The anticipation of these last two episodes of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness came to a frenzy for me because of Tropical Storm Isaias, which knocked out my power and cable. Luckily, both came back, and I was able to fully immerse myself in these episodes. The penultimate was as edge-of-your-seat exciting as I thought it would be. The finale…well, the finale was riveting, but for fans of a certain coupling, I can see its ending being as divisive as Twin Peaks: The Return’s Part 18. Let’s begin with Episode 7, “Last Exit to Brooklyn.”
We begin with Byrnes throwing his weight around, as only Byrnes does, telling Goo Goo’s henchman that if he returns Baby Vanderbilt, unharmed, that the large sum of money he just gave him will add up. As Byrnes knows, every man has a price. Does this include Byrnes himself? We also see Sara and John go to the Brooklyn precinct and talk with the sergeant about Libby/Elspeth’s family. He remembers them being a good family living off of Prospect Park. He also remembers Elspeth being committed to a mental institution for the attempted murder of her mother. For someone who wants so badly to be a mother herself, why would she try to kill her own mother?
Karen brings Kreizler to an “alternative” club. She also tells him she has the chance to work under Dr. Freud in Vienna and that if she chooses to go, it will be in two weeks—although, if she had a reason to stay, she might not consider the opportunity. This challenges Kreizler, but also the atmosphere that he happens to find himself in challenges many of his senses as well. I won’t give too much of this scene away, because I loved its addition and how it fit into the modern day as well, but information gleaned from the proprietor on her partner, Rose, gave Kreizler some new insight into our Libby/Elspeth. He is able to use this information when he, Sara, John, and Byrnes, go and see Libby’s mother, Mallory Hunter.
For me, this scene took the story in a much sadder direction. Poor Libby: the perfect child, with a father that adored her but a mother who hated everything about her—including when she came home with a baby that she adored. So, what did Mrs. Hunter do to her daughter and new granddaughter? Scar her own face and tell the police that Libby/Elspeth attempted to kill her, of course. This is where Daniel Brühl shines as Laszlo Kreizler. How he weaves in and out of coming up with his own deductions about what happened and getting Mrs. Hunter to admit her wrongdoing is a beautiful dance. Tense, but every word meant to paint the picture of who Elspeth (now Libby) has become. The team also knows how much Libby loved her daughter, named Clara, from looking through her memory boxes again.
So, to catch us up to the good part: Byrnes and Hearst plot, Sara is ignoring John about what happened between the two of them, and Goo Goo fights with Libby until Libby sees what Byrnes and Hearst are up to. They found her daughter and set up a much-publicized reunion with Grandma. John goes after Hearst, only to have Hearst bring up Violet and how he understands John more than he thinks he does. Hearst knows John’s heart is with Sara, but John is a man of his word, so will he or won’t he stay with Violet?
The bait of Clara works, only too well. Libby sends a plant in place of her and gets her glimpse of her long lost daughter from afar. Unfortunately, Captain Doyle and his men see her, too. Poor Captain Doyle. You never turn your back on a psychotic woman with nothing left to lose. While Captain Doyle bleeds out of his neck, Libby gets away and Kreizler ends up bringing Clara back to the Institute, where Karen is helping him by being the doctor in charge while he waits for his medical licensure trial.
In a scene with some broad foreshadowing, Bitsy tells Sara she should just tell John she loves him. John, who does not seem to be at Delmonico’s where he should be dining with Hearst and Violet, is at home when he calls Sara. He knows she is ignoring him. They both confess that what happened between them was wonderful, and neither have regrets, but John says, as almost as the whole collective audience is saying to Sara right now, “What do you want?” John also hangs up but first says, “I’ll make the decision for both of us, if I have to. Goodnight.” Is this good night on Sara and John? Well, Sara does call him back, but he’s on his way to Delmonico’s. And there is a sound coming from the stairwell. Anyone who didn’t scream, “It’s Libby!” before she appeared on the screen, you do not pass go or collect 200 dollars. For those who did, like me, I knew this was going to be the standoff. John comes in the nick of time, only to be held by knifepoint with Sara pointing her pistol at Libby. This whole scene, Rosy McEwen should be getting all the awards for portraying Libby. Do you hear me? All the awards. And of course, this is where we end Episode 7 and begin Episode 8.
The stand-off. There it is! Sara tells Libby that she loves John, John gets the drop on her, and both inquire where Baby Vanderbilt is. [Evil smile.] We soon know that Baby Vanderbilt is with Goo Goo in the butchery in Dustertown.
