The Knick: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray Review)

The KnickSet in downtown New York in 1900 – The Knick is a groundbreaking new scripted drama from Oscar® and Emmy®-winning director Steven Soderbergh starring Oscar® nominee Clive Owen, who also received a Golden Globe nomination for this series. The Knick centers on the Knickerbocker Hospital (dubbed The Knick), which faces a major upheaval due to poor finances and an exodus of wealthy patients. The one remaining star is Dr. Thackery (played by Clive Owen) who along with the hospital staff of surgeons, nurses and other personnel must struggle to keep both themselves and the hospital going.  

The Knick

The Series 

When Steven Soderbergh announced that he was finished making films due to not being challenged enough (or whatever it was) that did not mean he was to stop creating filmed entertainment it just meant that he was moving to other mediums like premium television. He garnered great acclaim with his Behind the Candelabra TV film in 2013 and has snow forged ahead with his second outing as a premium television director with a 10-episode stint directing HBO/Cinemax’s The Knick starring Clive Owen.

The Knick takes place in 1900 and focuses on Knickerbocker Hospital in New York City and the head surgeons that practice medicine there. Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) is a very talented and gifted surgeon who has a wee bit of an addiction to cocaine. Keep in mind that around this time, and for all intents and purposes, cocaine was being used as a medical anesthetic in liquid form. Thackery also injects as opposed to snorting. The century was young, still, so other methods of ingestion had not been discovered yet.

Thackery is a master surgeon but he is also a surgeon that takes on many risks while performing complex procedures at the hospital’s theater in front of other doctors and medical students. He may be good but he’s not bulletproof. Lots of people die on his table in the name of science and progress. Watching some of the procedures is quite gut wrenching at times due to how graphic the surgeries are portrayed. Blood, guts, and gore are everywhere and the doctors, nurses, and medical practitioners are knee deep in it all.

The show also tackles class and race. Another doctor assigned to “The Knick” is Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland)  – but he is instantly not liked by Thackery and Thackery’s right hand man Dr. Everett Galanger (Eric Johnson), because Dr. Edwards is black. Dr. Edwards is there by special request of the owner of the hospital and his daughter, who he has a history with. Race will not be factor in denying Edwards a chance to help people, though. The problem is that he is not allowed direct contact with patients, so he must stand at the sidelines and observe and assist only when called upon.

The Knick borrows heavily from the time period presented but it never says that this is how it happened. One can almost say: “The Knick is inspired by true event.” Certain characters are composites of the real ones and the timeline is also not reflective of what really happened. Some events that happened in real life may have happened before or way after 1900. The Knick is a fascinating show and everyone pulls it off nicely. Steven Soderbergh does a great job with the direction and he even brought along Cliff Martinez to handle the score via synths. Be warned: The Knick has an awesome synth-score.

If you’re squeamish then the show may not be for you. There are many scenes where the doctors themselves perform surgeries without having washed their hands, high on drugs, and then go back to their loved ones and touch them with filthy hands. One doesn’t really need to put two and two together but keep in mind this was the time when people did not fear germs and bacteria. Some, unfortunately, paid the price of that neglect in horrible ways. I am happy to report that The Knick will have a second season to premiere this summer, so there’s that! The Knick Season 1 is highly recommended!


The Knick


Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: The Knick looks great. It was shot in 6k via a RED workflow and it shows. The picture is crystal clear and there’s an awesome film grain structure throughout the series that rocks.

Depth: The low-lit golden interiors are my favorite aspect of the show. The show may take place in a 2nd rate hospital but some of the rooms, thanks to production; some of them look inviting enough.

Black Levels: Black levels are pristine. I did not notice crush or compression artifacts.

Color Reproduction: The color palette is quite muted but it works. Reds do look rather bright but since that’s in reference to blood and organs, etc., it’s expected.

Flesh Tones: Everyone looks as healthy as they can – all things considered – but when Owen is going through his withdrawal moments he turns pale and clammy.

Noise/Artifacts: None.

The Knick


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS 5.1, Portuguese (Brasil) DTS 2.0, Spanish (Castilian) DTS 5.1, Spanish (Latino) DTS 2.0, German DTS 5.1, Czech DTS 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese (Brasil), Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latino), German, Czech, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

Dynamics: The Knick sounds terrific on Blu-ray. It’s not necessarily “that” type of show but when the bigger action set pieces come into play then the soundtrack elevates itself to a more potent level.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel is subtle but kicks in every once in a while and only when needed. It’s tight and never rattles or distorts.

Surround Sound Presentation: The rear channels hold their own and never interfere with the front sound stage.

Dialogue Reproduction: The show is dialogue driven and those levels are pristine – without distortion, clipping, echoing, etc.


The Knick


The episode post-op segments are really short and they’re nothing more than the stander featurette shorts one is accustomed to. The audio commentary tracks would have been better if they didn’t lean more into the nitty gritty of the show. Some come off too bland and/or self-serving, etc. A digital copy rounds out the special features.

  • Episode Post – Ops – Get educated on ground-breaking surgery techniques featured in The Knick. (HD)
  • Audio Commentaries With Cast and Crew including Jack Amiel, Michael Begler, Jeremy Cobb, Eve Hewson, Michael Angarano, Chris Sullivan, Cara Seymour and Eric Johnson.
  • Also available: digital book The Knick: Anatomy Of A Series containing never-before-seen conversations between Cinemax and Steven Soderberg, as well as all 10 scripts from Season 1. See inside for details. 
  •  Digital Copy UltraViolet & iTunes

The Knick


The Knick is a fantastic show and HBO/Cinemax continue the trend of exciting programming with this series. The Blu-ray set has great video and great audio quality but the special features, as always, could have been beefed up a bit. Don’t let that stop you from watching The Knick: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray. The second season is premiering this summer, too!



The Knick: The Complete First Season is released on Blu-ray & DVD August 11.






The Knick


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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