Dakota Fanning Goes Back To The Dark Side Of The Gilded Age As "The Alienist" Returns

By Ryan Berenz

In early 2018, TNT debuted The Alienist, an often gruesome psychological murder mystery set in 1896 Manhattan, where the Gilded Age’s economic expansion, industrial advances and scientific achievements hid a grimy underbelly of corruption, organized crime and social inequality. 

In a dark corner of this world stalked a killer with a compulsion for ritualistically killing young boys. With the police force crippled by crookedness, it was up to psychologist (a.k.a. “alienist”) Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl), newspaper illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans) and police secretary Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) to crack the case.

The Alienistreturns for a sequel season on Juy 26, called Angel of Darkness, based on the second book of Caleb Carr’s Kreizler series. While not exactly light summer entertainment, viewers who couldn’t take their eyes off the first season will definitely get hooked into the disturbing case of a Spanish diplomat’s kidnapped infant daughter and the ritualistic murder of a baby snatched from its mother in a hospital.

The story picks up in 1897, as the case of a young woman wrongly sentenced to death brings Kreizler, John and Sara back together.

Sara has opened her own private detective agency, and while her biggest clients have been wealthy ladies who want to know if the servants are stealing silverware, she’s about to take on the toughest challenge of her young career.

“We see Sara get kind of propelled into the next level of her life,” Fanning says. “She has forced her way into a man’s world even more so by opening her own detective agency. She’s kind of riding through this period of still being the ‘lady detective’ and still coming up against barriers. But she’s persevering, and even just being a lady detective is groundbreaking.”

Sara provided a unique opportunity for Fanning, as well. “It was my first time getting to go back and play the same character again, and it was really exciting,” she says. “I felt like I had gotten to know her so well while doing The Alienist, so I was very protective of her this time around.”

Meanwhile, John is a reporter for The New York Timesand engaged to vapid socialite Violet Hayward (Emily Barber), but his relationship with Sara remains complicated. “John and Sara definitely have some unfinished or unrequited feelings for each other, and that’s definitely a part of this story,” Fanning teases. “For Sara, so much of the time we see her being strong and we see her being tough and we see her breaking down barriers and pushing boundaries and fighting. In the scenes that Sara and John have together, you see her as just a young woman ... you see the softer side of Sara in those scenes. That was really lovely to get to play out. I can say that the journey’s not over for them.”