In 1994, (the exact same year Dakota Fanning was born) author Caleb Carr published a novel titled, “The Alienist.” The novel earned good reception among book critics & readers alike. In addition to positive word-of-mouth, the book also sold a bunch of copies, eventually made it as one of the best selling books of 1994. The novel is set in 1896, about three people. Names are Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, John Moore & Sara Howard who join forces to investigate a string of identical murders. As the investigation becomes increasingly difficult, The Trio use innovative crime solving tactics. During their case, they receive help from then New York City commissioner & future U.S President, Theodore “Teddy Roosevelt.”
The Alienist spawned two follows titled, “The Angel Of Darkness” & “Surrender, New York.” An upcoming prequel titled “The Strange Case Of Ms. Sara X” is currently in the works.
One before year The Alienist was published, movie studio “Paramount Pictures” bought the films rights to the novel. Caleb pictured Anthony Hopkins or Sam Neil as Kreizler & Emma Thompson as Sara. The film was in “Development Hell” due to budget concerns, multiple scripts, depiction of the book’s controversial themes and other conflicts with the studio.
In 2015, Paramount’s television devision resurrected the project by transforming it into a mini-series in an attempt to replicate the critical success of HBO’s “True Detective.” Television network, TNT partnered up with Paramount to produce a total of ten episodes. Both Paramount & TNT recruited director Cary Joji Fukunaga (known for directing the first season of True Detective) to direct all episodes & serve as an executive producer. He turned down the offer to direct, due to his involvement of “It: Chapter 1,” brainstorming a narrative for a third season of True Detective & headlining a mini-series titled “Maniac” on Netflix. Cary however will only support The Alienist as an executive producer. Paramount & TNT eventually hired Jakob Verbruggen, James Hawes, Paco Cabezas, David Petrarca & Jamie Payne to direct selective episodes.
Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans & Dakota Fanning (one of my favorite actresses) signed on to portray the lead characters.
The Alienist aired in 2018 & was streamed internationally on Netflix. It received positive reviews from critics & viewers alike. The Alienist went on to earn award nominations at “The 70th Primetime Awards” including “Outstanding Limited Series,” “Outstanding Period Costumes” & “Outstanding Special Visual Effects.” The latter award only won.
The reason why I wanted to watch & review The Alienist is because Dakota Fanning will co-star in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming ninth film “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.” In response, I thought about sharing my thoughts about what’s good or bad about The Alienist. Dakota might earn a career comeback.
The Entire Mini-Series
Positive & Negative Elements
Positive: Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans & Dakota Fanning all did a fantastic job for their respective performances.
Other Cast Members such as Ted Levine, Michael Ironside & Sean Young have recurring roles & they all did a solid job for their performances.
Cary Joji Fukunaga & screenwriter Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, A Star Is Born) served as executive producers.
Caleb Carr himself served as a consultant for the mini-series.
Primary Themes for the mini-series are Corruption, Psychology, Discrimination, Gender Identity & Social Class. All themes are handled maturely.
The show is set in 1896. Producers did a lot of research looking up 1890’s history to make the scenario look accurate as possible. Back then, a lot of people were smoking, automobiles weren’t around & psychology was believed to be a myth.
Sara is the first female policewoman in the New York Police Department. She had to struggle with her male employee harassing her. One of them is Connor, a scumbag like Matt Lauer.
Rupert Gregson-Williams (Wonder Woman, Aquaman, also a frequent collaborator of Adam Sandler) conducted music for the show.
Costume Designs accurately portrayed how people wore distinctive outfits back then. According to Dakota, she endured how painful it was to wear a corset.
Cinematography felt spot on legit without no technical difficulties.
Chemistry between the main leads felt normal. They acted like a team trying to solve a difficult case using then innovative crime solving techniques something “Colombo” never did other than saying, “Just one more thing!”
The Trio have troubled backstories.
A pair of Jewish twin detectives help out The Trio.
Real life figures Theodore “Teddy Roosevelt & J.P. Morgan factor in as prominent characters.
C.G.I. was handled carefully using a Green Screen digitally adding a beautiful backdrop. I guess TNT & Paramount learned Computer Animation from “Game Of Thrones.”
Set Pieces were built manually by set decorators to recreate 1890’s New York.
The Tone for the show is dark as The City Of New York’s atmosphere reflecting its sardonic perspective of the citizens living in that time period.
According to a behind the scenes interview, Kreizler has a “condition.” It’s later addressed in an episode.
Without giving anything away, The New York Police Department have a secret agenda.
Before an episode begins, a title card describes the meaning of the world, “Alienist.”
The mini-series is filled with twists & turns. I refuse to spill the beans.
Negative: In one of the episodes, a boy sings and sounds like Elmo from “Sesame Street.”
A character delivered a cliche line, “Looks like you’ve seen a ghost.” How about my own take of a cliche line? “Looks like you’ve seen Patrick Swayze.”
