Tuesday, November 24, 2015

REVIEW: 'Chicago Med' - Choi, Natalie, Will and Sarah Go the Extra Mile for Their Patients in 'iNO'

NBC's Chicago Med - Episode 1.02 "iNO"

As Choi treats a bleeding teenage girl, he discovers she's just given birth, sparking a frantic search for her abandoned baby. When the details of the teen's troubled past emerge, Choi finds himself at odds with Natalie. Will treats a hypochondriac with chest pains while struggling to navigate his overbearing wife. Sarah and Charles treat a patient suffering from dementia, only to discover she may not have dementia at all.

Last week's series premiere of Chicago Med was very competent. It fit in well with the rest of Dick Wolf's Chicago universe while also being it's own show. It's not setting out to reinvent the wheel that is medical procedurals. That does make a lot of its storytelling decisions predictable and formulaic. The cases that the doctors deal with every week are very familiar to the genre. The characters themselves are still just being figured out. And the show is pushing some to the forefront more than others. In these first two episodes so far, Connor, Natalie, Will and Charles have carried a lot of the main focus. Those four characters all have details that are appealing and intriguing to watch. The rest of the characters fit in their one-note roles. Details are coming in to flesh those characters out as well. But this episode proves that the show is very hit or miss with its characters so far. And when an episode centers around a character who just isn't working, it becomes very bland and boring.

Dr. Choi was the least developed character from last week's premiere. So it makes since that "iNO" would what to do a better job of introducing him. And yet, that introduction is so painful to watch. It's hard to tell if it's a performance issue or just an inherent character mistake. But he just makes no sense at all. He is stoic and that's about it. So, the camera relies heavily on lingering shots of his face. He's a character who internalizes a lot of his feelings and struggles. And yet, none of that comes across on the screen. It makes things extremely awkward whenever Choi spends some time with Dr. Charles. Oliver Platt has really relaxed into his role. Sure, Charles follows some weird rhythmic character details. But it does feel like all of those slightly offbeat choices add up into something greater. With Choi, it's just a blank space the show is trying to sell as a blank space. When he speaks or does something, it should have meaning. If he internalizes everything, the things that get out need to be important. But they aren't because the audience isn't invested in the understanding of the character. He's from the Navy. That's the explanation the show is going with for his behavior. And yet, that is so stereotypical and unoriginal. It doesn't make a character more interesting. It's just character backstory that sets out to describe a character in the broadest possible way. That just doesn't make him interesting.

So, the Choi problem definitely affects the main story of the episode - even though it also incorporates Natalie, Will, Connor and Sharon. He is the one who treats this teenager, Erika, shortly after she gives birth. And yet, the complete lack of personality makes his big role reversal of needing her to be punished for this crime to warning her that the police are coming very nonsensical. The show didn't do enough to show why Choi changed his mind on that subject. It directly tied into the episode's overall theme of the doctors doing what their believed to be right but ending up making things worse. Choi believed he could deliver the placenta and then botched the surgery. He wanted to warn Erika and tell her the story that won't get her into any trouble but she abandons her child after that. Those are all crucial decisions. But they don't land because of the character problem. And then, the only resolution is that Choi doesn't feel as bad as he thinks he should. How is that a good way to end this story? Yes, it could have an ambiguous resolution. But ending with Choi like that felt really awkward.

Natalie and Will also believe they are doing the right things for their patients by going the extra mile. But the consequences of those actions determine the outcome of their stories. That is an interesting way to tell stories in a second episode. It shows that these characters aren't perfect. Their understandable and good intentions don't always lead to happiness. It just creates more complications. Natalie wants to believe that Erika and her baby will have a happy home life to return to. One that is better than her days on the streets not knowing how to survive. Of course, Natalie believes that too much. She creates this fantasy that is simply unobtainable in real life because she doesn't know the full story. She makes sure that the baby survives this ordeal. But he is also orphaned in the end. That's a tragedy that Natalie wasn't expecting. Similarly, Will goes above and beyond to save the life of a man he treated and released only to be brought back in with a heart attack. It proves that he is able to do unorthodox methods in order to save lives. But it also keeps a man alive despite what is going to be a poorer quality of life moving forward. That's not something his wife is equipped to handle right now. It's only because Will kept fighting for him. His passing would have been tragic as well. But it's only because of Will that he is still alive in this very weakened and very likely deficient state. That's a reality he has to take responsibility for.

Fortunately, there is one story that has a happy ending. Charles and Sarah treat a dementia patient who they learn actually has a very treatable problem instead. It's amusing but also very annoying because the story is nothing more than a teaching opportunity for Sarah. She just says all of these weird and cliche things because she doesn't know how to talk with these patients. It's a very awkward character archetype for the show. Everyone else in the emergency department is very skilled and good at their jobs. And then, there is Sarah. She is suppose to be an audience surrogate of sorts. The doctors tell her things that way the audience understands what is going on. But she's also her own character. It's a character who messes up a lot of time. Her mistakes are different from the rest of the doctors because they are simple. She is just learning how to do this job. And yet, that doesn't exactly make her more endearing. It's suppose to be a good thing that she learned something from this case. She appreciates life and love more now. But that wasn't an earned moment. Charles was more the focal point of this story than Sarah was. He was the one who noticed the problem and then treated it. He's the man who talked calmly with the patient's husband. Sarah just stood back and took notes. Despite the case ending happily for all involved, Sarah is in desperate need of a personality with purpose as well.

Some more thoughts:
  • "iNO" was written by Stephen Hootstein and directed by Fred Berner.
  • Connor has a very tense and estranged relationship with the rest of his family. His father reaches out to him and Connor rejects him immediately. Something happened in the past that made Connor want to get as far away from the rest of them as possible. That's a somewhat intriguing mystery.
  • Despite not being able to create a safe family for Erika, Natalie still has to rally for a baby shower her mother-in-law, Helen (Annie Potts), is throwing for her at Molly's.
  • For a character previously introduced on Chicago Fire, it's a tad surprising that the show hasn't really done a whole lot with April in these first two episodes.
  • The police who showed up to talk with Erika about what happened outside the hospital with her baby were Burgess and Roman. Roman seemed a bit more critical of the hospital's staff than he usually is. That felt odd. And if Erika was facing some criminal charges, why did it take the police so long to actually show up?