The Alienist: Season 1 – Episode 6 ‘Ascension’ REVIEW

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The Alienist’s sixth episode places its focus on Stevie Taggert (Matt Lintz), a teen boy that is the group’s way to lure the killer out into the open. After figuring out the killer has an affinity to kill on holy Christian days, Kreizler determines the next murder will take place the day of Ascension.

The plan is to shut down all the brothels with the exception of one, and dress Stevie up as a girl in the hopes the killer will visit the brothel. Lintz does a phenomenal job in this episode, especially given the circumstances he is placed in. His ability to switch back and forth between two personas is commendable and really impressive. There are some funny moments in Stevie’s attempt to lure the killer, especially as he struggles to maintain a delicate and welcoming attitude. He even manages to dismiss a potential client when he is asked, “How’d you like to rub up against me like a kitten?”

Unfortunately, the night does not go as planned – the killer does not take the bait. One of Stevie’s friends recognizes him just as a mysterious person making his way toward Stevie seems to change his mind. Moore (Luke Evans) refuses to listen to directions and keeps lighting his cigarette, attracting attention to their hideout spot on the roof. Meanwhile, Marcus apprehends an unknown man whom he suspects until he realizes he is a priest.

As the last couple episodes have shown us, the group cannot decide on who they think the killer is. While Commissioner Roosevelt still believes it to be Willem Van Burgen, Kreizler begs to differ. To keep Willem away from this mess that he may or may not be in, they decide they are going to send him away to Buenos Aires (despite his extreme disapproval). However, Willem never makes it out of New York City, because Captain Connor gets to him first by shooting him right in the head. We were fairly convinced Willem was not the killer but his death solidifies this theory – especially since the murders did not stop.

They decide to dress Stevie up again and give it another shot in hopes this time the killer would latch on. As the night progresses, it doesn’t seem like anything is going to go their way, until a man approaches Stevie promising to “take him away to a castle”. Unfortunately, Moore and Marcus aren’t paying attention in the very moment Stevie is approached, and despite him giving them the sign, they miss it. It isn’t until Moore finally sees the desperate, helpless look on Stevie’s face that he realizes that the man has made contact with him. Despite their attempts to chase him down, Moore, Marcus, and Kreizler (whom the man simply ran by), aren’t able to capture him. This is quite the frustrating moment in the episode because they are supposed to be ready in the case this exact situation were to happen. Considering Stevie’s life is on the line, I was angry seeing their lack of attention on him.

There is an awkward, uncomfortable moment between Sarah (Dakota Fanning) and Kreizler in this episode as she pokes and prods at his personal life. Out of anger, Kreizler slaps Sarah across the face (oh no you didn’t!) at the exact moment the man comes running out of the brothel with Marcus and Moore behind him. In this moment, Kreizler becomes a contradictory character who has been pushing Sarah and Moore to open up about their pasts but has kept many secrets about his own. It’s interesting that he does not empathize with how much he pressures them when he immediately snaps upon Sarah asking him about his childhood.

It appears the second attempt at finding the killer results in an epic failure, especially when the group finds Cyrus knocked out on the rooftop. This is clearly a message from the killer letting them know he is onto their games and tricks. And this is when the killer strikes again, in the midst of confusion and despair. Moore looks out from the rooftop next to Stevie’s room and realizes the killer has taken another child, Stevie’s friend, Rosie. The episode closes out with her body brutally mutilated (in the same manner as the others) next to the Statue of Liberty.

The Alienist continues to get darker, scarier, and more frightening with every passing episode. This one in particular is an intriguing insight into Kreizler, who still remains a mystery in the story and to the audience. His closed off and mysterious personality is becoming a point of focus that I truly hope comes to fruition as the season goes on. It is great to see Sarah challenge his hypocrisy in keeping his past a secret, while he forces and intimidates Moore and Sarah to share theirs.

What secrets are lurking in Kreizler’s past? I have a feeling it is nothing good and he may be more sinister than we have been led to believe in the season so far. This episode is another great one for Fanning who continues to shine as the brave, fearless Sarah. I love watching her feminist personality take control over every situation (well, most anyway) and refusing to let society’s view on women get in her way. After Kreizler slaps her in the face, she still manages to handle the rest of the evening with poise and dignity. This is a testament to her character, the time period, and Fanning’s excellent portrayal of Sarah.

The Alienist is becoming more and more addicting to watch with every episode. While other shows may tend to get frustrating with the back-and-forth of “whodunit”, The Alienist keeps us entertained and invested in their quest to find the killer. I am particularly happy that this episode brought forward some of the other characters that haven’t had much screen time, including the Isaacson brothers and Cyrus. I feel like we haven’t had much time to understand and connect with them, but they are an integral part of this story. Where will the mystery go from here? We can’t wait to find out!

Catch up on our previous reviews of The Alienist here!