ER s15 ep 22

And in the end,” they took us back to the beginning. 

ER’s series finale was an homage to County’s past, and a promise for its future as scene after scene recalled the glory days while the story begun in the pilot so long ago came full circle, ready to start once again, albeit off our screens.

Lydia waking Morris up like she woke Greene up that first episode, Carter and Gates shooting the breeze while shooting some hoops like Greene and Ross used to do, Brenner talking the new young’un into coming back tomorrow like Greene talked to Carter – the story was sweetly infused with nostalgia and respect for the rich history of the show and the hundreds of characters we’ve gotten to know over the years, and I loved it.

From the return of the original credits to Carter’s final shout of “Are you coming, Dr Greene?” this last episode was something special, beautifully working in old characters with new ones and, in another delightful touch, directed by the same man, Rod Holcomb, who directed the pilot episode back when I was a teenager and Carter was a med student. 

The highlights were too many to list here, but as well as the poignant re-appearance of old friends – Benton and Carter’s scenes together were especially lovely – I have to single out the desperately moving story of Ernest Borgnine’s Mr Manning who broke my heart.  His “I never looked at another girl for 72 years.  You hear that, Mrs Manning?” to his dying wife practically did for me and I still can’t think about any of his scenes without tearing up.

One thing that wasn’t quite as successful for me though was the amount of time spent on the entirely new Dr Wise aka Rory Gilmore – when we had so many current characters to say goodbye to, it seemed a bit of a waste.  I understand that she was supposed to mirror Carter’s character from season one, but still, we had another “new Carter” at the end, so why did we need her?

However, that’s a minor point in what was a generally fantastic farewell to a series I’ve loved for a long time.  I haven’t always liked every episode, but I’ve always watched it, and I’ve always cared about it.  Over the past few seasons, it hasn’t always seemed that the makers felt the same, but they showed they did this one last time and I’m so glad.  That final full shot of County with the L running round it was the perfect tribute – it was the first time we’ve seen it like that, it was the last time we’ll see it like that, and it was beautiful.

ER s15 ep 21

The penultimate episode, and ER is focussing on endings, with the writers quietly manoeuvring each character into a happy(ish) place so that we’re free to say our farewells next week without too many loose ends. 

This was a low-key, unusually serene instalment, with the bare minimum of moaning from the usual suspects and a lot of happily-ever-afters by the time the hour was done.  It was pretty dull in parts, seeing as I don’t care at all about the resolution of the Banfield-baby-boredom (other than to resent the amount of screen time this wretched character takes up), but Morris and Diaz coming to an understanding was utterly adorable, the heart camp “house band” was cute, and the sweet, understated little epilogue to Ray and Neela’s story was a lovely wee gift for the “Reela” fans who’ve held on this long.  

Still a few stories to tie up next week though, as Sam and Gates are getting pally again, Brenner is getting moody again and unfortunately, Carter is absent again.  Will that all be sorted out in the finale?  Only a few days till we find out; I’m off to get some comfort food and a jumbo box of tissues.

ER s15 ep 20

The truth will set you free, but first it may bore you witless*.

For those of us who have spent a large part of the last few seasons yelling at Neela to get a clue, this was a hugely important episode, because girlfriend finally got one.  She worked out that she’s her own worst enemy, that the only thing holding her back from what she wants is her own fear, that she’s failed to take chances too many times when it was clear to everyone she should have…..and all those other self-help cliches that are annoying enough in real-life people but ten times more so on tv.  And she was right.  About all of it.  But, in the name of all that’s interesting or entertaining, did she have to say it all out loud?  And to Brenner?

Millions of viewers have wanted Neela to grow up, wake up for ages.  Millions of viewers will be delighted she has done, and I’m one of them, but after years and years of waiting for this moment, I’d have thought the writers would have realized that there are better ways of illustrating it than her and Brenner navel-gazing for the best part of the episode. 

I’ve never been convinced by their relationship, and I was thoroughly irritated by the significance accorded to their “goodbye” when the far more understated and yet more affecting scenes with others who have been far more important in her life, seemed shunted to the sidelines.  Her scenes with Dubenko were great; her scene with Haleh was lovely.  Frank’s farewell to her was incredibly sweet; the clips of Pratt and Gallant were incredibly moving.  And the scene at the end – I saw it coming, but yes, absolutely, “Finally.” 

All that fantastic stuff showing us how she’s grown, dragged down by half an episode telling us about it.  This week’s ER could have been brilliant; half of it was.  The rest – not so much.

