First Trailer for The Alienist TV Series

TNT released their first trailer for The Alienist TV series today. One thing that is absolutely clear from this trailer is that we’re in for very high production standards; it is undeniable the production will be atmospheric in the best possible sense. While I still maintain concern regarding characterisation and plot based on what we have heard about the script, it is up to fans of the novel to make their own minds up.

And so I ask readers to share their thoughts. How do you feel about the trailer? I would love for you to share your thoughts.

23 comments on “First Trailer for The Alienist TV Series

  1. While the trailer shows that it’s very well shot and well acted, the scenes shown in the trailer give away enough to know that the series will be deviating from the source material in ways that I find very troubling. In one scene in the trailer, Kreizler tells Moore not to let his feelings for Sara Howard get in the way of logic. Sorry, but Moore had already been dunked in the river by Ms. Howard once when he tried to get fresh with her and he’s already learned his lesson. To try to make chemistry now happen between these two beyond just being good friends feels forced.

    Also, they are adding things in that are clearly there just to ‘spice things up’. For example, we see Sara Howard in her corset, sitting by a vanity dresser in what I presume to be her bedroom. When did this happen in the novel? I know, TV is a different medium from literature, but I feel there is no justification for something like this. If the character did something like this in the novel or warrants it because of her nature, that’s one thing, but I don’t need to see Ms. Howard in a state of undress. It adds nothing to her character in the way she was written in the book. To me, that’s just executive producers thinking they need to make Caleb Carr’s novel more ‘sexy’ when they don’t.

    There was also very little dialogue I heard in the trailer that was used from the book, and of the very little dialogue I did pick up that was used from the novel, some of it was being placed in other characters’ mouths. That scene where Sara Howard meets Kreizler for the first time and says “I’m fascinated by your work… most of it.” is taken from when Paul Kelly gave Kreizler and Moore a ride uptown to the NYC Natural History museum and introduces himself to Kreizler, stating he has a great deal of respect for his work and then says, “…why, I even read a monograph you wrote once… most of it, at any rate.” To me, that an example where a line just has more character coming from someone like Kelly than it does coming from Sara Howard.

    I could go on, but that’s more than enough criticism from me. While I won’t be watching this show, I will still be rooting for it to do well with general audiences, if for no other reason than hopefully it might get some more people interested in picking up a copy of Caleb Carr’s novel. Then they can read what is truly an amazing story. Best of all, more people buying Mr. Carr’s book is revenue that will go directly to him.

    • Yes, I was going to mention the scene where Kreizler tells Moore not to let his feelings for Sara get in the way of logic in my post, too. However, then I remembered Kreizler and Sara falling out (if only for a week) over the passive vs. active mother debate. It is conceivable that an irritated and angry Kreizler might say something like that in the heat of the moment to John (and John does look taken aback at the comment), even if he didn’t do so in the book. In saying that, if that scene does not relate to the passive vs. active mother debate (and given that Kreizler and John look like they’re either at the opera or Del’s, I doubt that it does) then I completely agree with you. In fact, as I re-watch the trailer now, I can’t help but notice that it looks like they’re trying to create chemistry between John and Sara in the snippets that follow that statement, so I think it seems likely that they might be going in that direction.

      Related to this, I also agree that it looks like they’re ‘spicing up’ the adaptation. I got that impression from the original leaked audition recordings, I got that impression from the review of the pilot that came out a few weeks ago, and now I’m getting it from the trailer. It’s true that ‘sex sells’, so perhaps they’ve decided to just give the viewing public what they want (or what the TV execs think they want). However, part of the attraction of the books for me was always that there wasn’t a love story element in it (not really, anyway). On top of which I really have to ask: Isn’t the fact that the story is largely set in and around brothels enough without having to take Sara’s clothes off as well?

      All of those points aside, my biggest concern is actually Kreizler. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about his portrayal in this trailer seems… off. Perhaps it’s the fact that he so rudely doesn’t shake Sara’s hand, or gives her a shy smile when she acknowledges his work (neither of which are consistent with his character)? Or perhaps it’s the dialogue that, as you point out, isn’t at all consistent with the novel. Whatever it is, all I can hope for is that they haven’t shown us the best of what Bruhl can do in this trailer.

