TV review: The Knick (season 2), Sky Atlantic (4 stars)

TV review: The Knick, Sky Atlantic

Another dose of gut-churning procedures and stomach-turning bigotry in 1901 New York

With Nurse Lucy Elkins delivering a Dear John letter as The Knick opens its doors for season two, Steven Soderbergh and his writers have concocted an ingenious technique to bring us bang up to speed. This ‘previously on’ motif gets round any clunky conversations between characters blatantly signposting where we are and who did what at the end of the first instalments.

As this new season begins, Clive Owen’s maverick medic John Thackery (we know immediately that he’s a maverick on account of those white shoes) is battling his drug-addicted demons, operating away from the Knickerbocker Hospital and receiving vials of heroin as payment for doing elaborate operations on wrecked noses and the like. Given that he’s haunted by the ghostly image of the young girl who perished at his surgical hands, it seems unlikely that he will be fit for purpose to re-enter his old stomping ground (what with River and The Returned, there’s a lot of spooks from the past tormenting people on our small screens this autumn).

But in steps Dr Gallinger (Eric Johnson), the nastiest racist of them all, who is prepared to kidnap and detox Thack so he can return to the Knick and unseat the brilliant physician, Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland). There follows the second most sinister two-man power-games yachting journey in HBO history since Tony Soprano took Paulie Walnuts on a little fishing trip. Nurse Elkins (Eve Hewson) is still besotted with Thack to the bitter disappointment of Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano) who now has half an eye on alternative employment.

Those who love all the lurid medical business will be satisfied with plenty of toe-curling surgical procedures on nasal passages and corneas (delicate viewers should know that hands are also plunged into open wounds), while the sleazy politics of new buildings and hospital employment policy continue to make The Knick a narrative treat.

The Knick Season 2 premieres in UK 14 Jan at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.