Episode 1 – The Boy On The Bridge
High: Episode 1’s title is named after a specific scene.
The Opening Scene sets up the narrative. What you’re about to see will possibly make you spew. If I were you, bring a barf bag.
The Trio join forces to investigate a recent murder.
A chase scene ensues. Why does this make me want to play “Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate?”
Low: No sign of a single con.
Episode 2 – A Fruitful Partnership
Healthy: Episode 2’s title is obviously named after Krizler, John & Sarah’s teamwork.
The Trio have a dinner party while discussing a “work related” topic.
A clue picks up where the trail left off.
Sarah’s past is briefly mentioned.
Unhealthy: A boy sings in a high pitched voice. He sounds like Elmo from “Sesame Street.” How am I suppose to take a gritty crime drama seriously?
A disturbing area of New York is explored. It’s as if we witnessed Kevin Spacey’s “shrine.” I’ll let this flaw slide, because it’s a crucial plot point related to the story.
Episode 3 – Silver Smile
Polished: Episode 3’s title has something to do with the ongoing case.
Sarah’s past is mentioned yet again.
John has a troubled backstory, which is mentioned.
The Killer’s M.O. gets The Trio’s attention.
Rusty: No sign of any con.
Episode 4 – These Bloody Thoughts
Smart: Cary Joni Fukunaga wrote this episode.
The Trio go on another case similar to previous ones.
Somebody mentioned a “castle in the sky.” Could it be a possible reference to “Howl’s Moving Castle?”
The Killer finally shows up front and center.
The Killer puts lotion on his skin. A reference to Buffalo Bill from “The Silence Of The Lambs.”
A clue is discovered. In the words of Steve from “Blues Clues,” “We need our handy dandy notebook!”
Dumb: There was definitely nothing with this episode.
Episode 5 – Hildebrandt’s Starling
Big: The Trio decipher The Killer’s characteristics & background.
Kreizler visits his former teacher. Say. Haven’t I already seen something like that with Luke Skywalker meeting Yoda for advice in “Return Of The Jedi?”
Krizeler confronts a criminal with a chain attached to the ceiling, is a reference to “Red Dragon.”
A dinner scene with Kreizler & Sarah made me laugh my butt off.
Rossevelt also continues his investigation.
The episode ends what will happen in the next one.
Small: An old lady said, “Look’s like you’ve seen a ghost.” What a cliche line. How about my own take? Looks like you’ve seen Patrick Swayze.”
Episode 6 – Ascension
High: The Trio hatch a plan an in attempt to solve the case.
Kreizler’s background is explored. His condition is brought up.
An on foot pursuit scene escalates.
Without giving too much away, a prominent character meets his/her fate. I refuse to tell you his/her identity.
One of the characters gets “pimp slapped.” That’s what happens when you star in stinkers. If you’ve already seen this episode, I did a jab at one of the lead stars. I’d pay someone to do an instant replay or five minute loop.
Low: Nope, not a single con found.
Episode 7 – Many Sainted Men
Nice: The Trio continue to follow The Killer’s path.
Sara learns about an individual’s background.
Sara confronts her “demons” connected to her past.
Two people have an emotional moment. Can’t tell you about the names.
Naughty: No cons were spotted.
Episode 8 – Psychopathia Sexualis
Soft: The 8th Episode’s title is named after a book from previous episodes.
Kreizler & John travel to Washington D.C. for potential clues.
Sara goes on a solo search for evidence.
As The Plot thickens, drama escalates.
A scene with two characters felt heartwarming.
Something happened in this episode. I can’t tell you. To quote Robert Barone from “Everybody Loves Raymond” in the episode “Robert’s Date.” “That is so whack!”
Rough: I haven’t spotted any problems.
Episode 9 – Requiem
Yay: Episode 9 picks up after Episode 8’s shocking scene.
More context about the suspect is gathered.
The Stakes are drastically high.
Two disturbing scenes shows a glimpse that will make you feel sick to your stomach.
Nay: Nope not a trace related to a flaw discovered.
Episode 10 – Castle In The Sky
Strong: The 10th Episode’s title is named after plot detail & also a reference to “Howl’s Moving Castle.”
Kreizler brings up his backstory.
Two people have a heartwarming moment.
After ten episodes, the last one wraps up the plot.
Sara has an epic moment. That deserves Bonus Points for making me feel satisfied, because I was rooting for her. No wonder Quentin Tarantino hired Dakota for his ninth film.
Weak: Once again, no flaw is present.
The Final Verdict: A-
In my opinion, The Alienist surprised with its narrative, characters with interesting backstories, main leads acting like an actual team attempting to solve a crime using then innovative crime solving techniques & a ten part episode arc worth a watch. If you are interested in watching The Alienist, I highly recommend it. A follow up titled, “The Angel Of Darkness” is in the works. I’m onboard for a second season.
The Alienist gave me a hint that Dakota might return as an A-List actress. All it takes is a lot of effort. I’m a huge fan of her work & I’m counting on her.