      Finally, I just wanted to mention: I’m sorry that your comments don’t seem to be posting properly lately! If you post and they don’t appear straight away, it would be great if you could send me an email so that I can fix it up for you. I have no idea why it’s happening.

      • Thanks for mentioning about the delayed time lag on the posts, Kim. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but it’s good to know it’s just a momentary lag.

        Regarding Kreizler telling Moore to not let his affections get in the way of logic, You’re right, Kreizler might say something like to Moore if he’s had a falling out with Ms. Howard. However, the scene we saw in the trailer was of Kreizler and Moore either leaving the opera house or leaving a big dinner (possibly Delmonico’s) and unless the producers are changing the order of events I fail to see why Kreizler would be warning Moore during either of those times. Kreizler has always struck me as someone who could have a flash of anger, like he did in the novel with that outburst at Sara, but then he seems to compose himself afterwards and really try not to let bitterness get back in the way again. That’s what I had picked up, at any rate.

        I also agree that something about Bruhl’s portrayal of Kreizler doesn’t quite fit. I think his acting is fine, but I feel what’s missing, based on the shots we see in the trailer, is that intensity we should expect to see behind Kreizler’s eyes. I saw a flash of it only once in the trailer, and it wasn’t even when Kreizler was on the case, but rather when Bruhl was lecturing Evans about the perils of letting his affections for Sara get in the way of logic. Perhaps it would come out more in the series? Maybe the trailer just didn’t capture the best moments of that kind of quiet passion we expect to see in Kreizler? Oh, and one last thing I noticed about Kreizler – he plays the horn now? That scene of him playing along with Cyrus at the piano was just odd to me.

        I’m 100% with you that part of the appeal of The Alienist is because Mr. Carr did not feel the need to place a love story (or much of one) in his book. Besides, if the producers want to hint at the bit of attraction Moore has for Sara, could they not just imply it the way Carr did in his book? It seems like the trailer showed us things where they intend to hit the viewer over the head by saying “Look! There’s attraction here!” The subtlety and implications are what make it far more interesting than outright telling us.

        On the plus side of the trailer, there are many little aesthetics I picked up that looks like they will make their way from the novel to the series. There is one quick scene of Sara Howard sitting down, being served dinner and you can see the wall behind her is painted blue. I think this will be “the blue room” at Delmonico’s when everyone first meets the Isaacsons to discuss their initial findings. It’s a small detail, but it’s nice to see the blue room made its way into the series. It’s also nice to see that Luke Evans was smoking a cigarette at one point. Not that I am for advocating smoking, but I noticed often studios try to ‘clean up’ period pieces like this by not showing anyone smoking for fear of public and advocacy group backlash. But in order to capture the atmosphere of that era correctly, cigarette smoking needs to be shown. Back in those days, the vast majority of adults smoked, so it’s nice to know they’re not overlooking that small but important detail.

        • “I think his acting is fine, but I feel what’s missing, based on the shots we see in the trailer, is that intensity we should expect to see behind Kreizler’s eyes.”

          Exactly. I have nothing against this actor but i must say i have the same feeling as you.

          And the beard… What is that lol

          • lol I agree about the beard, though I think what the producers and casting agents decided to do is change up Kreizler’s appearance because, let’s face it, dying Daniel Bruhl’s hair dark and growing it out, as well as giving him a moustache and small pinch beard beneath the lower lip just wouldn’t work on him. I think the producers and Bruhl knew this and decided to go with that classic European 19th century look you might expect to see on someone like Sigmud Freud. Granted, Freud was more known for a goatee than a full beard, but I think the producers just wanted to give him a bearded, scholarly look. In all honesty, I think Bruhl got cast mainly because he’s a very good actor and his natural accent in real life lends itself towards the type of accent Kreizler might have. Bruhl doesn’t have the right look, but at least we know he will do a good job acting (assuming he can capture that intensity we discussed, which I am still waiting to see).

