When you first hear about the new Netflix series The Alienist, an 1890s serial killer mystery filled with serious men with serious grimaces, it’s easy to assume there will be no women to be found in the period drama. Or, if there are any women, they will be reduced to sex objects and, as is the case in a lot of prestige TV, sex workers for our masculine heroes to use and quickly discard. But The Alienist isn’t most prestige TV. For proof of this simple fact, you need to look no further than leading lady Sara Howard (a tensely perfect Dakota Fanning).
Sara is the third prong in our serial killer-catching brigade — rounded out by psychologist Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) and illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans) — and has absolutely no time to suffer fools. This makes sense, as wealthy spitfire Sara is, in the Alienist world at least, the first-ever woman to join the New York Police Department. And you know what they say about well-behaved women making history (read: it’s rare).
In an exclusive clip of upcoming Alienist series premiere "The Boy On The Bridge", airing 22nd January, we see just how uninterested Sara is in society’s sexist mores. The scene in question begins when the police commissioner's secretary shows up to an “unsavoury” house, if you catch our drift, to drop off some important files for John. While it’s unclear exactly what form of depravity the business offers — considering the Gilded Age setting, anything from prostitution to opium is a possibility — John looks absolutely ashamed to be caught frequenting such an establishment by a well-to-do young woman like Sara.
However, despite her high-class background, Sara couldn’t care less about finding herself in a disreputable neighbourhood. After all, for Sara, it’s all about the case at hand, as opposed to frivolities like the “panderers, mawks, lushes, billy noddles … [and] mutton shunters” around her. For everyone who doesn’t have an 1896 dictionary on hand, all of those disses are fun and creative ways to say "terrible men".
Watch the clip below to hear a few more of Sara’s signature feminist bon mots and find out precisely how she ends up joining TV's best new crime-fighting team.
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