(*With apologies to James A Garfield for misquoting him, ever so slightly, and to Kay who I know loved this episode.)

ER s15 eps 18 & 19

I hope no-one’s expecting much sense out of me after that double-whammy.

The two most enjoyable episodes of ER I’ve seen in far too many years, and I don’t even know if I can say anything remotely coherent about them; it’s all too much for me to handle without either laughing like a maniac or crying like a big girl.

Episode 18 was fantastic – Frank and Jerry making the funniest documentary ever?  I loved it.  Carter and Morris being utterly, utterly brilliant?  I loved it.  And line after line of comedy gold?  My goodness.  I laughed and laughed and loved it all.  I don’t know why the writers felt the need to waste time on the Neela/Brenner storyline (yes, Neela, Brenner suffered a horrendous experience as a child, but somehow it’s still all about YOU, of course) or the Taggart family angst (zzzz……), but, still, there were more than enough wonderful, wonderful scenes to make this the best episode in ages. 

And then, as if this wasn’t great enough, episode 19 came along.  I think the producers may be trying to kill me with excitement.  I whooped! when I saw Carol Hathaway.  I whooped! when I saw Doug Ross.  And I whooped! when I saw Peter Benton.  The house was alive with the sounds of whooping.  I adore these characters.  You can keep Sam; Hathaway was the original and never-bettered ER super-nurse.  And don’t waste your time with Brenner or Gates; Ross was the archetypal super-sensitive, super-damaged doc-that-makes-the-girls-swoon.  And, please, don’t even bother talking to me about Banfield; Benton was the poster-boy for strong and fierce, long before girlfriend was even a post-it on the writers’ room wall.

Seeing them again made me ridiculously happy.  There were too many great moments to mention but Benton (looking bizarrely like Tony Almeida with his hair close-cropped and his air bad-ass) catching up with Carter (get well soon, John!) brought tears to my eyes, and the final scene with Ross and Hathaway had them rolling down my cheeks. 

Sadly, in between all the lovely bits, the writers again made the mistake of dithering about with current rubbish like Sam and Baby-Bore-Banfield, when we could have hung out some more with the awesome folks from days of old, and that meant the hour was probably not quite as entertaining as it could have been.  More time visiting with George Clooney, Julianna Marguiles and Eriq La Salle, less time whinging with the newbies, and this might have been even better than episode 18, but maybe that was too much to hope for.  After all, it looks like these characters that I’ve loved for years are happy, and they’re perfect, and I’m just delighted that we got this chance to find that out.  I don’t know if that’s our lot, or if we’ll ever see any of them again, but let’s not dwell on that for now, my tear supplies are running low.

ER s15 ep 17

I don’t know who these children, running around the ER, trying to tell John Carter how it’s done, think they are, but they all need to get a grip.  Sam and Gates looking like the mature ones for a change?  What gives?

Neela, stop sulking, you’re a resident, not a teenager.  Respect has to be earned, you graceless idiot, and not by stomping around in a huff.  Looks like the past few weeks’ growth has come to an abrupt halt and you’re back to being a fool.

And talking of fools; Brenner, do some doctoring, contact social work about the Lucy kid (one of two nods to poor Lucy Knight this week, do you think?), and use your brain, instead of running off half-cocked all the time to mess things up yourself – your Secret Pain is getting in the way of your Actual Job.   

As for you Banfield, I’m only tolerating you because you seem to like Carter.  Don’t push it.

ER s15 ep 16

My God, how fantastic it was to see Carter again. 

I love that man.  I don’t care about stupid Banfield and her stupid baby-bore storyline, I don’t care about stupid Brenner and his stupid Valentine’s Day sappiness, and I certainly don’t care about stupid mushroom fellow’s stupid rubbish about stupid mushrooms and stupid love potions.  All I care about is how utterly brilliant it was to have Carter back again. 

I know it’s sad, I know it’s not real but I felt like it wasn’t just Neela and Morris who were re-uniting with an old friend – I was too.  I actually squealed when I saw him.  Noah Wyle is fantastic as Carter, and I’ve known and loved this character for 15 years.  I’ve watched him grow from callow medical student to the kind, thoughtful, intelligent human being and great doctor he is today.  Unlike the newer characters, this is someone with history and heart, and someone I actually care about watching.  Neela and Morris were just as happy as I was to see him and those scenes were an absolute delight.  His pride at their achievements was so incredibly heartwarming – “Looks like you followed my advice Archie….you set the tone,” had my grin stretching right across my face.

