Wednesday, January 27, 2016

REVIEW: 'Chicago Med' - Sharon Deals with Legal Issues While April Gets Too Attached to a Patient in 'Saints'

NBC's Chicago Med - Episode 1.07 "Saints"

When legal issues complicate matters that stall a life-saving bone marrow transplant, Sharon must decide whether to disobey direct orders or stand up and put a patient's life in jeopardy. April tends to a caring, homeless man who Dr. Charles gives an unusual diagnosis that explains his recent behavior. Natalie's parents see their new grandson, much to the dismay of her mother-in-law. Connor and Choi treat a couple injured on their first date.

Earlier this season, it felt like several characters were being underserved by Chicago Med just in order to tell the same stories over and over again. The Chicago franchise works because of its solid ensemble work. And yet, this show had a number of characters who weren't being given their own stories to truly develop themselves. Now, it always felt inevitable that the show would start mining some character depth with all of its series regulars. A full season of episodes would lead to meaningful stories with all of the characters at some point. But it still feels like the show is overly focused on Will and Natalie's flirtation and Connor's re-entry into Chicago life. Those are some solid stories. This season has made those three characters interesting to watch. But now, it's more interesting to see what's going on with some of the other regulars - including Sharon and April.

"Saints" is the first episode where Sharon actually gets to do something. She is given her own story where she is the driving focal point of the narrative. All of her previous appearances this season were brief cameos were she popped up in other characters' stories just to bring up some administrative exposition. It really hasn't defined her as a character of value to the show. She's simply the woman in charge who these doctors in the emergency department have to deal with on a regular basis. This episode starts to peel back the layers of Sharon and show just how far she is willing to fight for the patients of this hospital. The show has enjoyed having at least one case an episode that shines a light on a provocative subject. In this case, it's the legality of organ donations. A young girl has been a patient at the hospital for ten years. Now, she finally has a bone marrow match and is getting ready for the transplant. Complications arise when her younger brother is accepting donations to give to the donor as a way of saying thanks. It's not a particularly nuanced story. Nor does it inform any great depths of Sharon's character. But it does offer a brief glimpse into who she is. She's the former head nurse in the E.R. That's a development that should help her better connect with the rest of the characters. Medical training should come in handy at some point in time - even though she's not seeing patients every single week. This case was perhaps a tad too complicated and didn't need to be stretched out for the entire hour. But it was interesting to see a different side of Sharon - one which should come out more when she's being an administrator to the rest of the staff.

Meanwhile, it was also compelling to see April get caught up in the good deeds that her homeless patient was doing. This man is overly generous to the point where it's directly harming his physical health. But mostly, it's just nice to see April connecting so personally and emotionally to a patient as well. She doesn't just have to be the nurse in this type of situation. She doesn't just have to serve the doctors around her. She can be just as meaningful to patients. She gets caught up in this man's story which does keep her from seeing what's really wrong with him. She gets to vent a little bit to Dr. Charles about wanting to admire the goodness within this man. Unfortunately, a minor stroke caused him to act this way. Another one completely takes it away. And yet, the show also gets to have a very sappy ending with Charles pointing out all the good deeds that surround them in the emergency room.

Elsewhere, there is tension between lovebirds Connor and Dr. Zanetti. Most of it comes boiling up after Zanetti experiences a very minor issue after her first surgery following a couple weeks away from the hospital. It's so very minor that it's a tad shocking that it leads to such a big argument later on. It suggests that there may be something even bigger going on with Zanetti. But nope, this is just two doctors overreacting to a situation and in an environment where they both should be more professional. They have a really childish verbal sparring match while Connor is operating on a patient in the O.R. That just seemed really off. It was the show going for a big melodramatic moment. It just didn't work at all. Yes, Connor is very charming in the end. But neither one of them really apologized for their actions either. Both of them understood that they both made some bad choices in judgment but they then just move on from that. It's internalized conflict that really doesn't come across well. And when the words do come out, they aren't all that interesting to hear.

Speaking of romantic tension, Will is actively avoiding Natalie out of fear of sending the wrong message. Maggie gets to knock some sense into him by saying that everyone already knows that he likes Natalie. He shouldn't be ashamed to just be there for her. They are friends after all. The truly surprising development is the fact that Helen has now warmed up to Will. Annie Potts is finally being given something to do on this show. It largely amounts to Helen complaining to Maggie that she's afraid her entire family is going to leave her. That leads to Helen plotting to get Natalie and Will together just so Natalie and Owen stay in Chicago. It's a complete role reversal from her interaction with Will just a week ago. It's sudden and not at all subtle. But is the show being too forceful with Natalie and Will as a romantic couple? It just seems like the show is pushing into it way too fast. That could lead to complications if they aren't meaningful characters before they become an official couple.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Saints" was written by Mary Leah Sutton and directed by Jann Turner.
  • As soon as the male half of the first date couple showed up in the woman's ICU room without a nurse standing by, it seemed pretty obvious that he would have a sudden down turn with his own health. And yet, they both survived this ordeal - though Connor is doubtful they'll make it as a couple once things get back to normal for them.
  • The P.D. characters sometimes come across as too blunt, forceful and opinionated whenever they show up at the hospital. Will does break doctor-patient confidentiality in order to inform Jay about his patients' full story and his need to get free treatment in prison. But it didn't lead to a nuanced conversation. It largely just said that Will was the voice of reason in the situation.
  • Charles is another character who largely pops his head into other characters' stories. And yet, with him, it really works well because he gets to connect with people on an emotional and understandable level. He doesn't treat people like a doctor. That has been a great tool for the show without it always feeling too preachy. Though it would be interesting to see what a Charles-centric story would be like.
  • Are April's doctor brother and the lab tech Sarah flirts with still characters on the show? They popped up once seeming like they'd be important. But now, it's been a couple of weeks without them. Though the show shouldn't overcrowd its episodes either.