Season two episode seven – the first half of the two-part season finale – of TNT’s psychological thriller The Alienist begins with Thomas Byrnes (Ted Levine) and an officer heading into the Oyster Saloon and locating one of Goo Goo Knox’s men. Byrnes breaks the man’s nose before even asking him any questions.
Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) and John Moore (Luke Evans) are at the Brooklyn police station discussing how Thomas is treating the missing Vanderbilt baby case as a race against Sara, more so than actual time. They meet with Sergeant Kelly to search for information on Elizabeth Hunter or, as we know her, Libby. The Sergeant believes it’s unfathomable to think the girl who lost her father to suicide would grow up to be a killer. His reasoning being she came from money, had a good upbringing, and was a good girl who always did what she was told.
Goo Goo’s man claims he doesn’t know anything but Thomas demands to know if Goo Goo has a price. The man responds, “Every man has a price.” Byrnes lays down money, explaining it’s for the baby’s safe return and there will be more where that came from after the baby is returned.
Sergeant Kelly comes back with a file on Libby and it appears he was mistaken about sweet, innocent Elizabeth. The file contains info on her time spent in an asylum for the attempted murder of her own mother.
Laszlo (Daniel Brühl) and Karen (Lara Pulver) are together in a sort of sexual fantasy club where it seems one would go to live out their fetishes. Karen reveals she’s been offered a position in Vienna and she could be leaving in two weeks. He wonders if she will be taking the job and she replies, “Unless you know of a reason I shouldn’t.”
The reason behind their visit to the club soon becomes clear. They’re there to speak with an acquaintance of Karen’s named Alice. After many discussions with Laszlo about their suspect, Karen feels Alice can provide some insight. Alice’s partner seems to share similar characteristics with their suspect. After talking with Alice, Laszlo feels Libby’s driven by loneliness and obsession.
Meanwhile, Libby (Rosy McEwen) and Goo Goo (Frederick Schmidt) are holed up in an apartment. Libby looks down at the ships and gets the idea they should get on one of them and go wherever the wind takes them. Their plans are still up in the air when Goo Goo has to leave, warning her to stay off the streets while he’s gone.
Goo Goo meets with the man who Thomas roughed up, instructing him to collect rent from the tenants earlier in the month than usual. The man comes clean and tells Goo Goo about Byrnes and his offer of money in exchange for the baby. Goo Goo takes the money Byrnes handed over as a down payment and punches his lackey in his already broken nose for wanting a finder’s fee.
Laszlo’s rambling on as Karen is looking through his books when he finally asks if she’s ever been to that sex club before. She responds with her own question, “Are you asking me professionally or personally?” She confesses she likes to keep her mind open.
Sara and the gang – plus Byrnes, for the time being – go to Libby’s mother’s house to question her. Sara felt it was necessary to invite Thomas as well because she gave Mr. Vanderbilt her word she would keep Thomas informed. She’s aware Thomas is most likely not granting her the same courtesy.
They knock on Mallory Hunter’s (Matilda Ziegler) door and she answers, saying, “I’ve been expecting you.”
Mrs. Hunter insists she doesn’t know where Elizabeth is or anyone she might turn to. Mallory begins to tell them about Elizabeth’s childhood…she went to the best schools and even studied dance in Paris. Laszlo, with no tact whatsoever, jumps right in and questions why she thinks her husband killed himself. She seems taken aback but admits she would like to know that as well.
The discussion moves on to why Elizabeth would want to kill her own mother. Laszlo and Sara take turns suggesting ideas – a fight over the baby, perhaps. Mallory opens up about Elizabeth’s child, confirming it was a girl and she’s now at the Children’s Aid Society. She believes Elizabeth was incapable of caring for a child when she herself was still a child. Mallory reminds them Elizabeth came at her with a knife but Laszlo’s not buying it. “That’s the story you told the police but that’s not really what happened, is it?”
Mallory’s shocked he’s calling her a liar. Laszlo doesn’t back down, insisting the Children’s Aid Society wouldn’t take the baby unless she confirmed her daughter was a danger to the child. He accuses her of inflicting trauma on her daughter. “You abandoned her, you abandoned her child, and you created a killer,” claims Laszlo.
Mallory insists Elizabeth doesn’t know where her child is right now. Laszlo believes she didn’t help her child then but can help her now. Sara wonders if Libby came back to Brooklyn to find her daughter and Laszlo is unsure. He feels if that is the case, the child is in grave danger.
Goo Goo returns with a gorgeous long jacket for Libby so she won’t get cold on the ship. Her happiness quickly turns to anger when he suggests a way out of “this mess.” Goo Goo reveals Vanderbilt is offering a reward for the baby and she screams, “He’s our baby!”
Goo Goo yells back that he’s just going to end up like the rest of them (meaning the other babies she killed) so they might as well get some money for him and then they can plan their great escape. She tells him no once again and he tries to take the baby. She grabs him but he slams her into a wall. He takes the baby and insists he’s doing this for her. As he walks out, Libby cries, “NO!”
Sara and Laszlo pour over the papers Mallory gave them and they learn the child’s name is Clara. The Isaacson brothers show up with Libby’s memory boxes and something Libby’s mother said intrigued Laszlo enough to make him look through them again. Lucius (Matthew Shear) shows them one of the memory boxes and based on the deterioration, he thinks it’s the first box she constructed. Sara assumes it’s her first victim, but Laszlo believes it’s her own child.
