The Writers are turning the show on its head.
The first thing that I must say is wow. ER is taking chances and is telling good stories. They are remembering what they used to do right, and at the same time the writers are turning the show on its head. There is a sense of freshness and energy that has been around this season. There is no longer a mediocre product each week. I can think of no other season than this one, with a string of really strong episodes, to have "Hindsight." The new format (and I don't just mean the editing) really shook things up. And it worked. And I was left sitting there, in awe, because I realized that good television was on.
The important element to this episode's success was the fact that the basic story was really compelling, even if you told it forwards. It could have been very VERY easy for the writers to have written the concept of the show (hey, let's do a backwards shows) and concentrate on that so much that they would not really have anything to say. This, luckily, was not the case. It really felt as though they writers had a strong story to tell
and thought that this would be the best way to tell their story. And that is why this episode worked.
While watching this episode, the first season classic "Love's Labor Lost" kept on flashing in my brain. I thought of Luka, with the best of intentions, having a patient that just crashed, and his own personal demons catching up with him. Same thing appened with Mark. Of course, the two characters were at VERY different points/places; but the method of the breakdown felt the same.
Let's think about the story. Luka is not doing well. Let's torture Luka as much as we can, and punish him as much as we (the audience) can. Now let's put that punishment up front and ask for sympathy. This format really allowed for the range of Luka's character to be displayed. Luka never "screwed" up completely. There was nothing black and white. He crashed the car, but then he saved the little boy and father. But then he didn't admit to the accident. He saves the hockey girl but kills the flu patient. He expresses his love for Abby but then tries to sleep with Erin.
Luka had several moments in this episode that simply floored me. Luka trying to pass blame on the bad inubation by implying that a nurse moved the tube. Luka admitting to the girlfriend that her fiancé should have received better care. Luka and his annoying blinking when he's trying to concentrate. Luka in the elevator. Luka and the snowglobe. Luka in the bedroom. Just quiet moments, of his character falling.
What impresses me the most about this episode is that the structure served to inform the story - it added without being the sole form of content. If we had seen this episode "normally," we would have still gotten the same level of tonality, but the emotional range would have been very different. This backwards format shifted the themes of the episode, and made them a
little more murky and a lot more interesting. Rather than having a bad day, Luka is in the midst of a slow decent. He still seems to have his moral center, but his compass is gone. I've said before how extremely impressed I am with Goran Visnjic; it takes
quite the capable actor to pull this type of descent off and still be true to character. It is a quiet and slow path, and I love the fact that Luka is going through it. I am, however, at the point where I do not see the reason for it. At first I thought that it was Abby and Carter, and the fact that Luka realizes that here is another girl that someone else other than me can make happy. And I saw hints of that "in the bedroom" scene.
But - I refuse after going through Season 8 to believe that this is the reason. And I need a reason. This descent has been controlled and planned, and brilliantly well done. I love the path that Luka has been on. I need to have faith that I will be satisfied in the end; I'm just getting anxious.
The other character that I've really started to enjoy is Erin Harkins. Now, Leslie Bibb may not be my favorite actress in the world, but she is doing an extremely capable job right now. She has the right balance of conviction and insecurity that makes her character very interesting. Erin is prone to ask the obvious question (That means brain dammage, right?) Erin is a nice ontrast to Gallant's stoicism and Pratt's rashness, and I am enjoying seeing so fresh doctors around.
By the way, how EXTREMELY cute is it that Gallant has a crush on Erin Harkins? Did everyone notice the really subtle way that Gallant defended Erin from the admit desk gossip? (She's not like that) Gallant asking Erin if he caught his dance? It's just cute. and sweet. and serves as a nice counter-balance to the dark seduction that was looming for the rest of the episode.
Of course, this episode had a nice Susan quotient, and I really am continuing to enjoy her character. I love the fact that Susan is hosting the christmas party, and that she was the one trying to save the kid's life. We have grown to trust Susan in this last season, and she provides the stark contrast between herself and Luka.
Speaking of contrasts, the difference between Susan and Abby was really highlighted in this episode. Both of them knew that Luka was doing something wrong, but they approached it so very differently. I was shocked at the scene where Abby slams the lounge door shut, and asks "do you care?" It used to be that Luka cared too much, and Abby knew that. Abby admires and respects Luka so much, and tries to cover for him, but she
sees what is happening to him, and she can't control it. It was a nice triangle.
Now of course, this was a Luka-centered episode, but I was very surprised at the low usage of Kerry, Romano, Elizabeth, Carter. Jerry and Frank each had more lines than Romano and Carter combined. And that's okay, because I don't think that the story suffered, but I was just surprised to see it. Although, now that I think about it, I really can't imagine having more Carter. A little more Kerry would have been nice, but Susan filled that authoritative role really well.
I was hoping that Maggie Doyle would pop up, and Guy Pearce would start pinching her. (Okay, that was a really lame Memento reference. It was witty in my head. I'm tired.)
Abby: You should be careful...
Erin: Abby, nothing's going on.
Abby: I still have my rubber sheets from last year.
Carter: So that's where those came from...
There were some very compelling patients all with wonderful actors this week. It's a shame that the format alone made us focus on Luka so much. Go back and rewatch the episode just paying attention to the patients and the guest characters. You'll be amazed at how well their range is and how effective the editing really is.
Okay, Hockey girl's dad brings her Coaco but says "no marshmellows" I can't even comment...
So, I assume that originally Erin was supposed to die in this episode. It seems like it should have happened. But then it would have made it much more sour. How can Luka ever redeem himself from that? But they still did bang her up pretty good. Looks like they did a Carol suicide with her. (Hey, it's a Pilot reference)
Did you notice how Kerry just hands Abby the phone to call Luka? Seemed odd to me. Sort of like, "hey you shtupped the guy, you must have his phone number memorized. now call him down here." but not...
Nice nurse quotient again in this episode. Works every time folks.
Of course, there was more of the pointless Jerry/Frank territory fluff. Although it did inspire some great Romano lines (Frank being an elf)
Yosh has a Menorah. Yosh rocks.
Pratt impressed me again with his two scenes. Maybe less Pratt is more Pratt? Hmm...
The music in this episode was superb. Stellar. A+ fantastic.
This episode was written by David Zabel. Kuddos.
In the end, I was really impressed by this episode. I know that some will discount it as being gimmicky, but the fact that there is a strong story and very strong character work underneath it gives it credibility. I encourage the ER writing staff to continue to shake things up a bit, but only if they continue to tell the good stories along with it.
- Michael C :)