'The Alienist' Episode 9 'Requiem' Reveals the Killer, but Can't Stop His Violence

Last week's The Alienist saw the characters split up and hit the road, with separate threads of evidence scattered around the country all pointing to a single suspect. After a dead end, chasing a cherished son of the rich and powerful, Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Bruhl), Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) and John Moore (Luke Evans) seem to have found their serial killer, or, at least, his name: an abused and sadistic former soldier named John Beecham (born Japheth Dury). Episode 9 "Requiem," the penultimate in the limited series, returns the characters home to New York, where they search for Beecham in his urban hunting grounds.

Whereas last week's road trip episode also served as a survey of American misery —Beecham committed atrocities both against Native Americans in the West and labor activists in Chicago—"Requiem" is dirty and narrow, about as close to a Victorian-era Seven as TV is ever likely to see. A major theme for The Alienist from the beginning has been how the conditions of society, including both discrimination and inequalities, nurtured and now protect the series' unseen killer from harm. Having seen the forces of his creation, Episode 9 arrives at the final stage, wallowing in the literal lair of the killer and witnessing the extravagant violence of his output.

But first, there's a funeral. The police, Captain Connor (David Wilmot) included, killed Mary Palmer (Q'orianka Kilcher), who had only recently begun a romantic relationship with Dr. Kreizler. Poorly used, Mary died to put Kreizler at his lowest in time for the finale, so for this episode he broods, while Howard, Moore and the Isaacson brothers (Douglas Smith and Matthew Shear) do the police work.

Following census records and former residences, Howard and Moore chase their killer down the economic rungs. Beecham started off in the city as a census taker, living in a respectable apartment. Beecham's violence is buried here, like the cat he left under his landlady's floorboards. But temporary work failed him and Beecham is driven to squalor. The investigators find his apartment, upstairs from the dirtiest dive bar in New York and a tenement where residences are separated from each other with curtains.

Inside is a museum of buried horrors. On the surface, Beecham's residence indicates only poverty. But just beneath that surface, they find his sickness. Native American atrocity photos are hidden between the pages of books. A human heart is kept in a literal heart-shaped box. His greatest trophy is under the bed: a jar full of collected eyes, indicating more victims than they had suspected.

While the investigators look through his collection of horrors, the killer is out hunting. In previous episodes The Alienist has preferred to portray the victims in tableau, their bodies already dead, posed and mutilated. But this time there's a witness, as one boy sees another boy gutted in the locker room of a public pool.

As the killer steps into the open, The Alienist chases a few subthreads, each character responding to the death of Mary by exploring their own capacities for violence. Kreizler abuses himself, attacking his withered arm, a symbol of his inability to effect change in the world. Cyrus (Robert Wisdom) stalks Captain Connor, but steps back from the brink and decides against killing the corrupt, killer cop. Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty) confronts the former chief of police and his thuggish hanger-ons, perhaps knowing fully well how powerless he'll be standing against them in their own bar. Each character has violence within them, but either turn it inward or have normal mechanisms of restraint which hold them back. Violence is everywhere in The Alienist, but only exercised by people twisted from sickness or power. The point is delivered most obviously with Connor, at his most repulsive in "Requiem," who is revealed to be impotent just after delivering a rape threat.

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Stevie Taggert and Cyrus Montrose contemplate revenge against Mary Palmer's killers. TNT

By the end of "Requiem," the investigators still haven't got their killer and he's killed again. But now, after doing all the legwork, the mask is off and the savageries of society fully revealed, from the former Chief of Police at his bar stool, smugly aware he won't be held accountable for murder, to the serial killer himself, swooping down on another boy. The Alienist only has left to reveal, for its final episode "Castle in the Sky," whether there's anything that can be done about it.

The final episode of The Alienist, "Castle in the Sky," airs next Monday, March 26, at 9 p.m. on TNT.