Thomas and Goo Goo’s man wait for Goo Goo to show up with the baby, with the man insisting Goo Goo told him he would be there. When Goo Goo doesn’t show, Thomas and two officers beat the man up. All the while Goo Goo is watching the action from a nearby window.
Thomas goes to see William Hearst (Matt Letscher) and informs him Libby had a child who was ripped from her own hands by her mother and given away. William and Thomas realize Laszlo was right about that assumption and find admitting he was correct a hard pill to swallow. Thomas, the not-so-clever man, has a plan. He wants to get Libby’s child and use her as bait to lure Libby out of hiding. William agrees to this and wants to know how much it’s going to cost him.
Thomas shows up at Mallory’s and announces he has a proposal for her on behalf of Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Sara’s warn out and falls asleep at Laszlo’s. When he wakes her the following morning, he tries to get her to open up about John. She declines. Sara changes the subject and insists there must be some sort of clue in the memory boxes. She wonders why Libby’s mom ever had a child if she didn’t want one. After mulling it over, Sara believes Mallory must have felt like she had to. “It is a woman’s purpose after all,” she says, reflecting the views of society during that time period.
Byrnes has found Libby’s real child and has the child and Mallory pose for pictures.
Goo Goo has a change of heart and returns to Libby with the baby. He’s trying to apologize for taking the baby when Libby attacks him and screams she hates him. After a brief scuffle, she snaps out of it and comforts the crying child. Her mood changes again when she sees the newspaper he brought home featuring an article about her real daughter. The headline declares the child was reunited with her grandmother. Libby’s in tears and confused about what’s going on.
Sara’s at her office when Bitsy (Melanie Field) shows her that same newspaper article. Sara’s angry, and rightfully so, immediately calling John to express her anger that Thomas undermined her and went behind her back with his future father-in-law and ran this in the paper.
John confronts William and lets him know how he feels about what they did with Elizabeth’s child. However, William would rather talk about Violet. William reminds John that Violet is a lovely woman and he doesn’t want to see her get hurt. John agrees he doesn’t want that either.
Laszlo and Sara show up at Mallory’s and Sara’s still fuming over what Thomas has done and the chaos that will surely ensue. Sara reminds him she was placed in charge by Mr. Vanderbilt and she will not allow him or Mr. Hearst to exploit the poor child. Thomas insists Mallory consented to this. Mallory speaks up and admits she only did so because Thomas lied to her saying this was a personal request from Vanderbilt.
Sara assures Clara that if she comes with them they’ll keep her safe.
The group receives a warning that Libby was spotted and is most likely heading their way. Thomas is smug about the news and says, “Results, Miss Howard.”
Libby and Goo Goo wait around the corner and watch as a woman with red hair and the same jacket as Libby’s walks toward the building. She knocks at the door and after grabbing the woman and bringing her inside, they discover it’s not Libby. Libby instructed this stranger to deliver a bullet and a message. “She said to tell you there is one for each of you,” says the confused woman.
As all parties begin to leave the building, Libby insists on staying and watching them exit. She desperately wants to see her child. After Libby gets a glimpse of her leaving with Sara, an officer spots Libby and begins to yell. Goo Goo and Libby take off running. He suggests they split up and they do so. Sergeant Doyle (Martin McCreadie) is hot on Libby’s tail.
Doyle finds and provokes Libby by saying her daughter’s not right in the head – just like her. He makes the mistake of turning his back on her and Libby slits his throat.
Laszlo has Clara and introduces her to Karen. The institute is still open even though he doesn’t have a license at the moment. Karen questions what’s next for the case, more deaths? “Today’s events guaranteed it,” says Laszlo.
Night falls and Bitsy and Sara are walking to their office building. Bitsy insists she can stay with Sara if she needs to do more work. Sara doesn’t feel it’s necessary and suggests Bitsy go on her date with Lucius. Before Sara can walk through the door Bitsy tells her, “If you love him you must tell him, Sara. A time will come before it’s too late.”
Violet (Emily Barber) and her social circle are at the restaurant waiting for John. After William insists he’ll be there, they order for him.
John calls Sara at the office, worried about her after not hearing from her. He brings up that perhaps she’s been avoiding him and she admits it’s difficult for her to express her feelings. She confesses she considers what they did rather wonderful, but they didn’t think it through since he’s engaged to Violet. John questions what she wants and admits he feels this is all maddening.
After hanging up, Sara tries to ring him again. It appears she wants to tell him how she feels but he’s already left in his carriage. Suddenly, Sara discovers she has an unexpected visitor. Surprise…it’s Libby and she’s armed with a gun!
Libby demands to know where her child is. Sara wants to know where the Vanderbilt’s baby is being kept. Libby insists that baby is hers as well. Sara questions whether Clara is Libby’s or is the Vanderbilt baby hers. Libby angrily says they are both hers. Sara asks if she’s sure, frustrating Libby. Sara’s trying to negotiate with her to get the baby back but Libby wants to know what her child is like. She reveals the cop said her daughter was like her – off in the head. She admits she slit that cop’s throat.
After telling Sara she ruined everything, Libby’s about to fire the gun when John knocks it away. Libby gains the upper hand again and after smashing a tumbler into his head, she grabs her knife and holds it to his throat. Sara now has the gun and points it at Libby.
The episode ends with Libby demanding she put the gun down or John dies.
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