Season 11 Episode 6

Time of Death

Aired Thursday 10:00 PM Nov 11, 2004 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (13)

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out of 10
159 votes
  • About the episode

    It got wonderful acting for Ray Liotta.
  • I did not get it..

    I do not know.. I liked the way this episode was shown - that lovely real time feeling and the way it looked more real than usual - like you were more on it. I love the story they were telling but.. somehow it was too distance for me. I know, it will sound contra versa just for what I said before, but even if we were for the action like inside, the story of that man - it left me distance. I did not get that, i did not felt sorry for him, or see why there were sad. It did not touched me emotionally. Usually ER does, so...

    It was special episode but...
  • This episode takes the experience of dying through the patient's eyes. An alcoholic in the end stages of his disease shows up in the ER with no idea this was to be his last day. This episode is absolutely one of the best written of all ER history.

    This episode has been with me since it first aired in November 2004. Truly the most haunting episode of ER and it's through the viewpoint of a patient you don't expect to care about. "Charlie" is in the end stages of alcoholism and he is literally experiencing what I imagine dying would be like in a strange hospital setting with no family to give comfort. I love how this episode starts with an old Rolling Stones song..."baby, baby, baby you're out of time"......
    As already thoroughly reviewed, how this particular patient touches off emotions in the staff that treats him is incredibly brilliant. I will never forget the last scenes as Charlie is slipping into his last moments of life and he starts into a dream like sequence where he sees his son as a little boy he can't get to. Even how the writers placed him and his old house in the middle of a hot desert in his dream makes the viewer feel the "dehydration" and discomfort Charlie is feeling. And then there is this horrifying sound of a loud ringing tone in the background as Charlie is having all these flashbacks and hallucinations. The realism of this episode was incredible. I cried for Charlie in the end and could not sleep that night. I saw the episode again in a rerun and it got to me again.
    As a footnote, my ex husband just died of the end stages of alcoholism. I thought of this episode all over again when he died. Like Charlie, he died alone and most probably experienced all the sensations Charlie did, both physically and mentally. He would have turned 50 next week.
  • my father 73 yr's of age, passed from emphazima. it was the first time i wittnesed a death up close and personal.

    the show brought back memories so real and personal, it felt like i was back in the same room with my father as he was passing. when someone close to you passes, after a while you start forgetting those memorise, but the show brought all those good memorise back. i just want to thank everybody from the bottom of my heart for taking me back into time.
  • This is the by far the best episode of any television series I have ever seen.

    This is the by far the best episode of any television series I have ever seen. I was riveted from the beginning to the end. It moved like a film. Great writing, great acting, great directing. Superb storytelling and attention to character. Ray Liotta at his best. This episode looks into a heartbreaking fact of life with compassion and reality. The dream sequences skillfully and effectively done. The choice to show in real time worked brilliantly.
    I believe it should be listed as the Top Episode. Really impressive, really wonderful.
  • Best ER episode i've watch up to date.

    Best ER episode i've watch up to date. An alcoholic whose life will be revealed in the run of the episode, very dramatic one, all the stuff attending his case got touched by it, even pratt who for starters wasnt eager to help the man and in the end even cried his death as the man was of much help to deal with the relationship to his unknown dad.
  • Painful to watch...

    This episode was painful to watch(not in a bad way). This episode felt raw to me. They definitely did not hold back in the episode.Probably on of the most painful scenes was the one where Sam had called the son that he had abandoned and told the son that his father was dying. The son seemed so abrasive and so unforgiving that charlie started crying. Also the most painful scene was when he went into one of his hallucinations and he was at a train station. It took me a couple seconds to realize that the voices in the background were that of Abby,Luka, and Pratt. I feel the train station was a symbol of the many different descisons he had made in his life and how the descions he made affected where he had gotten to and the many oppurtunities he had missed, like watching his son grow up. When he had asked Sam to just touch and stroke his face that was beyond painful. It felt like he wanted to feel the human touch one last time.Like he wanted his life to end in a peaceful way, like he wouldn’t die alone. I was bawling at the end of the episode. I hadn’t seen such a moving episode on TV in such a long time that I was surprised.
  • I don't exactly agree with any of these reviews. This episode wasn't bad by any means, but I did wish for another storyline as well or something. An alcoholic's dying hour is touching and all, but it shouldn't take up an entire episode.

    I don't exactly agree with any of these reviews. This episode wasn't bad by any means, but I did wish for another storyline as well or something. An alcoholic's dying hour is touching and all, but it shouldn't take up an entire episode.

