Wednesday, October 5, 2016

REVIEW: 'Code Black' - A Bus Crash Sends Multiple Injures to Angels While Mario's Father Appears in 'Life and Limb'

CBS' Code Black - Episode 2.02 "Life and Limb"

Willis must help a promising young soccer player make a life-altering decision after he's seriously injured when a bus carrying his entire team crashes. Another patient's hesitation to share that she's transgender makes it difficult for the doctors to diagnose her severe abdominal pain.

Code Black opens its second season with a couple of big traumas. Last week saw a shark attack in Malibu and a doctor falling out of a helicopter. This week things are scaled back a little bit. But the big case still revolves an accident between a semi and a school bus. It's another mass casualty accident. Sure, the only real patients from the collision are the head of the soccer team and the man driving the semi. But the show still continues the mood of it being this big and important thing that drives chaos throughout the emergency room. It's an accident that calls all of the doctors to center stage. There are plenty of other medical cases throughout the hour as well. And yet, none of them really resonate all that well. The season premiere worked as a fine introduction of the new characters for the season. This episode feels like too much repetition without expanding the focus at all. So by the end of the episode, there's just a little too much of a lackluster feeling.

Just like last week, Colonel Willis spends the hour with a teenager through the worst day of his life. It's certainly a blatant comparison to show that Willis has so much compassion for his patients. This time, his patient is way less annoying. He's still stubborn though. He's the star soccer player who needs to have his leg amputated. It's something that needs to happen otherwise he'll die. The conflict of the story comes from the kid rather dying than not having all of his limbs. He doesn't think he'll survive without it. All of the doctors know this leg is unsalvageable. The kid tries to talk a big game by seeking out a second opinion. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense. What kind of connections does he really have to pull off that elitist kind of move? It's largely just to showcase that this kid is stubborn. But in the end, Willis is able to get him to agree to the procedure. It's a big emotional moment when he sees the amputation for the first time, when he reunites with his teammates and when Willis shows up with new, cutting-edge prosthetics from the military. It is an effective story when it hits those emotional beats in the end. It's just a little too troublesome and complicated getting to that point.

Plus, is Willis just on the show this season to highlight all the fancy new medical technology that the military has access to? That certainly seems to be the case. He had the foam last week which didn't ultimately save the guy. And now, he has prosthetics that can move based on brain waves. That's very cool. But how is this specific patient going to get such a prosthetic? Is that moment about Willis pulling the patient out of the belief that his life is over without his leg? Or is it about giving him this specific prosthetic? It's a little confusing in that regard. Is Willis making sure he gets this new technology because Charlotte made the mistake that cost the kid his leg? Charlotte is proving to be the most skilled of the new first-year residents. She's made an impression when the other two have barely registered anything. Her instincts proved to be right last week. And now, it's her textbook knowledge that dooms this patient. The episode doesn't confirm or deny that it was her fault the patient lost his leg. It treats it like it is but there's no definitive medical proof. It's just a way for Willis to prove he protects the people he's working with even if the program is designated to cut out the people who can't make it as trauma surgeons.

The second year residents are still learning as well. Mario, Angus and Malaya are still in the program. They are still learning with every new patient they encounter. Malaya thinks differently after learning that her patient is the driver of the semi. He was more than likely responsible for the accident that killed so many on the school bus. She immediately wants to do a toxicology test to see if there was any drugs or alcohol in his system. This story pivots into Leanne being a teacher once more while also breaking the rules she has always laid out for her students. The wife of the driver is played by Camryn Manheim. She immediately brings gravitas and importance to the role. But it's ultimately just another case of the week story. She's important because she slowly realizes that her husband is going to die and that he was responsible for this horrific accident. She plays panic well but the role hardly requires more than that. Instead, it's more important when the driver wakes up in his final moments and Leanne decides not to tell him the truth. He did have drugs in his system and he did kill many people. Malaya doesn't understand that. Leanne always says to tell their patients the truth. But here, she decided not to. She opted for compassion instead because he was dying. It's a little too didactic in the end though.

And yet, all of these stories work well compared to what Mario is up to in this episode. He treats a transgender patient. The story basically comes across as "Let's explain trans issues to the core CBS audience." It's preachy and broad in some pretty ridiculous ways. Yes, Mario would be the kind of person who doesn't understand gender identity. He would question if Elliot knows how to do a pelvic exam. He would say insensitive things about this woman still having some male body parts. He would not know the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. And yet, the show just goes through the motions of this story. It's an important and topical issue to discuss. It's great that the show recognizes that and showcases it in this hour. But it focuses too much on the transgender part. This patient doesn't tell the doctors about it because she doesn't want it to be the thing that defines her life. And yet, it's the exact thing that defines her entire story. Her girlfriend didn't know the truth. So, Jesse gets to have a moment with her proclaiming that everyone in this world is the same. We all need someone to care for us. Again, it's just a really broad moment to help explain all of this to a broad and older audience. Even the reason why she's in the hospital in the first place is about her transition. Her prostate has become infected and has led to septic shock. It's big when she is rushed to center stage and is perhaps dying. She survives though. But again, it's the show using this one issue to tell a whole story. It gets too bogged down in that one detail. It doesn't look at who this woman is in her totality.

Plus, Mario is distracted by the sudden appearance of his father. It's already been established that he didn't have a great upbringing. That's what led to him being such a dick in the beginning. He grew a lot throughout the first season. He opened himself up and became friends with Angus and Malaya. That's important. But now, all that is at risk of falling apart because his father is in the hospital. He's sick with liver disease. But more importantly, he hasn't changed at all. He still only sees his son whenever he needs money for a new idea that will make him rich. Mario is a doctor but his father doesn't care about that. Mario saves his father's life when he starts coughing up blood. But his dad doesn't care about that. All he cares about is the fact that Mario wants nothing to do with him. It's because of that that he sees his son as a major disappointment. It's a very selfish thing to say. It's incredibly hurtful as well. It could force Mario to regress and return to the man he was at the start of the series. That could be a very troubling story development. His father will more than likely be sticking around. It will be an important story of the season. How it affects Mario should be interesting to watch.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Life and Limb" was written by David Marshall Grant and directed by Lee Rose.
  • Why is Leanne working as many shifts as she can right now? Last season she threw herself into work so she wouldn't have an outside life. Is she doing the same thing here after losing her administrative job? If so, it hasn't really been explained all that well.
  • Leanne being overworked is largely just a way to continue to build up the connection she has with Willis. When she isn't able to get a line in, he is able to step in and do it for her while also saying he only succeeded because he had a fresh pair of eyes on the situation.
  • It's a pretty laughable moment when Noa is able to identify a patient with no name through Facebook. It's a way for the show to say it understands how connected the younger generation is - often to the bafflement of older people. But it's really broad and pretty lame too. Facebook is still a thing but it's not as cool as it once was. Plus, no millennial would say "Millennial out!"
  • Overall, the story of the schizophrenic man and his brother who hasn't seen him in a year is just in the background. It has parallels to what Angus is going through. The show isn't subtle about that at all. But it's a case that doesn't feel as important as everything else.
  • So, Charlotte definitely has a photographic memory, right? It's heavily implied because she can remember which paragraph in a textbook her medical knowledge comes from. But then, Leanne just says she has a great brain.
  • Elliot just isn't working as a character after two episodes. He's way too frantic to be taken all that seriously. He's nothing more than that.