Well, that was some good, creepy fun.
Caleb Carr's 1994 novel sprung to atmospheric life on The Alienist Season 1 Episode 1.
The Alienist is perfect for those who find Criminal Minds too light-hearted.
This limited series starts with a disemboweled young male prostitute abandoned on Williamsburg Bridge. That really sets the tone for the rest of the pilot.
It also establishes the feel for the series, exploring the gloomy underside of 1896 New York City. The sets and the costumes are fabulous, allowing the viewer to be transported into the hopelessness of many indigent people's lives.
There were young boys turned cross-dressing prostitutes to make money for their immigrant families. Others took their lives in their hands just trying to walk the streets through which horse-drawn carriages careened.
On the other side were the well-off, enjoying privileged lives and sating their vices in the underside of the city.
The rich also provided the graft that kept the mostly Irish police force looking the other way from their nefarious activities.
Carr has created a memorable team of outsiders to thrust inside this urban blight.
First is the titular character, Dr. Laszlo Kreizler. Don't let the odd title deter you. An alienist is basically a psychologist in need of a publicist in those days before Freud had really broken through.
Those with mental illness were said to be "alienated," both from their true selves and society. An alienist was the person who diagnosed and treated those with such conditions.
In addition to private practices, alienists testified in court about whether those "alienated" should be jailed, treated or just released.
Kreizler specializes in treating children and runs a "haven" for damaged children.
Although we didn't see enough of them in the pilot, all of Kreizler's household staff are former patients: mute housekeeper Mary, houseboy Stevie and carriage driver/bodyguard Cyrus (good to see Robert Ray Wisdom back on TV).
When the body of Giorgio Santorelli was found in the snow, Kreizler felt compelled to investigate. The mutilated body reminded him of the state in which Benjamin Zweig, one of his former patients -- who liked to wear his sister Sofia's dresses -- was found.
It was evident that Kreizler was ahead of his time, and his controversial ideas were repulsive to those behind the times, which included much of the NYPD.
So in his stead, he sent his old Harvard classmate, illustrator John Moore, to survey the crime scene. Conveniently, another former classmate, Theodore Roosevelt, newly named police commissioner and future President, was there to reluctantly allow him to do so.
Moore is a fascinating character. He is the personification of the term "gadabout," content to go drinking and whoring. But he also seems to have a sense of justice, and he is there for his friend, Kreizler, who needs all the help he can get when it comes to social skills.
Without being asked, Kreizler decided to conduct his own parallel investigation, especially after the cops take the easy way out, charging a syphilitic male prostitute who had already confessed to killing his male lover.
Kreizler and Moore's trip to the Bellevue asylum was unnerving. Having that scene poorly lit was a blessing. But it served the purpose of proving to Kreizler that the police had the wrong man.
This led to the duo marching straight to Roosevelt's office so that Kreizler could inform Roosevelt that his corrupt, lazy cops had the wrong man. Again, no social graces.
That's when we got to meet the series' best character, Dakota Fanning's Sara Howard. Roosevelt's secretary, she was also the first woman hired by the NYPD.
Sara is sassy, strong and smart. She has already proven to be an asset to Kreizler's team. She and John have a spotty history, and it will be intriguing to see how their relationship evolves.
Roosevelt was in a difficult position. Brought in to clean up police corruption, he couldn't embrace Kreizler's conclusion without causing insurrection in the ranks. So instead he provided covert aid, including the Jewish Isaacson brothers, who believed in the newfangled science of forensics. More outsiders for Kreizler's team.
Shortly after England's Jack the Ripper, Kreizler has determined that New York has its own serial killer. And the killer seems to be aware of Kreizler as well, as he leaves Giorgio's tongue as a calling card in Kreizler's carriage.
In the end, Kreizler said he needs to get into the mind of the killer. I guess he's the first profiler.
This first storyline is based on Carr's first Alienist novel. Here's hoping that this limited series can become an annual one, instead.
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Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.