    Don't you think that it was a bit too much on this man? I don't need to know some dying patient's entire life story, and everything about his son?! I'm also surprised that all of the doctors were quite so touched. But it wasn't awful either. However, I think the highlight of the episode was the two little African-American kids' dad not being able to afford a babysitter, but having 3 tvs.
  • An alcoholic down-and-out man goes into the ER and collapses. This episode shows in real time the painful procedures the staff uses to try to save him, and, finally, allow him to die. In the course of this episode the man and his life are slowly revealed.

    I watched this show as a rerun on October 27, 2005. I had no idea it was in real time until I read in the review...I just knew that this was not just a \\\"TV show\\\". The boundaries between real life and TV dissolved. Ray Liotta as Charlie was riveting. Much of what he had to do was react, and somehow, even though he was the guest star on a show where we know the characters oh so well, we saw everything happening through Charlie\\\'s eyes,and instantly identified with him. How terrifying to have tubes shoved down your throat, and then to find out that you are going to die, right here, in this hospital, surrounded by strangers and strange apparatuses which hurt. The moment when he decided to die and have everything taken out was such a relief, but this episode did nothing to spare us. The fear, the pain, the rejection by his son, and the small kindnesses shown him by the hospital staff were all so lifelike in a way I simply do not associate with a TV show or even a movie.
    It was incredibly effective, the interplay between the medical procedures, so mechanical and technical, administered by doctors who had to be detached to administer them, and the real people behind the masks and the patient. Slowly, impersonal medicine dropped away, and so did the blame and anger, as everyone tried to wring something human and positive out of the last minutes of a life gone horribly wrong.
    Dream sequences usually annoy me, but these were so skillfully done that I was just transfixed by them. They flashed back and forth between dream and real life in the way that dreams really do. And it was all so, so sad.
    The only other experience this reminded me of was the episode where Dr. Greene had to deliver a baby and killed the mother..that also gave the impression of being in real time
  • A waste of your time.

    I'll admit up-front that I am biased. I think Ray Liotta is one of the worst contemporary actors around, in spite of his success.

    I had no idea that he won an emmy for this episode, but I remember how much fanfare NBC put into announcing this "special, unforgettable episode of E.R." It was not special, I wasn't touched by it, and I still think Ray Liotta is a terrible actor.

    I won't waste a lot of time with a long review, because I don't remember enough about the episode to write one. I just remember how much I WASN'T affected by the episode.

    If you like Ray Liotta, you will probably feel differently. If you don't, just skip this episode entirely.
  • great episode

    I didn't truly appreciate this episode the first time I watched it, but I was glad to see it the second time. I thought it was interesting to see how the different doctors and nurses responded to Charlie. I think that it hit close to home for Luka, Pratt and Sam. Especially Pratt because of his experience with his father, which we learned more about in the upcoming episodes. I think we came to appreciate Pratt more in this episode, and it was interesting to see how his attitude change through the episode. At first he thinks it's a waste of time, but he realizes how important of a patient Charlie is. The ending of the episode is heart-breaking to see how many regrets Charlie has.
  • Time of Death follows the case of Charlie Metcalf, a down-and-out alcoholic in real time, as Drs. Kovac and Pratt, and nurse Taggart struggle to save his life. The episode explores the interactions between patient, doctors and specialists over the

    One of the hallmarks of ER’s writing has always been the willingness to take risks with storytelling. This has allowed the show to explore how doctors and patients interact in the ER is a far richer way than the conventional four-act drama structure would. Written by David Zabel, Time of Death takes a innovative approach to the story of the patient’s experience in the ER. Told in real time, the episodes allows us to follow one patient, Charlie Metcalf, from the time we meet him in the waiting room though to the eventual resolution of his case. This novel approach allows us opportunity to experience the ER in from a “you are there” perspective the show’s usual compressed time format rarely allows.

    As played by Ray Liotta, Charlie is a down-and-out drunk with a long, sometimes sad, history of failures. Two key events in his life drive his story: the loss of his wife as a young father, and his eventual alienation from his son. These lead to a long history of alcoholism and self-neglect that eventually bring Charlie to the ER one morning. There, he comes into contact with three key medical personnel, Drs. Luka Kovac and Greg Pratt, and nurse Sam Taggart. The three key players, assisted by intern Abby Lockhart and ever-annoying medical student Jane (who was to have been Penny in the original script), bring their own particular biases to this case, an important aspect of the narrative. Each responds to Charlie very differently: Sam with a nurse’s concern, Kovac with a doctor’s analytical detachment, and Pratt with disgust and distain for what he sees as a waste of time. But as the story evolves, the case brings out new, and sometimes surprising, layers in each character.

