The Alienist Season Premiere Review

Reviewed By Melissa Farinelli 

Turn of the century New York was a time of change, opportunity, and economic progress. It was also a time of corruption, exploitation, and class warfare. As immigrants streamed in from across the Atlantic and new feats of construction rose up across the boroughs, a grisly scene unfolds on the still incomplete Brooklyn bridge...

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TNT's adaptation of The Alienist follows psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, newspaper illustrator John Moore, and the NYPD's first female employee Sarah Howard as they investigate the murders of several boy prostitutes in Manhattan's Lower East Side. Based on the novel of the same name by Caleb Carr, the show wastes no opportunity to immerse the viewers in dichotomy of opulence and squalor that was 1896 New York City. No worries if you haven't had the chance to indulged in any of the Kreizler Series books. Anyone who enjoys methodical crime drama or meticulously designed period pieces will find plenty to love here. From gilded opera houses to claustrophobic tenements, each scene it expertly dressed with the artifacts and tale tells of the time.

While the show seems to be a bit of a slow burner through its first two episodes, it's rarely boring. Rather it employs careful world building to ensure the viewer understands the social and economical constructs working for or against the characters, and what ultimately makes this period of New York tick. The story is nothing revolutionary, yet, more a Progressive Era's take on the serial killer trope, but Kreizler's earnest desire to truly understand the nature of this beast is fascinating. And with a team like Cary Fukuoka, here producing, director Jakob Verbruggen and writer Hossein Amini, the viewer can expect a blanket of atmospheric tension while sinking their teeth into the rich mythology as they watch.

The acting serves the setting and story perfectly fine. Daniel Brühl and Luke Evans have great chemistry together. Brühl's dry, yet ethically humane nature counters well with Evan's charisma, and Dakota Fanning is rock solid as ambitious and determined Sarah Howard. She has to be as she counters sexist barbs and dodges amorous passes from her male coworkers. Douglas Smith, Matthew Shear, and Brian Geraghty help round out the eclectic cast.

For fans of the genre, The Alienist is a definite treat, striking a good balance between seduction, intrigue, and the macabre. Nothing game-changing, but clearly made with enthusiasm and executed with skill. Overall, it seems a worthy finish to Carr's 10-year journey in delivering his story from page to screen.

The Alienist premieres on TNT January 22nd at 9pm ET/PT.