ⓘ The Alienist (TV series)

The Alienist (TV series)

ⓘ The Alienist (TV series)

The Alienist is an American period drama television series based on the novel of the same name by Caleb Carr. The ten-episode limited series first aired on TNT as a sneak peek on January 21, 2018, before its official premiere on January 22, 2018, and ended on March 26, 2018. The series stars Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning as an ad hoc team assembled in mid-1890s New York City to investigate a serial killer who is murdering street children. The series incorporates fact with fiction by including the characters that are historical figures, such as Theodore Roosevelt, who held the post of police commissioner from 1895 to 1897. On August 16, 2018, TNT ordered a sequel series based upon the follow-up novel The Angel of Darkness.


1. Premise

The psychological thriller drama is set in 1896, when a series of gruesome murders of boy prostitutes has gripped New York City. Newly appointed police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt calls upon Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a criminal psychologist and John Moore, a newspaper illustrator, to conduct the investigation in secret. Joining them in the probe is Sara Howard, the headstrong secretary to the police commissioner, as well as the Jewish twin brothers Marcus and Lucius Isaacson, both detective sergeants in the NYPD.

The team finds opposition within the NYPD, primarily from Captain Connor and the recently retired Chief Byrnes, both of whom are more committed to protecting the reputations of New Yorks high society than they are to finding the perpetrators of the crimes; as well as from the working poor and lower class citizens who distrust them for being outsiders.

Opening title:


2.1. Cast Main

  • Matt Lintz as Stevie Taggert, a youthful ward and stable boy of Kreizlers who often assists Cyrus, and gets involved in the teams investigation.
  • Daniel Bruhl as Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a psychiatrist or alienist who has focused recently on children suffering from mental illnesses, called upon by his former Harvard classmate Theodore Roosevelt to try to get into the psychology behind grisly child murders. He is German and comes from a well-off family, but lives alone save for his maid, valet, and stable boy. He suffers from a lame arm, and frequently seeks out the insight of former patients and criminals for help with his investigations and research.
  • Qorianka Kilcher as Mary Palmer, Kreizlers maid. Like Cyrus, she was taken in by Kreizler after she was acquitted for murder. She is mute and uses sign language to communicate, and has an affection for Kreizler.
  • Robert Ray Wisdom as Cyrus Montrose, Kreizlers valet whom he employed after testifying on Cyrus behalf during a murder trial.
  • Douglas Smith as Marcus Isaacson, a young Jewish detective sergeant with the NYPD whom Roosevelt enlists to work with Kreizler, Moore, and Howard. He is Lucius twin brother, and like his brother, is well versed in science and general crime scene investigation. He becomes involved with a Jewish socialist.
  • Matthew Shear as Lucius Isaacson, Marcus twin brother and another detective sergeant with the NYPD. He is much more cautious and restrained than Marcus, and eager to utilize the latest scientific techniques to solve crimes.
  • Luke Evans as John Schuyler Moore, a New York Times cartoonist and illustrator, as well as a society man who attended Harvard with Dr. Kreizler and Roosevelt. He lives with his grandmother, and is estranged from his father following the drowning death of his brother. He is handsome and charming, but is an alcoholic and frequenter of brothels, and remains unmarried after his fiancee left him for another man. Like Roosevelt, he has known Sara since she was young.
  • Brian Geraghty as Theodore Roosevelt, then the newly-appointed Commissioner of the NYPD. He is portrayed as commanding respect from certain people, but remains malleable by societys most venerable as well as veteran NYPD officers. He attended Harvard with Dr. Kreizler and Moore, both of whom he calls upon to mount a secret, parallel investigation into the child murders. He employs Sara Howard as his secretary, having known her father, and thinks highly of her.
  • Dakota Fanning as Sara Howard, a young society woman who becomes Roosevelts secretary and the first woman employed by the NYPD. She spent time in a sanitarium after the death of her father, whom Roosevelt and Moore both knew. She is composed and determined to not allow her male colleagues to disparage her. She gets involved with the team as a liaison between Roosevelt and Kreizler and Moore. The character is loosely based upon the story of Isabella Goodwin, New Yorks first female detective.

2.2. Cast Recurring

  • David Wilmot as Captain Connor, an Irish police officer who dislikes Roosevelt and who tries to subvert the teams investigations at every possible turn.
  • Ted Levine as Thomas F. Byrnes, the retired police chief who steers Connor toward protecting the rich and wealthy from being persecuted for their crimes and indiscretions.
  • Josef Altin as Willem Van Bergen, a young man who preys on prepubescent boys. He suffers from syphilis.
  • Stephen Louis Grush as Jesse Pomeroy, a real-life child murderer from Boston. In the shows history, Kreizler attempted to study Pomeroy early in his career.
  • David Meunier as Adam Dury, a farmer from the countryside.
  • Michael Ironside as J.P. Morgan, the financier and banker. He uses Connor and Byrnes as his muscle to enforce protecting his fellow members of high society.
  • Emanuela Postacchini as Flora, a high-end prostitute who counts Moore as one of her clients.
  • Sean Young as Mrs. Van Bergen, the matriarch of the fictional van Bergen family. She is generally unperturbed by rumors about her sons actions, but nonetheless is compelled by Byrnes to take action to protect him.
  • Antonio Magro as Paul Kelly, a mobster who runs a brothel frequented by high society men.
  • Bill Heck as John Beechum, a former Plains resident now living in New York.
  • Peter McRobbie as Mayor William Lafayette Strong, the mayor of New York City from 1895 to 1897. He echoes Morgan and Byrnes concerns for the citys upper crust.
  • Jackson Gann as Joseph, a young boy who works at a brothel and who endears himself to Moore.


3.1. Production Development

In April 2015, it was reported that Paramount Television would adapt The Alienist as an event television series in partnership with Anonymous Content. Paramount also announced that Oscar-winning Forrest Gump screenwriter Eric Roth had come on board the project as an executive producer, as had Hossein Amini as both writer for the series and executive producer. It also announced that True Detective director Cary Fukunaga would direct all the episodes and serve as an executive producer.

In May 2015, it was reported that TNT had made a deal to produce the series at $5 million per episode. In July 2015, writer and director John Sayles announced on his blog that he was joining the series as a writer. On July 21, 2015, Caleb Carr made an announcement that he was coming on board the series as a consulting producer.

In September 2016, director Jakob Verbruggen replaced Fukunaga as director due to scheduling conflicts, though Fukunaga remained an executive producer.


3.2. Production Casting

On November 28, 2016, it was reported that Daniel Bruhl was cast as Dr. Laszlo Kreizler and Luke Evans as John Moore. Dakota Fanning was later cast as Sara Howard on January 14, 2017. On February 8, 2017, it was reported that Robert Wisdom was cast as Cyrus Montrose and Qorianka Kilcher as Mary Palmer. Matt Lintz was cast as Stevie Taggert on February 15, 2017. On February 17, 2017, it was reported that Matthew Shear joined the cast as Lucius Isaacson. Douglas Smith was cast as Marcus Isaacson and Ted Levine as Thomas F. Byrnes on February 28, 2017. It was reported that Emanuela Postacchini was cast as Flora on March 17, 2017. On April 19, 2017, it was reported that Brian Geraghty was cast as Theodore Roosevelt.


4. Reception

Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the series has an approval rating of 66% based on 76 reviews, with an average rating of 6.86/10. On Metacritic, the season has a weighted average score of 61 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

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