Thursday, September 22, 2016

REVIEW: 'Chicago Med' - Rhodes Struggles with His New Boss While Sarah Returns to the Hospital in 'Soul Care'

NBC's Chicago Med - Episode 2.01 "Soul Care"

Dr. Rhodes begins his fellowship but gets off on the wrong foot with his challenging new boss. Dr. Choi navigates life as the new chief resident. Dr. Charles approaches Sarah with an interesting opportunity. April works to come to terms with her illness. Dr. Manning deals with a complicated case involving a pregnant woman in a high speed collision. Dr. Halstead takes exception to the actions of fourth-year medical student Jeff Clarke.

Second seasons of the Chicago franchise shows are typically where they find their groove and start becoming something good. It was the pattern established by Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. So now, hopefully, Chicago Med can join them because that first season wasn't particularly good at all. It focused way too much on romantic subplots. It didn't have any ambition to reinvent the medical genre. Plus, a couple of the characters were just way too insufferable to handle. It was a problematic season. "Soul Care" starts by saying how things are different yet completely the same for these characters. Will is somehow still working at Chicago Med and is now an attending. Choi is now chief resident and has newfound confidence. Sharon's marriage is over but she's still finding the strength to move on. April's fresh diagnosis of tuberculosis is causing problems with her relationship. And Sarah is just working at a coffee shop after turning down a pathology residency. It's a reminder of where all the characters ended last season. None of it is particularly new. They just have different titles now. They are still the same characters with the same problems.

Will Halstead remains such an annoying and loathsome character. Nothing has changed since last season. It's still incredible that he was asked back to be an attending physician in the emergency department. He caused a lot of headaches last season with his reckless behavior. He has a superiority complex that is so off-putting. He has a need to be right. Since he's in a position of power, that's really damaging to the world around him. But it's not exactly an interesting or engaging story or character arc. I guess it's good that he and Rhodes are friendly to each other now. But that's hardly important. Instead, everything is still about Natalie and his massive crush on her. She doesn't reciprocate those feelings right now. She's having lunch and going out to drinks with old friend - and new fourth year medical student - Jeff Clarke. It's still weird that Jeff is on this show now following his memorable arc on Chicago Fire in its second season. He didn't leave that show to be a doctor. But apparently, that's what happened just to prop up this new romantic triangle. It's not interesting or meaningful in the slightest.

Will is purposefully punishing Jeff and keeping him from doing procedures solely because of Natalie. Will is frustrated that she doesn't seem interested in him anymore. They don't share a single scene alone in this premiere. That's good. Natalie is still a fine character when she's not stuck in this romantic angst. Plus, her chemistry with Jeff is way more natural and easy than whatever she has with Will. That dynamic is forced and remains something the show wants to do contrary to what it should do. But alas, that only further leads to Will trying to discipline Jeff for doing a procedure another doctor was too afraid to do because the patient was HIV positive. It's clearly a conflict that is only going to get more intense throughout the season. Jeff may only be a fourth year medical student but he has done plenty of procedures out in the field as a firefighter. That experience doesn't lead him anywhere with Will. Will's jealousy is to blame. He tries covering it up as him learning his lessons about reckless behavior. But it's still abundantly clear what the true reason is. Plus, Natalie and Jeff actually spend a night together which is a perfectly fine way to close the episode. Though it spells even more problematic story for the future.

Connor's story with Dr. Downey last season didn't start well but had a pretty strong and meaningful ending. And now, the show is fitting him into a new mentor-mentee relationship. This time it's solely to contrast what he had and lost because Downey died. His new mentor is even more mysterious and aloof. And yet, it is such a bad characterization. It's clear that Dr. Latham is socially awkward. It takes him a beat to recognize sarcasm. He follows the rules because they bring order to the world. He doesn't like it when other people question what the medically correct thing to do is. It's a big and broad performance. It doesn't work at all. It is so terribly one-note. It's suppose to be fascinating that Connor looks at Latham with confusion. He doesn't know what's wrong with this man and what's wrong with him. That's the wrong attitude he should have though. It just makes for an awkward story about alienation. It's a battle of what's normal and what's not. That's not something that this show should be doing. And yet, it presents itself here with incredible conviction.

It's somewhat disappointing that it only takes until the first act break to get Sarah back at Chicago Med as well. It was a big deal that she had to leave after turning down her residency in the pathology department. There were no open slots for her in trauma. She was breeching her contract and would be out of a job. It was a cliffhanger for this season to resolve. How could she practice medicine if she wasn't a staff member at Chicago Med? And now, the show just magically creates a solution to this problem immediately. Dr. Charles tracks her down to offer her a job in the psych department. It's not something she had ever considered before. She likes Charles and respects his opinion. But it's mostly just a way to get her back to Med as quickly as possible. It completely forgets everything that happened at the end of last season. It's just too important for the show to get her back to work and interacting with patients as soon as possible. Her story isn't bad at all. In fact, it's one of the few bright spots in this premiere. It's just startling to see it happen so quickly into the season.

Sarah helps Charles with a patient who may have tried to kill herself. It's largely just a way for the show to have a cliche conversation about generational divides when it comes to social media. Charles is the inept old person who doesn't understand the purpose of Facebook or Instagram. He doesn't get how people can claim to have hundreds of friends in that context. Sarah knows that it can help provide further insight into this patient and her life leading up to this moment. It's through reading her posts that she discovers she's a mean girl. That helps with the treatment. But again, it largely just highlights how self-obsessed young people can be. They fixate on their looks and the perfect selfie and not what's really important in life. Again, it's very broad and cliche writing. It re-enforces stereotypes in some not so original ways. It also highlights that psychology may be something Sarah is good at. She treats this girl's physical problems. That's something she knows how to do. It's something completely new to treat her psychological condition though. That could be a fascinating journey of discovery for her this season. It's one of the few things that I'm actually looking forward to after this premiere.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Soul Care" was written by Diane Frolov & Andrew Schneider and directed by Arthur W. Forney.
  • April's tuberculosis is still latent. It's not contagious. Will doesn't suspect that that will suddenly change any time soon. Of course, this being television, it more than likely will sometime this season. She fears that she'll infect her boyfriend. But she finally gives in to the risk by the end of the premiere in order to have happiness.
  • Choi believes he has a new system that will completely change how things are scheduled in the emergency department. It's not surprising at all that he is dead wrong. The nurses know what they're doing and don't appreciate doctors coming in telling them different.
  • The inclusion of Charles' young daughter indicates that his family life will have more importance this season. It's been alluded to that he has had many wives. So that should be something fun to look forward to.
  • Natalie and Jeff work fine as a couple but I'm still holding out hope for Natalie and Connor. They have some great chemistry as well. That's apparent with their handling of a case here with a pregnant woman in a car crash. They work very well and respectfully with each other in the OR. 
  • It's a miraculous moment when a patient dies post-surgery and then he suddenly comes back to life to see his granddaughter for the first time. It's a wildly melodramatic moment that's pretty hilarious instead of emotional. The latter is probably what the show was going for though.
  • The parrot makes a brief cameo appearance! That parrot is so great.