Thursday, July 15, 2021

REVIEW: 'Dr. Death' - Duntsch's Latest Surgery Outcomes Raise Serious Concerns from Henderson and Kirby in 'Diplos'

Peacock's Dr. Death - Episode 1.01 "Diplos"

Two doctors investigate the maiming and death of patients at the hands of a Dallas neurosurgeon.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Peacock's Dr. Death.

"Diplos" was written by Patrick Macmanus and directed by Maggie Kiley

It is basically discovered early on in this premiere that Dr. Christopher Duntsch shouldn't be operating on patients. That's the conclusion Dr. Robert Henderson and Dr. Randall Kirby come to as informed by the recent results of various patients. The premiere then messes around in time a little bit to showcase three specific instances. They are depicted as the first patients Duntsch is treating at a new hospital. He got privileges at this place based on his background, which hasn't been hindered due to his reputation. Kirby knows right away that Duntsch doesn't belong anywhere near him or this hospital. He is a vascular surgeon who knows what he's doing while having a fun time in the operating room. That can be a strange attitude as well. But he's a big, slightly aggressive personality who speaks things clearly as they are. It's behavior he can get away with when interacting with his colleagues. That's the only light he is seen here as well. Duntsch is the one actually interacting with patients and their families. That only further highlights how monstrous he is. He is charming enough to get these patients with chronic pain through the door. He talks about the necessity of surgery. It's all elective but they frequently decide to go through with it. And then, he mangles them during the surgeries. It's a systemic pattern for him. He is continually allowed to operate though. He has the freedom of his own practice. He's around the hospital frequently enough that it becomes a larger problem. It's something the other doctors and nurses know they must address. And yet, Duntsch performs with such a pompous view of himself and his skills. He fundamentally believes that he is better than everyone else. As such, his opinion is more valid than those who don't know what they are talking about. He refuses to see any complications while operating. Every doctor has to cope with that reality. It's part of the job. Not everything can go perfectly all the time. These doctors are human too. They make mistakes. They are held accountable. It all has to be done with the best of intentions. Duntsch isn't simply slipping through the cracks in a system unable to hold him responsible. He is blatantly causing so many life-changing outcomes. People are worse off after he is done with them. It's because he treats the specific area he wants to go in and target. It's not necessary to address any of the complications that arise from that procedure. Nor does any other doctor need to come in with a specialty to best address the developing situation. Duntsch knows best. He doesn't make mistakes. He believes in that fantasy fiercely. It's incapable to occur otherwise. He is the best. He aggressively lists off his background and the skills he has acquired from a fancy education. He tells people how they should be reacting in any given situation. He wishes to dictate the terms of how others occupy space in this world. He can do no wrong. That's exclusively what he is doing though. It's the fault of others that things take dire turns. He is privileged and arrogant. Henderson and Kirby know that. They have to do something about it. It's a collective goal they are now working towards. More damage will likely be done though. More surgeries have been scheduled. The lucky few will at least have some of the harm reversed. The premiere doesn't lay out a clear case of how Duntsch will be taken down. That incentive and clarity isn't that apparent. Nor does it seem likely there is enough story for eight episodes of television. But the three leads - Joshua Jackson, Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater - all bring compelling qualities to their performances. It's different to see Baldwin as the more level-headed doctor trying to extend empathy to those trapped working with Duntsch while working to expose his central sociopathy. Moreover, it should be intriguing to see more with Grace Gummer's Kim. It's simple storytelling effectively executed. Sometimes, that's all it takes in order to be entertained. Plus, the stakes are incredibly high too. That should terrorize the viewer while making it immediately easy to invest in the drive to get Duntsch out of the operating room no matter what. That mission is bound to have its complications. The show will have to carefully navigate all of that by providing greater context for these characters while never losing sight of the depravity at the center of it all. That's a potentially tricky balance. The execution suggests that clear competency though.