Thursday, September 29, 2016

REVIEW: 'Chicago Med' - Natalie and Connor Struggle with Cases Involving Babies in 'Win Loss'

NBC's Chicago Med - Episode 2.02 "Win Loss"

Dr. Manning and Dr. Rhodes separately treat complicated cases involving sick babies. Dr. Halstead and Dr. Charles treat a homeless man with an upbeat disposition. Dr. Choi has a navy corpsman follow him for the day as they deal with the toll of gang violence in the city. Dr. Reese tries to understand the delicate balance required in her new position.

"Win Loss" really doesn't continue any of the themes or stories from the season premiere at all or at least not in a natural way. There's an awkwardness to the whole hour. It doesn't completely fit together. It opens with the morning after Natalie and Jeff's night together. So, it feels like only a day has passed since the premiere. But then, Sarah has been a psych resident for three weeks already. It's small stuff like that that can really pull the viewer out of the experience of the show. It's trying to do one too many things in this hour and doesn't do many of them well at all. It just feels like the show doing whatever will make for the most engaging plot beat in the moment without considering the characters involved in the plot. That's a dangerous way to tell stories. It's not uncommon on this show though. So, it's very frustrating to watch as it continues to erratically move about its narrative with no larger consideration of what has previously happened.

In the premiere, Will was still hopelessly pinning after Natalie. It was a painfully obvious plot point. That was his motivation for being such a strict teacher for Jeff. He wouldn't let the guy do any procedures. He refused to teach even though that is now his job as an attending physician. He wants to claim that he's better. He recognizes the error of his ways from last season and is more cautious as a result. Except his actions don't reciprocate that all that well. It's not a good story at all. However, the show has at least been consistent with its awfulness. And now, he just suddenly starts looking at someone new with romantic lust in his eyes. It comes completely out of the blue and makes no sense at all. His friendship with the pathologist isn't something the show has really established. He largely just goes to her in this hour to vent about how crappy and expensive his life is. That doesn't do a whole lot to define her as a character or as someone who could be in a relationship with Will. Everything can't always be about him all the time. It's a frustrating and annoying detail. And yet, the audience is suppose to think it's sweet when he understands her sense of humor in the end. It's clearly just a forced story to make it seem like he has moved on from Natalie. A different story arc could be important for revitalizing him as a character. It's just so problematic that it's going to be yet another romance. This show has plenty of those. Try doing something different!

However, the show tries to add a unique complication on its core medical case of the episode. But it too just feels awkward and forces the characters to do things they normally wouldn't do. Connor and Natalie are both treating sick babies. They have absolutely nothing to do with each other. In the beginning, it feels like they are only thematically connected as a way to showcase how horrifying this job can actually be. But then, it tries to connect them. Connor's patient has a falling heart. He is on the transplant list but will more than likely die before getting a new heart. Meanwhile, Natalie's patient has an unknown disease that is causing her body to shut down. The show is manipulative with this story. It tricks the audience into believing that Natalie's baby is brain dead. It does so by everyone freaking out when it took two minutes to intubate her. The answers to whether or not she is brain dead are slow to arrive. That's because Connor wants to already ask for this baby's heart to save his own patient. It puts Natalie in a very compromising position. And then, she just does what he asks of her even though there's no way she would have done that. It's in complete service of a plot whose goal is to manipulate the audience. Taking away hope for this family because it seems inevitable. Of course, that's not the case at all. Natalie's patient is expected to make a full recovery while Connor's seems destined to die while waiting for a new heart. It's a weird story because after Connor runs the test and learns the babies are a match Natalie spends her entire time focusing on the disease that caused this in the first place. When she tells the parents that the baby is expected to make a full recovery, it's shocking because no where was it told to the audience that the test came back proving she wasn't brain dead. So again, all of this is just really melodramatic manipulation to raise the stakes while destroying character motivations.

Elsewhere, the show tries to bring some levity into an overall dramatic episode by having Sarah wanting to diagnosis everyone with some kind of personality disorder. It's amusing in the beginning. But that largely comes from the show potentially playing it very straight with Joey. He has been a fine love interest for Sarah. Their relationship is stable and doesn't need to be dramatic. But he has been a curious and different guy. One who Sarah could easily try to label with some kind of personality disorder. That could create tension in their relationship. That could have been a story angle the show could have explored. It doesn't though because it thinks it's funny that Sarah is seeing this behavior with everyone. It's a pattern she has picked up just because she's a psych resident now. It didn't seem to affect her at all during her time working for the trauma department. That was probably because so many of the cases are messy and immediate. The doctors are searching for physical illnesses that they know are there because the patients came looking for urgent help. It was an energy that she really started to love. Psych is different than that because it's analyzing behavior and personalities. So, it's understandable why she makes this transition. It's just unclear if it's suppose to be anything more than a comedic subplot for the week.

However, it's perfectly clear that the show is trying to say something about the gun violence that currently infects the streets of Chicago. This show uses the term "chi-raq" so casually. It's meant to express to the audience that the show knows what the city is like right now in real life. It just doesn't feel like it wants to do anything more than that though. It's important that a Navy corpsman spends the day with Choi in the hopes of learning what it'll be like to serve overseas as a military doctor. The comparisons are just too big and broad though. Plus, it feels too self-contained. One gangster is dropped at the door with a bullet still inside of him. His gang retaliates with a shootout elsewhere in the city. And yet, only one person is brought in with injuries? That just seems too unlikely. It's meant to draw a point. That life is unfair. A gang member lives and is able to retaliate by using force when an innocent teacher dies by a stray bullet. But then, things just take a turn for the ridiculous and laughable when Choi rights down the teacher's name in a book of his. It's suppose to illustrate that he cares about all the innocent lives lost under his watch. It's just too blunt and laughable to actually see it happen though. The audience doesn't need to see a book of personal information to know that this death hits hard for Choi. Doing so only lessons the impact of the overall story.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Win Loss" was written by Eli Talbert & Safura Fadavi and directed by David Rodriguez.
  • People can't just call a friend for a favor in order to get some moved up the transplant list, right? Isn't it all determined based on who needs the organ the most and who will most likely survive post-transplant? Connor going to Sharon for help just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
  • A romance with Jeff is new and exciting for Natalie. She has now officially moved on from her dead husband. It brings her comfort when she's had a rough day. But he also represents a connection to her past and her former marriage that won't just go away.
  • Will's homeless patient who has a tumor compromising his vision was a pretty lame story. It's always great when Dr. Charles gets involved to help treat the cases that present differently. But this solution just didn't have anything of true substance to it.
  • April's tuberculosis is really starting to define everything about her. It was a surprising and interesting twist for her. But it can't be the sole focus for everything she does this season.
  • But hey, at least the parrot shows up. Sure, he's largely just scene decoration for Choi's apartment. The animal doesn't do anything. But he at least appears.