“God Works Between the Lines:” The Alienist, ‘Castle in the Sky’

After last week’s cliffhanger ending, “Castle in the Sky” opens with Kreizler eating alone and looking pensive. It feels like he is also waiting for something to happen. He focuses on the cooked bird on his plate and what looks like a pool of blood, then the scene cuts to an actual pool of blood and the dead body of Beecham’s latest victim.

Then we see Moore pushing through the crowd outside of the public pool where Maxie’s body has been found. He’s relieved that it’s not Joseph. There was a lot of detail in the novel about the tragic drowning death of Moore’s brother, and how that impacted him, but the show didn’t provide that back story. It seemed to focus instead of Moore transforming from a cynical, lonely man into someone who could truly look beyond his own pain and care for others. I think this was the right decision.

A time to forgive

Moore talks to Sara about the murder at HQ the next day. He feels like he let Joseph down by not taking him in but she assures him it’s not his fault. He also admits that until yesterday he felt sympathy for Beecham, like he could finally understand him. Moore then confesses to Sara that he’s in love with her, but she tries to make light of it. He will not be swayed: “Don’t pretend I have no feelings for you.” They kiss and one wonders if she might be in love with him, too.

Sara visits Kreizler and he asks for her forgiveness for the way he treated her. She also apologizes for prying into his personal life. While his expression is usually one of mild haughtiness, he looks genuinely humbled for the first time. He tells Sara that it was his abusive father who broke his arm as a child; she reveals some sobering information to him about her father’s suicide. She says that the team was hoping he would change his mind.

Kreizler does just that, visiting the pool and basically going full Will Graham when trying to envision the latest murder. He realizes that because Beecham didn’t take the eyes, he must have been interrupted. He then meets Lucius and Marcus at Beecham’s derelict apartment. The brothers speculate that Beecham is using the sewer system to sneak around the city. Kreizler asks to be alone and curls up on the bed, again using those Will Graham empathizing skills.

Then the scene cuts to Joseph, tied up on the floor in a dark room in a similar fetal position. Beecham shows up with a stray cat, which he then places in a burlap sack and crushes against the wall. It’s almost more horrifying than last week’s murder scene.

Time is running out

Back at HQ, Sara theorizes that the killer formerly known as Japheth probably took the name “John” because of John the Baptist, speculating that he uses water to “purify” his victims. There are just a few days until May 24 (the Feast of John the Baptist). Moore tells Roosevelt that they are running out of time and that they need his help.

Moore arrives home to find Kreizler discussing cases with his grandmother. Kreizler invites him to the opera on May 24 but Moore says he has plans with Sara and Roosevelt. When Kreizler notes that his “followers” will be expecting him, Moore realizes that he’s talking about Byrnes and Connor and grudgingly agrees.

At the opera, Byrnes is indeed there, watching Kreizler and Moore like a hawk until a particularly elaborate set piece on the stage allows them to sneak out. Yet they are not alone: Connor is there, too, watching them take a cab to Highbridge Tower where Sara, Roosevelt, the Isaacsons, and a slew of cops are waiting for Japheth to show his hand.

A change in plans

Soon Moore realizes that Kreizler never intended to go to Highbridge Tower and is angry about having unknowingly deceived the others. Kreizler explains that Beecham is changing his methods and suspects he will be at Croton Reservoir instead of the Tower.

The pair enters the catacombs of the reservoir and it doesn’t take long for Beecham, crawling on the ceiling pipes like a spider, to subdue first Kreizler and then Moore. When he comes to, Kreizler tries to empathize with Beecham in an attempt to get him to open up about his reasons for the killing. Beecham isn’t interested. Connor arrives, gun in hand, and shoots Beecham. Kreizler is furious. When Connor starts intimating that he might just kill everyone there so he can take the credit for solving the crime, Sara arrives and surprises him. Connor then threatens her but she shoots him before he can do anything more.

She wakes up Moore, who then goes to check on Joseph. Beecham, meanwhile, has crawled on to the roof, where Kreizler follows him and begs him, “What made you kill them?” But Beecham dies before Kreizler gets an answer. Kreizler’s rage and frustration are heartbreaking to witness.

What compels a man to do good

Later, at Kreizler’s, Moore tries to tell Roosevelt he shot Connor, but Sara fesses up. Roosevelt says her father would be proud. The Isaacsons perform an autopsy which only reveals that Beecham’s brain was normal. Kreizler seems defeated, even though Roosevelt reminds him they’ve achieved something important: finding a murderer who had no connection to his victims. “We set out to find a monster,” Kreizler observes, “and all we found was a wounded child.”

Later, Roosevelt holds a press conference where he publicly credits Connor with killing the child murderer. He gives Connor’s family a Medal of Commendation while Byrnes looks on approvingly. That night, the team, minus Roosevelt, has dinner. Kreizler says their fruitful partnership has turned into a friendship and they toast each other. He also slips Moore the engagement ring he was going to give Mary, and hopes that Moore can find someone to give it to one day. Moore is touched by the gesture.

Moore wants to walk Sara home, but she demurs. He tells her he meant what he said about being in love with her but she insists he’s in love with his dreams. “Aren’t you also?” he asks. She admits that she is and he says he will wait very patiently until she becomes Chief of Detectives.

In the final scene, Kreizler visits his father at a rest home. The man does not speak or make eye contact, presumably due to dementia or another type of illness. Kreizler says that he knows his father did the best he could. “I still believe we can be better than nature intended.” He tells him goodbye and leaves.

Is this the end of The Alienist?

Despite the fact that the team finally confronted the killer, the episode almost felt anti-climactic. Beecham, despite his monstrous actions, was shown as more of a broken soul than anything else, but that was the point. Rather than fetishizing Beecham’s elaborate murders, The Alienist chose to focus on the other characters and how they changed for the better. Even if Beecham could not be explained, understood, or saved, everyone else became more sympathetic along the way. Although there has been talk of The Alienist embarking upon a second season, “Castle in the Sky” feels a lot like the show is saying goodbye for good. As much as I have enjoyed these characters and their struggles, I am OK with that being the the end of The Alienist on TV.

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