'The Alienist' Review: A Gruesome Tale Of Murder

The term "alienest" does not mean the obvious.  At the start of "The Alienist," a graphic explains the term as someone who studied criminal psychology in 19th century New York City. 

Dr. Lazlo Kreizler played by Daniel Brühl, is the Alienist who joins forces with Luke Evans' crime reporter to solve a boy prostitute's murder. They partner with a young woman (Dakota Fanning) looking to make detective in NY's police department. 

The premiere show starts out with a gruesome murder of a young crossdressing male prostitute. The victim's body is mutilated and his eyes cut out. The end of the show suggest another boy will be a victim, hence a serial killer is on the loose.

If that sounds familiar, it is. Essentially it's Jack the Ripper transported from London to NYC with male cross dressing prostitutes. Nonetheless, the premiere episode leaves viewers intrigued with interesting characters you want to know more about.

Luke Evan's character is a crime reporter yet he can't stomach the gruesomeness of the crime scenes. He also has a penchant for female prostitutes and role plays with one particular woman as his cheating wife including making her wear a wedding band.

Daniel Brühl's Dr. Kreizler is not squeamish about the mutilations nor scared off watching mental patients physically hurt themselves. The criminal psychologist is not afraid to go after the killer and does so on foot when the killer leaves him a piece of the victim in his carriage. This cat and mouse game just got interesting.

Dakota Fanning's Sara Howard is a young woman navigating the male-dominated world and police department. She faces sexual harassment and many stumbling blocks as a woman in that time period. Yet she's determined and willing to partner with the two men to find the suspect. She's looking to move away from police secretary to the first-ever female detective.

While the story takes place in 19th century NYC, the themes are very modern. The issues of gender identity is the obvious issue with cross dressing boys being the target of the ruthless killer. Dr. Kreizler is understanding of the identity crisis and attempts to explain it to other characters.

Gender equality is also a tackled in "The Alienist" with Fanning's character fighting an uphill battle to be seen as an equal. She's a determined young lady ready for the challenge. In one scene at the precinct, she opens the door and one of the officers is relieving himself in a bucket with other police officers around. She endures a sexist remark from the man as the other men laugh, but she fights back yet she's uncomfortable in the situation. It's a timely theme with the Time's Up movement getting started.

<"The Alienist" premiere episode will drag you into this disturbing world, and though it's hard to watch at times, viewers will want to stick through it to see where it will take us. "The Alienist" is not your typical TNT drama with dark themes and gory scenes that will make you think you're watching HBO. TNT is taking a big leap into more series fare with "The Alienist."

The Alienist premieres Jan. 22 at 9/8c on TNT.

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