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ER: Season 13: Ames v Kovac (Review)

Forest Whitaker in ER

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from our favourite television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at Forest Whitaker’s first appearance in ER.

What’s the story? Curtis Ames (Forest Whitaker), a carpenter, suffers a stroke under Luka’s care and then sues him for malpractice. The two subsequently square off in court as each man’s recollections of Ames’s treatment are recounted via testimony and flashbacks. Meanwhile, Luka worries about the implications of the suit and the possible outcomes. Abby returns to work and must adjust to the dramatic changes in her life.

Why so good? Anyone who accuses ER of running out of steam should tune in and watch given that its handling of difficult issues remains second to none. The presence of this year’s Oscar nominee (and probable winner) Forest Whitaker is also evidence of its ability to attract stars of the highest calibre.

Digging a little deeper: The episode cleverly embroils viewers into an intense medical dilemma that ruthlessly exposes the current state of hospital care in the US. Viewers will, of course, root for Luka (Goran Visnjic) but there are plenty of worthwhile issues raised, such as lack of funds, lack of beds, short-staffing and the strain that medical staff are constantly (and unfairly) placed under.

Whitaker’s Ames is clearly a difficult character who, it emerges, refused a drug that could have reversed the side effects of his stroke. But his treatment was terrible, though not necessarily the fault of one particular man. Having to remain in the ER for three days – during which he was unable to get any sleep, missed breakfast and had to wait to use the toilet – would have placed a strain on anyone and, crucially, may even strike a chord with anyone who has had a similarly bad hospital experience in either the US or the UK.

But is it right to put one man on the stand? Is Luka really to blame? He attempted to provide the best care he could under the circumstances but was faced with a barrage of other cases (some more life-threatening) and was under considerable duress. Did the fact that he was overworked contribute to him missing the first signs of an impending stroke? And, indeed, could Ames condition have been prevented?

Thanks to some brilliant writing and acting, the episode cleverly asked difficult questions that it didn’t profess to answer. Rather, it highlighted an ongoing problem that faces medical practitioners on both side of the Atlantic and offered an hour’s worth of truly compelling viewing.

Whitaker, of course, will land most of the plaudits and was excellent at conveying the fear, anger and regret of a man whose good faith in others ultimately left him disabled; but Visnjic was just as brilliant at portraying Luka’s frustration, helplessness and regret at not being able to help.

Given that Ames v Kovac was only the first in a six-episode arc, expect there to be plenty of fireworks before the issue is fully resolved. The closing moments, featuring the initial musings of the jury, suggest that there’s some difficult choices to come. We would urge you to tune in and form your own opinion.

Tell us your view..

  1. Forest Whitaker is on a rich vein of form at the moment. Witness his masterly turns in ER, The Shield and The Last King of Scotland. The Oscar is no more than he deserves

    James    Feb 7    #
  2. Hospital care on both sides of the Atlantic leaves a lot to be desired. Lengthy waits, people sleeping in corridors, overworked, poorly paid staff are all part of the norm for care and care giving. What ER did so brilliantly was expose this and open up a debate without becoming judgemental. Both sides of the argument were well presented and it was left to viewers to pick a side. I can’t wait to see how this develops…

    Jade    Feb 7    #