevelt orders Conner to locate Van Bergen. Roosevelt sets out to discreetly arrest Van Bergen, who is entertaining a boy whore, but Conner has given him a false address. Mrs. Van Bergen has been tipped off and takes William away. Roosevelt fires Conner. Kreisler realizes that the killer is following the Christian holy calendar.

Historical characters:

  • Jesse Pomeroy (November 29, 1859 – September 29, 1932) was the youngest person in the history of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to be convicted of murder in the first degree. He was found guilty by a jury trial held in the Supreme Judicial Court of Suffolk County in December, 1874.
  • H. H. Holmes (mentioned only) was an American serial killer of the 19th century.While he confessed to 27 murders, only nine could be plausibly confirmed and several of the people whom he claimed to have murdered were still alive.
  • Bishop Henry Potter (May 25, 1834 – July 21, 1908) was a bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States. He was the seventh Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

Historical Locations:

  • Sing Sing Prison thirty miles north of New York. Built in 1826, it employed the Auburn system, which imposed absolute silence on the prisoners; the system was enforced by whipping and other brutal punishments.

Changes from the book: Once again the Van Bergen plot is not in the books.