“There Are Certain Things a Man Cannot Control”: The Alienist, ‘Psychopathia Sexualis’

For those who’ve read Caleb Carr’s book, this episode of The Alienist was painful to watch. Readers knew that tragedy was at hand but, like the characters on the screen, they could do nothing to stop it.

First, let’s back up to the beginning of the episode. “Psychopathia Sexualis” finds the members of the investigative team getting dangerously close to the truth. While they are on a train en route to St. Elizabeth’s in Washington, DC, Kreizler asks Moore some seemingly out of character questions. Although the two men are heading to DC to find more on Rudolph Bunzl, Kreizler’s mind is on other things. He asks Moore if he’ll be visiting his ex-fiancée Julia while they are in the city. He also mentions Mary’s aphasia, which is perhaps the first time in the show that her inability to speak has been referenced. The viewer also notices something that Moore and Kreizler do not: they are being followed, although by who isn’t clear.

While Moore looks through records of unsolved massacres at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Kreizler visits St. Elizabeth’s to find more information on Bunzl. When the two men meet up later, they are both disappointed in their lack of success. Bunzl has passed away and Moore can’t find anyone who fits their profile that lived further west than Chicago. Yet when Moore mentions the vicious killing of a minister and his wife in New Paltz, New York, Kreizler perks up. In his search, he came across a man listed in St. Elizabeth’s patient records who is from New Paltz: John Beecham. They decide this cannot be a coincidence.

Moore calls Sara to inform her that he and Kreizler will be heading to Massachusetts to talk to Adam Dury, the son of the murdered couple. Their other son, Japheth, was presumably kidnapped by the Indians who killed his parents. Moore tells Sara to let the Isaacsons know they should head to North Dakota to talk to Beecham’s former commanding officer. He also tells Sara to be careful. She goes to New Paltz to find out more about the murders of the Dury family.

As Moore and Kreizler are heading to Massachusetts, Kreizler asks Moore how he knew he was “in the throes” of love with Julia. It’s fascinating that a man who has spent his entire career examining the motives and emotions of others cannot figure out his own. Or perhaps he is just hoping Moore will ask him point blank what’s going on so he doesn’t have to admit it himself.

The Isaacsons talk to Captain Miller and find out something disturbing about Beecham. When soldiers were called in to quell the rioting at the Haymarket Affair back in 1886, Miller found Beecham in an alley astride the dead body of a young boy. It wasn’t just that Beecham was stabbing the boy over and over, it was also that Beecham was stark naked, covered in blood, and sporting a raging erection.

The episode also shows a meeting between Byrnes and Connor. When Connor tells the former police commissioner that Kreizler and Moore are snooping around DC, Byrnes insists that he doesn’t want them to throw “30 bloody years of police work out the window.” Connor says he’ll talk to the Swede.

While Sara is talking to a local resident named Eliza in New Paltz, she finds out that Japheth was an accomplished mountain climber. She also finds out that Eliza doesn’t agree with the local sheriff’s conviction that Indians killed the Dury couple. This is intercut nicely with Adam Dury providing some unsettling information to Kreizler and Moore about not only his dead parents, but his missing brother. It seems that his mother was especially abusive to Japheth and insulted him frequently, calling him the bastard child of a “Red Injun.” Those who remember the content of the letter the killer sent to the Santorelli family probably got a creepy hunch at this point in the episode.

Adam also tells the two men that a farm hand had sexually abused Japeth. That  ’s name was George Beecham. This startles the two men as they realize the connection to John Beecham. Meanwhile, Eliza is telling Sara about a farmhand who used to go mountain climbing with Japeth and that he was later found with his throat slit and his eyes removed. If George Beecham was killed, who is John Beecham? Could he be the same person as Japheth Dury?

Back in New York, J.P. Morgan sidles up to Roosevelt in a hat shop and puts some not so gentle pressure on him to cease the investigation. “It would scare the people if they thought an alienist could find the killer before the police.” Roosevelt, as always, is firm: “You can’t stop the future.”

Kreizler and Moore are in a carriage heading back to the train station discussing the case when they are attacked by an unseen gunman, who subsequently kills the driver. The horses panic and the carriage tumbles over a bridge into the creek below. While stumbling, wounded, towards safety, Kreizler finally reveals the object of his desire: Mary. Moore is surprised; the whole time he’d mistakenly believed that his friend was in love with Sara.

Connor and two of his thugs, including The Swede show up at Kreizler’s looking for the doctor. Mary tries to get them to leave, but because she cannot speak, Connor becomes angry and runs upstairs to look for Kreizler himself. Stevie and Cyrus are subdued by The Swede and Mary grabs a knife to defend herself and to thwart Connor. A struggle ensues at the top of the stairwell, and Mary falls to her death below.

It’s hard to feel glad that the team is closer to solving the case in the face of Mary’s tragic death. How will the next episode handle Kreizler’s reaction? Those who’ve read the book will remember what he does next, but will the TV show follow that same narrative?

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