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The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Stars Are Painfully Aware of How Relevant Season 2's Themes Are

And reveal whether they'd return for another run

Keisha Hatchett

Grab your best Derby hat and settle in for some serious sleuthing. Dakota FanningDaniel Brühl, and Luke Evans are back with another brutal crime to solve in The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, which premieres Sunday, July 19 at 8/7c on TNT.

The new season, adapted from Caleb Carr's sequel novel of the same name, finds Sara Howard (Fanning) taking charge of her destiny with her own private detective agency. She'll re-team with the brilliant, but obsessive alienist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Brühl) and newspaper illustrator-turned-New York Times reporter John Moore (Evans) to solve a case involving Ana Linares, the infant daughter of the Spanish Consular who's been kidnapped. Their investigation leads them on the hunt for a dangerous new killer.

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With Howard on more equal footing with Keizler, this second installment promises to test their relationships like never before. The new season "shines a light on the provocative issues of the era —the corruption of institutions, income inequality, yellow press sensationalism, and the role of women in society—themes that still resonate today," according to the official description.

Ahead of the thrilling new season, TV Guide spoke with Fanning, Evans, and Brühl about how their characters have changed since the first installment and what fans can expect this time around.


Daniel Brühl, Dakota Fanning, and Luke Evans, The Alienist: Angel of Darkness


On the wonders of 19th-Century technology

The 1890s seem like forever ago, but the modern trinkets and inventions featured in Angel of Darkness are a reminder that we're not that far removed from the Gilded Age. The cast opened up about the 19th-century tech that surprised them while making the series.

Fanning: "There's a version of a mechanical pencil where the lead sort of twists out. I was like, 'They had these? This looks so high tech. This pencil, it's very fancy looking, and you can still get this.'"

Evans: "[William Randolph Hearst Sr.] was the godfather of sensational press. The front of his building was a constant changing of letters by three men who changed the headlines. But you didn't have CNN or Fox News to tune into and see the rolling headlines at the bottom. You would actually walk past the street and you would see them on the streets. I remember seeing the original black and white photograph of the street and then seeing our version. It was literally like looking at the photograph. I can't shake the detail, it was magical."

Brühl: "It must have been an incredible achievement for the people to have electric lights, and to be able to talk to each other on the phone. So, there're many aspects in life in New York in 1897 that had changed within that year after the first season that were interesting for us, and for each one of us in our field to explore; hypnosis, for example, in my case."

On the timely issues explored in Angel of Darkness

The new season may be set in 1897 but the issues presented in this latest installment feel more relevant than ever.

Brühl: "It's a very sad conclusion, if you think about it, that a story that is set 1897 and a book that was published in the 1990s feels incredibly current in 2020 when you think about racism, when you think about female empowerment and women's rights, the Yellow Press, the corruption within the police department. We also touched these subjects in Season 1, but Season 2 felt even more universal and current.

It is almost shocking to see which step back we as mankind took within these last couple of years. The only thing that gives me hope is these big movements that are happening right now, and these eruptions that happened. Sadly, it seems like mankind always needs the worst things to happen to then make a change. The avalanche that I see internationally right now when I think of the Black Lives Matter movement and what this has provoked not only in the US, but also here in Europe, these big manifestations and the awareness of what is going on gives me a little hope."

Evans: "What's very interesting about this show is that we don't avoid the topical, cultural, societal issues that were going on at the time, that are still going on today so it's not just a brilliant thriller, and murder mystery. It's also a story based in a world where there wasn't equality, where women had to fight for a voice. There was also racism and racial inequality. We really dig deep into some of those storylines and issues, but it's still, sadly we're talking about every day, even now.

But what I also love about the story is that we've broken down barriers as well. Like John Moore brings in Joanna, who's the niece of Cyrus, and she's not only the first woman working in my department, but the first black woman working in my department. We wanted to incorporate just so much more than what that period represented."

How the trio's dynamic has changed since the events depicted in Season 1  

In Season 1, Dr. Kreizler led the gang on the hunt for a sadistic serial killer. In season 2, that dynamic has shifted with Sara establishing herself as a leader with her own women-led detective agency.

Fanning: "From the start, you see that she's opened her own agency and she has other women working with her that she's a mentor to and setting an example for. But we see that she's not quite getting the high stakes cases that she wants. People are still considering her a lady detective and so, we see that constant push for life and death cases that are actually going to make a difference, or that she feels are really going to make a change. So we see that struggle. One thing that I think has changed for Sara is that John Moore and Dr. Kreizler see her as an equal from the start. She's not having to prove herself to them. Dr. Kreizler may not be totally comfortable with the fact that Sarah is in charge this time around, but she doesn't really care."

Brühl: "We see a change in [Kreizler]. At first, in this second season, it's not easy for him because he has to understand and accept that Sara Howard is in charge of that new case. They still work together as a team, but you still see that bit of stubbornness and arrogance and unwillingness to give in, in the first part of the second season. Eventually, he does give in thanks to the intense conversation he has with his dear friend, Sara Howard, and he even is able to open up emotionally to a kindred spirit he will meet later on in the show."

On Sara and John's burgeoning romance

Last season, John declared his feelings for Sara and said he'll wait for her for as long as it takes. However, the new season will see things get complicated for them when another person enters the fold.

Fanning: "John is engaged to another woman when we meet him in the beginning. But I can say that things aren't over between John and Sarah. There's still some underlying feelings and some unfinished business that you'll see play out. I think you get to see in the scenes between John and Sara [that she] just gets to be a young woman and drop that strength that she has to have around other people. She just gets to show the other part of herself. I think that they really see each other in a way that other people don't around them."

Evans: "It leaves them with a very deep and powerful storyline. It's beautiful. It's tragic. It's powerful. It's compelling. If you followed the first season and this new season, you already know these characters. You know what they've been through and they've moved further on in their lives. But then it's 10 months in this business which we absolutely will finish."

On whether they'd return for a potential new season

The Alienist hasn't been renewed for another season, but the gang seems down for another installment if the opportunity presents itself.

Fanning: "I've learned you never say never to anything. I love the story. I love the characters. I love where we took it this time and I would never say never to anything."

Brühl: "We'll have to see. We haven't heard anything, but I guess I can speak for Dakota, Luke, and me that we probably wouldn't say no. It proves the great chemistry we have, that we didn't get bored of each other and of our characters, and we spent more than a year away from home in Budapest. It easily happens that there's a moment in which it feels like a routine, and you're not as enthusiastic and thrilled to be part of such a long journey. To be honest, it never felt that way. We enjoyed every single day, and we even spent most of our private time and downtime together. I guess we would say yes in the case that would be an option."

The Alienist: Angel of Darkness premieres Sunday, July 19 at 8/7c on TNT.

Daniel Brühl, Dakota Fanning, and Luke Evans, The Alienist: Angel of Darkness

Daniel Brühl, Dakota Fanning, and Luke Evans, The Alienist: Angel of Darkness

Kata Vermes / TNT