        • Matthew i am a bit late to answer to your message, because i couldn’t (there isn’t the possibility to reply so i post here). I always thought Kreizler as a fashion misfit, not in a bad way but he doesn’t care about haircut fashion style. It’s the way i see the character. But like you said Daniel Bruhl with long hair and a tiny mustache maybe wouldn’t work for him, that’d probably make him looks like some kind of hipster lol. Anyway like i said before i am perplexed about this adaptation but i am also curious.

    • Hold on, there’s even a snippet thrown (at 0:48) where Kreizler appears to be playing the French Horn while Cyrus accompanies him on the piano. Good heavens!

      • Maybe Sara will play harp with them at the end of the season… ha ha

        I am perplexed about this adaptation too but i know i will watch it (the first episode anyway). I am more thrilled about the next books.

    • I do think that, while trailers are indicative of the final product, oftentimes trailers are more misleading than they are informative. Sometimes producers deliberately manipulate trailers so that they imply something more than what the actual series/film is. For example, blowing up tiny scenes so that viewers may think those scenes holds more import than it actually does, so that a film may seem more exciting than it is, etc. I’m still holding out hope that such is the case with the “affection for Ms. Howard” snippet. Perhaps producers think the general audiences desire a central romance, and therefore in the trailer pelt viewers with all the Sara-John “possible chemistry here” scenes they can find.
      I know I’m grasping at straws here, but I do make a point not to judge something before I actually watch it. And even if the series deviates wildly from the novel, I think I’ll still watch it, and think of it as a (hopefully almost as good) separate work. I’ve always been a sucker for good, atmospheric historical fiction; it’s why I picked up Mr. Carr’s novel in the first place, after all.

    • Sara Howard in a corset also bothered me because women did not wear corsets on bare skin like that – there would have been a chemise underneath.

  2. I agree, production quality looks very good. Kriezler is all wrong, though. He’s not nearly brooding and “European” enough (sorry, can’t come up with a more precise word at the moment). And why does his accent sound Irish? I admit I’m biased – I’ve always thought Kriezler should look like Caleb Carr did at the time he wrote the book!

    As for Sara, Dakota Fanning seems to miss the grit and self-assurance underlying her feminine exterior. Sara is a weighty character; but in this trailer she looks like a wide-eyed ingenue. I hope I’m wrong!

    • Hi Deb, as I indicated in my reply to Matthew above, I completely agree regarding your concerns about Kreizler. I can’t quite put my finger on it but something about his portrayal feels off to me. Oh well, time will tell, I suppose!

  3. I agree it appears that the powers that be are spicing up the film. I wonder just how much input Caleb Carr had regarding the changes highlighted by the other posters to this forum. I cannot envision him willingly allowing the producers to transform Sara Howard into an ingénue, especially one that is hyper sexualized at the expense of any character development.

  4. Of all the changes made by the producers, the changes made to the character of Sara Howard trouble me the most. I find the potential transformation of her character from a intelligent, strong, competent, and resourceful character capable of holding her own against the male characters into an ingénue most disturbing. This potential development has caused me to wonder just how much input Caleb Carr has had on the production.

  5. I have a question (sorry it’s not about the show) i didn’t read all the news but is there an approximated date for the next books or there isn’t any information about it yet ?

  6. When is this production finally going to be on TV? I keep looking for it on TNT but nothing happens. Read Surrender, N>Y>–good but no equal to The Alienist.

  7. There is new information about the production posted on the following website

    1. Deadline published a notice that Michael Ironside has been cast as J.P. Morgan. This was posted on the Spoilertv site on August 3rd.

    2. Some new key art and promos were released on August 29th.

  8. I am a devoted fan of The Alienist & Angel of Darkness books. I will watch the TV series, but I’m already disappointed by what I’ve seen in the trailers. So often the “movie” is never as good as the “book” and certainly not as good as my own vision of the original characters and storyline. With so many screenwriters involved in the adaptation of the book to the screen(TV) it’s not surprising that the end result is an unrecognizable shadow of the original.

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