“The Alienist: Angel of Darkness” 2×7 & 2×8 Review: ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’ & ‘Better Angels’

Better Angels The Alienist Angel of Darkness episode 8 review
Sara in ‘Better Angels’ (Image: Screengrab)

‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’ and ‘Better Angels’ helped offer a highly enjoyable two-episode finale to The Alienist Season 2 – Angel of Darkness. Here’s to hoping The Alienist comes back for a third outing.

‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’ showed Byrnes trying to handle the current investigation on his own terms. He teamed up with Hearst to undermine Sara’s investigation and show everyone that he’s better than a young woman detective. Of course, Sara wasn’t happy with Byrnes after she found out what he’s been up to.

I liked seeing the two butt heads. I also nodded when John implied that Sara might even be enjoying such an altercation. Sara’s known to provoke people and Byrnes was clearly provoked. Personally, I think she’s able to do her best when functioning in an environment that’s a tad bit against her.

The penultimate episode shared a lot of information about Libby’s past. Sara and her team went to interview Libby’s mother Mallory. Turns out, Mallory never wanted a child but felt pressured to give birth due to the era she’s living in. Not only was she an unfit mother, but she also didn’t want Libby to have a child either. Mallory framed Libby as mentally unstable to force Libby’s daughter into an orphanage and send Libby to an asylum. No wonder Libby’s been kidnapping babies. She’s trying to fill an emptiness in her heart.

Also, I have to say that I loved seeing Laszlo use his skills as an alienist to make Mallory confess the truth. Compared to the first season, Laszlo hasn’t had a lot to do in Angel of Darkness. So, I appreciated the scenes where he stepped up to help Sara’s case.

As for the relationship side of things, Laszlo’s still flirting with Dr. Karen. However, with her getting an offer for a job in Vienna with Freud, the clock’s ticking for Laszlo. He needed to decide if he was going to go with her or stay to look after his institute.

Sara and John still had to talk to each other about their true feelings.

‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’ surprised me with a certain narrative choice. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t expecting Captain Doyle to be murdered by Libby. I didn’t like Doyle, but I didn’t want him to die.

The episode ended on a cliffhanger with Libby breaking into Sara’s office and threatening her life. John came to save her only to be held hostage by Libby. Poor, John. He’s not a fighter, but he’ll still do his best.

In my opinion, the finale was quite well-written. There were some instances in ‘Better Angels’ that didn’t make sense to me, but the writers were able to bring numerous plot threads to a close. New chapters also opened for Sara, John, and Laszlo. That’s why I have my fingers crossed that The Alienist returns.

‘Better Angels’ opened from right where the penultimate episode’s cliffhanger left us. Again, the writers surprised me a couple of times (which I appreciated). Sara and John were able to apprehend Libby just a few minutes into the finale. I thought she was going to run away. But that clearly didn’t happen.

Now arrested, Byrnes was able to torture her in hopes to extract the whereabouts about the baby she kidnapped. It was clear Byrnes’ methods weren’t going to work on someone as crazy as Libby. I smiled when he finally admitted defeat and allowed Laszlo and Sara to interview her.

While I expected Laszlo to do more in ‘Better Angels’, I was kind of okay with Sara being the one to interrogate Libby. The two shared a strange bond after all. Libby thought Sara understood her because they both had lost fathers to suicide.

As far as my opinion goes, I hope Dakota Fanning and Rose McEwen are able to get Emmy nominations. Even if Dakota doesn’t get one, the Emmys should at least recognize McEwen. As Libby, McEwen’s been giving us a 100% in all of her scenes. She’s constantly shifting from anger and fierceness to sadness and vulnerability. It’s been amazing to watch her work.

The scene between Sara and Libby in the jail cell is everything. I loved how Sara manipulated Libby into telling her the truth. While Sara felt guilty about what she did, striking a deal with a murderess was out of the question. Sara did what she had to do. 

The finale offered a lot of action. While John (for some reason) accompanied Byrnes to retrieve the baby from a meat factory, Goo Goo and his gang attacked the police station to free Libby. Seeing so many people die was a sad affair. I thought Libby was going to hurt Sara, but our young detective and Laszlo were able to stay safe after locking themselves in a jail cell.

Another shocking scene involved Marcus and Lucius. Charged with protecting Libby’s daughter at the Laszlo Institute it was only a matter of time before Goo Goo and Libby came to the establishment. I have no idea why Laszlo didn’t call the institute to warn Marcus and Lucius about the impending danger. I guess I will chalk it up to plot convenience.

The current season has been toying with Marcus’ fate. In the earlier episodes, Byrnes threatened to hurt Marcus if Lucius didn’t cooperate. In the previous episode, we had Marcus and Byrnes talk about Doyle’s death and what it meant in the grand scheme of things. The moment Marcus told Lucius about a dream he had involving their mother, I knew something bad was going to happen.

After Lucius was unable to pull the trigger to shoot Goo Goo, it gave the criminal enough time to shoot Marcus right in the gut. So, yeah, the finale decided to kill Marcus. I predicted seeing Marcus be gravely injured. That’s why watching him actually die surprised me.

While saddened, the team didn’t have time to take a break and mourn Marcus’ death. They figured out that Libby had gone to her old family home. Apparently, she was trying to relive her childhood memories. She was happy when she was a child. So, taking her daughter and Goo Goo to the home she grew up in made sense to her.  

Now, I have to share that Byrnes allowing Sara, John, and Laszlo to go into the house without a policeman as backup made no sense to me. Again, I will chalk it up to plot convenience. However, when Goo Goo did aim a gun at the trio, Lucius came to their rescue. But again, they shouldn’t have gone into the house on their own, to begin with.

As for Sara’s final confrontation with Libby in ‘Better Angels’, I was expecting the finale to show me something different. Sara basically used ‘Talk No Jutsu’ on Libby to make her surrender. For those who don’t know, ‘Talk No Jutsu’ is a running joke in the Naruto fandom involving how Naruto’s able to simply talk sense into the most violent of criminals without having to fight them. 

I would have preferred seeing Libby kill her daughter in front of Sara. She should have fought until the very end instead of just giving up because Sara spoke a few words to her. 

With the case closed, I have to talk about where ‘Better Angels’ left our characters. John and Sara have been trying to make sense of their feelings for each other throughout the second season. I loved how the finale handled their bond. It’s clear that John wanted a wife and child. However, it’s not something Sara’s willing to give him. Even though the two are in love, forcing them in a relationship (with both having different goals in life) would have been an unhealthy decision.

Violet was willing to give John a home, the love of a wife, and children. Sara understood that. And even though it took a while for John to realize that as well, seeing John and Sara finally ending their romantic relationship made me glad. It was clearly a sad moment, but it made the most sense for both characters. They are still friends, of course, and will continue to remain so.

As for Laszlo and Karen, he decided to accompany her to Vienna. Again, I would have liked to see Karen interact with Sara and John. But oh well.

With the second season only having eight episodes, I do feel we needed another episode or two. I think the stuff involving Dr. Markoe wasn’t explored enough. I also wanted Johanna to have more to do. Maybe we will get to see these plot threads again in the third season? Who knows.

Anyway, what did you think of ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’ and ‘Better Angels’?

Feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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