Byrnes is feeling awful about Captain Doyle—as he should—but does admit to Marcus and Lucius that he doesn’t think that this army of men would be brought out for either one of their children. Money makes things happen. Ain’t that the truth, Byrnes! We then go to John and Sara at the hospital, and both decide they need to interview Libby. They also discuss the conversation they were not able to finish over the phone.
This is an important scene. I repeat, for those Jora—or should it be Sahn—shippers: when you get completely upset by the ending of Angel of Darkness, go back and watch this scene. Yes, Sara loves John. Yes, John loves Sara, but the Sara that John loves is this one—the one who is independent, courageous, and challenging, not the one he thinks she could be. Sara will not be one who will want children or sit at home and be the lady Schuyler Moore. There is someone who will be happy with that life, but Sara would not. So their love is exactly what Sara tells John: “Love that is not truthful is not love, it is passion.” Yes, they both have that in spades.
Kreizler knows now that Karen will be leaving and taking the position with Freud. As they get the call to meet John and Sara at the police station, Marcus and Lucius stay behind with Clara. They all meet at the Brooklyn station, and Byrnes conducts his interview first: water torture. He has three degrees, and I believe his patience level goes right to three, but Libby can not be broken. You cannot break the already broken. Sara condemns Byrnes for his “interviewing” abilities, but he tells her sometimes there is no other way.
Sara goes in, and Kreizler tells her that it is she that has the relationship with Libby, not him. She needs someone she can open up to, just like she did when they had lunch. This scene, again, please give all the awards to these two fabulous women. Dakota Fanning has been beyond brilliant this entire season, and again Rosy McEwen gives the emotional range. It was like watching a master class of screen partnerships. “You’re not frightened of me?” “No.” “Well you should be.” I mean, the way those lines were delivered. Sara does get what she wants out of Libby, but in the process also leads Libby to know where Clara is: Kreizler’s Institute. John, Byrnes, and the other men go and find Baby Vanderbilt as safe and sound as a baby can be by an angry pitbull in a butchery.
Sara tells Kreizler she feels bad for deceiving Libby, but that ends quickly as Goo Goo and his men make mincemeat out of the entire Brooklyn police department that is left at the precinct. Sara and Kreizler remain safe in a cell, but Goo Goo convinces Libby not to get Sara now, but to go get her daughter before the rest of the men come back. There is no way Marcus and Lucius are going to be able to fight this crew, and my fears are realized when they knock out Lucius and Marcus is shot by Goo Goo going to steal Clara. No! I wanted Angel of Darkness to end without losing anyone from the original Victorian CSI team! Unfortunately, I did not get my wish. Marcus goes on to meet his Mama by the clock, and Lucius is left to sit shiva with the rest of the team.
Libby ends up returning to her childhood home with Goo Goo and Clara. The team and all of the remaining Brooklyn PD show up to help capture Libby. In a turn which I have been waiting for, Byrnes is helping Sara. Maybe he is starting to respect her and her methods. I mean, it is also making him look good. Our original trio enters, Goo Goo gets the drop on them, but…yes! Lucius gets the drop on him, avenging his brother’s death and helping our team in the process. Our trio, and then the whole Brooklyn PD, corners Libby, but it is Sara who gets through to her. She tells Libby that Clara has her whole life ahead of her and that she knows she loves her, and with that Libby lets her go and Kreizler grabs her safely. Interesting side note: you hear a faint baby’s cry when Libby is deciding whether to let Clara go. Libby says, “This thing that you love, stops the pain, and for a little while, it does.” This resonates deeply with Sara, as you can see from the tears in her eyes.
So life goes on. John gets a promotion at the Journal, and he also finds out that Violet is in a delicate condition. Sara takes the news quite well—better than the audience watching I suppose—but it is in the way she knows it is what was supposed to be. Not ideal, but what is supposed to be. She could not make John a father. It is not what she wants. When you love someone, you want them to be happy. So, with that knowledge, the ending is fitting. Kreizler and Karen Stratton go off to Vienna to work with Freud. John gets to become a father and fill his heart with the love of a child of his own. And what does Sara get? Sara gets a team of dynamic women and her own place in history, forging her path in a man’s world. With a new recruit, Kitty Byrnes—Byrnes’s own daughter no doubt.
If this is all we are given of The Alienist, my gosh, what a ride we have been on. I do hope they continue, even if it is just the adventures of Sara Howard and her detective agency on 808 Broadway. Until then, I will grab a glass of American Bourbon and make a toast to the successful run of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness.