[This article contains SPOILERS for The Knick season 2 finale.]
Cinemax’s The Knick is a period medical drama set in early 1900s New York that takes an unflinching look at the professional and personal lives of the staff of the Knickerbocker Hospital, while deftly handling such delicate topics as racism, addiction, religion, and mental illness.
It has starred film actor Clive Owen as the complex, drug-addicted chief surgeon Dr. John Thackery, who could remain at the top of his field if not for his own personal demons and struggles. The series has managed to survive for two seasons despite its low ratings thanks to a stellar cast, and in large part due to the creativity of Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh, whose visionary style, along with composer Cliff Martinez’s haunting soundtrack, has delivered a unique television experience.
Since its inception, The Knick has been known for its stomach-churning surgical sequences that dare you to look away. Its riveting second season finale was no different, but took it a step further by having Thackery perform surgery on himself in a theatrical experience that may have ended the character’s life. Owen was asked directly if that’s the last we’ve seen of Thack in an interview with Variety. The actor coyly responded by stating, “It certainly seems that way,” before adding:
“It was always kind of the intention to do a two-season arc. I signed on for the two seasons, and it was always about trying to map a journey through that factory. The beauty of doing this project is the script came in very good shape and all ten were written before we turned over anything. So we have the full arc of the whole journey of the character before we even begin. For an actor that’s great, you have time to plot things through properly.”
However, if indeed Owen’s contract is up and Thackery’s death was always expected to occur at the end of season 2, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the end of the road for the acclaimed series. Although Cinemax has yet to renew The Knick for season 3, sources close to the show told Variety that the network has ordered a script for a third season premiere and an outline for a potential new season. Show creators Michael Begler and Jack Amiel are expected to be back as writers and executive producers if The Knick is to return. Cinemax has since confirmed the news in a statement:
“Cinemax has been in conversations with Steven Soderbergh on how we might continue with ‘The Knick.’ When first conceived, the series was always meant to be presented in a two-year story arc, and Steven has been meeting with the writers to discuss how to proceed.”
Thackery is undoubtedly the most compelling part of the series — which isn’t always the case with a lead character — and Owens’s exit would leave the under-the-radar drama without any star power, but there were enough storylines left open-ended during the ambiguous season 2 finale to make the case for a third season.
Thackery’s death may in fact be a fake out — which wouldn’t be a first — but if not, there will be some fans that think The Knick should die along with him. However, the show’s writers have done an adept job of creating an ensemble cast of characters and compelling storylines to continue the series for at least another season — using real-life historical cases, procedures and figures as inspiration — with the addition of new characters as a feasible option. If nothing else, The Knick will continue to be a visually arresting experience with Soderbergh at the helm, providing a series that may seem misplaced, but is very welcome on a premium channel such as Cinemax.