I’m a little annoyed that they spoiled his scenes with Jerry with the love potion rubbish, but still, the rest of Carter’s storyline more than made up for it.  The scene where he made Banfield sit up and take notice had me cheering, and the scene at the end which I won’t spoil made me shiver. 

As a result, I completely ignored the other nonsense  – including the three, yes, count’em, THREE musical montages – and absolutely loved this episode anyway.  The Ray reference and the reasonably interesting Diaz-Morris stories were nice bonuses, but this episode, for me, was about one thing only.  Welcome back, Carter, welcome back.

ER s15 ep 15

Not as good as last week’s, not as bad as the week before, this was a reasonable way to spend an hour, if nothing special. 

What happened?  Not a lot to write home about really – Morris and Officer Diaz continued to be adorable, Banfield continued to be absent and I continued to be happy about it.  And, by way of a bonus, Louis Gossett Jr popped in to do his trademark “irascible tough guy with a heart of gold” turn – always a pleasure, Mr G.

On the subject of tough guys though – or perhaps, more accurately, on the subject of non-tough guys – apparently Brenner is now totally and completely Neela’s be-yatch.  Remember when he was this horrific womaniser?  Remember when he used to treat all the students like rubbish?  All the cruel things he used to say?  Well, not any more, folks, because damn, Neela is good.  Now he’s swapping shifts to moon across the country after her, freaking out at the prospect she might leave, and getting all misty-eyed and meddlingly invested in his patients’ dramas.  Nearly crying at the end when it didn’t work out sappily enough?  Dude.  Predatory and pathetic can’t be your only two settings – there’s a happy medium out there.  Quit being such a wuss.

ER s15 ep 14

Did you notice the red carpets and the best behaviour? There was ER royalty visiting County General this week.

Two veterans from the show’s glory days dropped in; on-screen, the peerless William H Macy’s Dr Morgenstern, and off-screen, director Mimi Leder, giving us an episode so much better than last week’s tedium-fest I could cry.  To be honest, the end was so moving, I did.

A sweetly sad story about a diabetic shoplifter, a sweetly happy one about a mother and son, and some cute quips about Morris and Officer Diaz all made for pleasant enough viewing.  But it was the bittersweet tale of Dr Oliver Kostin, ER pioneer or “the father of County” which really hit home. 

Played almost wordlessly but entirely heartbreakingly by Rance “Ron’s Dad” Howard, it was a reminder to all that even though the glory days are long gone, this show can still rise above the cheap soap opera it often subjects us to and say something worth saying.

Everybody seemed to sense it, and the characters or the actors or the writers – I don’t know which, maybe it was all of them – raised their game accordingly.  So Sam gave her endless moaning a rest (although I’ve no doubt she’ll more than make up for it when her estranged mother appears), Neela behaved like a rational human being and Banfield did everyone a favour by not appearing at all.

Yes, the scenes showing everyone through Dr Kostin’s 1960’s eyes, with moustaches to match, were a bit too silly and didn’t really work, but the idea was both a good-natured nod to the past and an honourable attempt to convey the confusion of dementia, so I’ll let it slide.  And yes, the guard of honour around the bed was a little manipulative, but I’m glad they did it anyway, because it was also an incredibly moving elegy for a character I hadn’t met before this week – perhaps even for a history I hadn’t thought about before this week – and yet found myself grieving for.  Sob.  If this is what happens when Macy and Leder visit, they should drop in more often.

ER s15 ep 13

Talk about mid-season fatigue.

Largely turgid filler, broken up with just a smattering of fun scenes – I’m struggling to muster up much enthusiasm for this week’s ER.  I pondered just writing “Meh”, but I think Jed beat me to that many moons ago, so instead I’m going to fall back on that “List the Pro’s and Cons” thing folk do when they’re ambivalent about something.  Here goes….

Three things I enjoyed about this episode:-

1.  Babu, the owner of Jumbo Mart, who should be in this show every week, because he’s more entertaining than most of the rest of the cast put together.

2.  The welcome return of Officer Diaz.

3.  Neela being a numptie.

Three things I hated about this episode:-

1.  Sam, the chief moaner of the ER, who should never be in this show ever again.

2.  The unwelcome return (not that it ever went away) of Banfield’s “I suddenly need a baby RIGHT NOW to soothe my Secret Pain” storyline.

3. Neela being a numptie.

Or, y’know, Meh.