    Beginning with Hindsight, David Zabel has evolved into ER’s master storyteller. Not only is he willing to take risks with the stories he develops, but he understands the characters at a level no other writer does, and his episodes are often deeply character-driven. Time of Death is one of the finest examples of how he does this. As the story progresses, what appears at first to be a simple story of Charlie’s treatment and the medical machinery that cares for him evolves into a complex tale of how one patient is affected by, and in turn affects the doctors who treat him. It is soon clear why Pratt has a problem with Charlie: he’s a far too painful reminder of Pratt’s own neglectful father. This becomes the episode’s dominant interaction, with each learning small, painful lessons about forgiveness from the other. A smaller, quieter interaction between Sam and Charlie is appealing as well. In an effort to help, Sam does more damage than good, and she learns to listen to what a patient needs rather than deciding for herself.

    But by far the subtlest, and to me most intriguing of the three stories is that of Charlie and Kovac. On the surface the two could not be more different as Kovac begins treatment, all business and medicine, determined to do whatever is needed to save his patient. But slowly, quietly, as the details of Charlie’s story emerge, we realize he is what Kovac might have been had he taken another road at one pivotal point in his own life, as two parallel events in their lives make clear. Kovac realizes this too, and as Pratt draws closer to Charlie, Kovac retreats quietly into the medicine to avoid his own painful feelings. By the episode’s end, the two doctors have dramatically altered their respective approaches to Charlie, with Pratt battling to avoid the inevitable even as Kovac prepares Charlie for it.

    Time of Death makes effective use of many of ER’s existing strengths, particularly the steady-cam, in this case alternated with a hand-held camera moving nervously, adding tension to the action. It takes an occasionally brutal look at the institutional side of ER care as a parade of specialists work on Charlie. Most effective is the use of hallucinations brought on by Charlie’s deteriorating condition. In them, we see a series of vignettes that feature the medical staff as part of Charlie’s confused reality, including Abby as a ticket agent, and amusingly, Kovac as a truck-driver type in a John Deere hat.

    Perhaps the most unexpected scene in the episode comes as Kovac, in a rare burst of temper, explodes at Pratt’s constant complaints about treating Charlie, and dismisses Pratt from the trauma room. Realizing he must deal with the problem, Kovac soon follows him, and in a brief conversation, the relationship between the two takes an unexpected turn. With a few words, Kovac establishes himself as potential mentor who might have something to teach Pratt. Starting with this scene, Pratt slowly begins to respect Kovac (a mentorship relationship that continues to develop), and Kovac emerges as the show’s principle teaching doctor, two character development decisions I applaude.

    The three leading actors turn in outstanding performances in this episode. Linda Cardellini gives us lovely insights into a nurse’s heart, Mehki Phifer takes us through a range of emotions as Pratt copes with the issues in his own life that Charlie brings to the surface, and Goran Visnjic uses the smallest of facial expressions and vocal nuances to convey the build up of feelings Kovac must repress in order to manage Charlie’s complex case. But this a Ray Liotta tour-de-force, and he does not disappoint. The role is tailor-made for him, and he makes the most of it. He so completely inhabits Charlie, making him so sympathetic a figure despite his troubled past, I cannot imagine any other actor playing the role. Liotta was recently nominated for an Emmy for the role, and if there is any justice, he will win. His is, without a question, one of the finest guest performances I’ve seen on the show.

    If I have one gripe about Time of Death, it comes at the end. I would like to have seen how Kovac responded to Charlie’s death. The opportunity is there; as the camera draws up from Charlie’s lifeless face, we see Jane’s reaction for a moment. That shot could just as easily have allowed us see Kovac’s, perhaps as he looked into the Trauma room through a window. That small bit of closure was needed.

    A final note: I had the opportunity to see a 48 minute ‘rough-cut’ version of the episode without the fade-in/fade-out for commercial breaks inserted. This gives the episode the feel of a short film, and enhances the story even further. I would hope that NBC might consider showing the episode in this format when it reruns it in the fall. It would be a very special way to see an already special episode.

  • This episode is yet again a sing on how creative the writers behind ER can be.

    This episode is yet again a sing on how creative the writers behind ER can be. This time we follow Charlie Metcalf for the last 44 minutes of his lief. Exactly as many min. as this show last!Charlie is an ex-con & alcoholic. We first meat Charlie in the waitingroom, Dr. Kovac is threathing him together with Abby and Sam. Pratt is threading a boy next to them, and he clearly states that it's a waist of time to threat Charlie. This will all changes, as Dr. Kovac guides Pratt in the right direction, and that way makes peace for both Pratt and Charlie, as they sub-come to the terms of life and death.
    This is an episode I'l watch again, eithre you will love it or you will hate it, all I can say is, it's an episode to watch!