ER Episode 15.22: “And In the End…” Review

Posted on April 3, 2009



TVSummary: Somewhat ho-hum but a nice send off to the venerable series.
Rating: 7/10

Review Trailer
The quick skinny on the episode.

In a two-hour episode that didn’t feel like one, ER wraps up its 15-year run on a moderately high note. We are treated to a callback to the first glimpses of the hospital as a training ground for new interns and young residents. We’re also given a terrific wrap to John Carter’s storyline that ties into the passing of the torch from Mark Greene to his daughter Rachel and as sense of renewal but also carrying on for Chicago’s County General Hospital.

Feature-Length Review after the jump.

ER and Me
Background on my relationship with the show for this first review only.

So I’m at this strange point in my life where I can mark time by the start dates and end dates of television shows. I graduated from high school in June 1994. That fall, two seminal (hey, head out of the gutter) TV series premiered: Friends and ER. And as Friends marked the ten-year reunion of my grad class, ER marks the 15-year milepost.

I was a huge ER junkie for years. I’d catch the show nearly every Thursday for about the first 6 seasons or so. Not that I was huge into Clooney, but when he left I kinda trailed off in my viewing. I still kept an eye on the show up to Season 8, I believe, when Anthony Edwards’ Mark Greene died of a brain tumor. I’d still check in now and then but pretty much signed myself out the season that they killed off Paul McCrane’s Rocket Romano by dropping a flaming helicopter on top of him in the ambulance bay after he’d already had his arm chopped off by said helicopter earlier in the season (it was reattached but that helicopter was determine to have him, no matter what).

Every once in a while, I’d see an episode so I was kind of familiar with who was on the show and certain storylines. The last few years, though, I don’t think I really had a clue what was up. I tuned in a few times this year and caught the Clooney-Margulies reunion tour, which I thought was an excellently done episode, despite the fact that Marguiles – who is supposed to have lived in Washington state for the past 8 or 9 years – pronounced the city “SpoKANE”. I caught another episode or two in the run-up to the finale.

And in the end…

Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.

This was an interesting – and yet altogether not – way of sending the series out. There was a big hubbub from the producers this year about bringing stars throughout the years back to the show to say goodbye but also that they didn’t want to have the Reed and Sue Richards wedding style clump-up of people in the finale. Oddly, they kind of played both ends to a satisfying mix.

When I caught the Cloonguiles episode a few weeks ago, I went onto the message board for the show at IMDb to see what the response was to the episode. A couple of threads that really caught my eye were about, of all things, the opening credits of the show. ER fell victim to this horrible practice of throwing up just a title card and brief snippit of score as the intro to episodes. I understand the rationale behind it – use up the real estate as best you can – but I always feel cheated by it. Apparently, those in these threads felt the same way. They were calling out – to whomever – to have traditional opening credits for the finale. Lo and behold, they – and I – got what they wanted. Classic style credits with James Newton Howard’s original opening theme. Something I noticed about the credits in the Cloonguiles episode was that the original stars who guested (Clooney, Marguiles, Noah Wyle, and Eriq LaSalle) were credited with the main cast. I thought it was neat little touch and I was joyed to see them repeat that in the opening credits this episode.

The episode, overall, was ho-hum. In its own way, that was perfect. After all of the ratings-grab stunt episodes the show has pushed on us in 15 seasons, it was just right to bring it back down to Earth. For the most part, there weren’t many things tied up nor any big story arcs to focus on. In fact, the episode was much more about a day in the ER than anything else.

We get a terrific throwback in the beginning with Scott Grimes’ Archie Morris being woken from the On-Call room to address some patients. I thought, for the briefest moment, that I was looking at Anthony Edwards as he was lying back on the bed. Let me say that I’m surprised with what they’ve done with Grimes’ character. I can remember seeing him when they first brought him on the show and he was positively obnoxious. That they’ve crafted him into the steady rock was impressive and indicative of how they allow characters to grow on the show.

Speaking of growing, what in the name of all that’s sweet, good and wholesome, was that thing growing on Jerry’s face? Abraham Benrubi had to have been doing it just because he could. Wow.

John Stamos’ Gates is given a good storyline, a standard but affecting storyline, and a loose resolution to the romance plot with Linda Cardellini’s Sam. Seeing Gates get fired up and calling the cops on the parents who allowed teens to drink at their house was classic ER. His case with Ernest Borgnine and wife – who I caught in an episode a few weeks ago as well – was the standard fare but also touching. It segued nice into the Gates-Sam plotline. And was that the same kid who played her son Alex years ago? If it was, crazy.

Angela Bassett didn’t have much to do in this episode after they resolved her baby storyline last week. And everyone else was kind of left fluttering about as well. Guest stars Alexis Bleidel and Sam Jones III were given nice featured “C” storylines that helped to cultivate that original feeling of being a teaching hospital that we got from the beginning of the series. The less said about the Marilu Henner plot point the better.

It wouldn’t be ER without giving us something cringe-inducing. That falls to the mother of the twins and her inverted uterus. Somebody was having a helluva time on the blood pump for that. It looked like someone was dumping large mopping buckets full black cherry cranberry juice. Ugh. But memorable.

The part the majority of us were tuning in for was Noah Wyle’s storyline. As with any good story, Carter is brought full-circle. The opening of the Joshua Carter Center – named after his son who passed – was appropriately touching and it was nice to see Lewis and Weaver walk through the place in preview. (Sherry Stringfield looked terrific, by the way.) That brought tears, as did Thandie Newton’s Kem showing up to the opening that night. I was torn about her storyline years ago. With the death of their son, she become quite unsympathetic and more of that was on display in this episode. It works and it doesn’t. I understand that she’s been torn apart by losing the baby but she seems to have nothing but darkness in her life. I wasn’t hoping for a happy ending between her and John but even just a bit brighter glimpse would’ve been nice.

The longer tears, though there really weren’t many, were for Rachel Greene. (Ah, yes. How it was always weird that NBC’s two top shows at the time both had Rachel Greene/Greens.) I was actually quite surprised by my reaction when I saw her in the visiting med students group. There weren’t any big moments with her that really screamed tearjerker but lots of little moments, thinking about how Mark Greene was here in the end. Frank’s reaction when Rachel told him who she was was a great moment.

I loved the get-together at the bar, even if it was brief. But it made sense for real people. Peter and Elizabeth’s little moment was nice as well. I was hoping, though, that Benton would stop back into the ER when he was walking that way.

And in the end… we’re left with Carter right back where he was, only, of course, wisened. It was the exact send off the show needed. Yes, it recalled some of the big stunt grabs by having a huge explosion at a power plant. Yet, there was this decided peace to having all of those ambulances pull up and everyone launching into action. Ending with the theme music was a great touch as well.

Am I crazy or is that the first time we’ve ever seen the hospital in that wide of an angle? I don’t think I can recall a moment ever where I saw the building like that. And honestly, it was so different than I thought it was. Or perhaps I’ve never put a whole lot of thought into it. That image, with the building, the ambulances, the El, was exactly the final image we needed of the show.

The medical cases – Bloodsplash Mountain aside – were pretty ho-hum, but it gave us a nice glimpse at an everyday working hospital and a nice goodbye to the longest running primetime medical drama in the history of television. I can’t say you’ll be missed, ER, just in that I think it was time for you to go. But you will be remembered well.

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