We're on to you, TNT!
The network announced Thursday it has ordered a new limited series titled Angel of Darkness. It's based on the novel of the same name, which is the sequel to The Alienist by Caleb Carr. In case you're confused, yes, that is the book that inspired TNT's The Alienist series, and yes, the original cast — Daniel Bruhl, Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans — are all returning as their same characters. So basically, this is just a renewal of The Alienist.
Why then is TNT not just calling this show The Alienist Season 2: Angel of Darkness? It's likely because The Alienist was billed as a limited series — meaning it was a closed story that was supposed to end after the eight episodes that were originally ordered. It gets even trickier when you consider The Alienist was nominated for two Emmys in the limited series categories (the show received an additional four nominations that are not contingent on categorization), so calling the new episodes a second season might raise quite a few eyebrows as voting is still underway for TV's highest honor.
Now, to be fair, before the show even premiered the cast said The Alienist did not have to be a limited series. You also can't blame TNT for wanting to keep the show on the air; it was 2018's No. 1 new cable show among adults ages 18-49 (which is what advertisers really, really care about). The issue is that just changing the title of a series doesn't altogether make it a new or limited series, and we might see some big award show rule changes in light of this new season.
The Alienist is not the first show to play fast and loose with the definition of "limited series" though. HBOwas brazen enough to give Big Little Lies a second season after the cast and producers dominated the Emmys and Golden Globes. Nicole Kidman's Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Limited Seriesis why we still can't say "Emmy Award winner Carrie Coon," by the way, and we should all still be mad about it. (And yes, we realize that Coon was actually nominated for the third season of Fargo, also a limited series.)
Meanwhile, Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story has gotten around the limited series definition by using the same cast over and over but had them play different characters in each new iteration. His American Crime Story series also employs his usual stable of producers, but changes story, actors and cast with no connecting tissue. Over on USA, The Sinneris keeping the same title and protagonist for Season 2 but tells a different story using completely new featured players (ironically, Carrie Coon).
Will The Alienist team be able to promote Angel of Darkness as a limited series just because they say it is, or is the Academy going to step in and stop this madness? Even if it doesn't, will the perception of this "new series" impact The Alienist quest for Emmy gold?
UPDATE: The Academy has ruled that the renewal will not affect The Alienist's placement in this year's award show, according to Variety.
"The Awards Committee reviews categorization on an annual basis," a Television Academy spokesperson told the site Thursday. "Some first-year limited series continue the story line into subsequent seasons and are re-categorized as Drama Series, e.g., Downton Abbey, and others return with a new, stand-alone story, e.g., American Horror Story, which allows them to remain in Limited Series. Dependent upon which direction The Alienist goes, the Awards Committee will categorize it accordingly."
The Academy will revisit Angel in Darkness' categorization before next year's voting period.
We'll find out in September when the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on Monday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on NBC.