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ER: Season 13 - Dying Is Easy... (Review)

ER star Maura Tierney

Review by Jack Foley

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from our favourite television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at the season 13 episode of ER entitled Dying Is Easy….

What’s the story? Simon (Freddy Rodriguez), a stand-up comic, is admitted to the ER with a severe case of vomitting. As Abby (Maura Tierney) attempts to make him better for his once-in-a-lifetime shot at a top Chicago club, she soon comes to realise he has leukaemia with little chance of surviving…

Why so good? This 13th series of ER has enjoyed a surprise ratings increase in the States, thereby securing its position as one of the top-rated medical shows of the moment and confirming that there will be at least another series.

But the surprise shouldn’t be that great, particularly given the quality of the guests it has been able to attract over recent years. This season has already found Forest Whitaker, David Keith and Fred Ward jostling for position over recent episodes, and Dying Is Easy… boasted a poignant turn from former Six Feet Under star Freddy Rodriguez.

Digging a little deeper: As usual, there was plenty to grab viewers’ attention during this episode, including Pratt’s disciplinary hearing and Morris being left in charge of the emergency room but it was Freddy Rodriguez’s story arc that we’re going to concentrate on.

Rodriguez is an actor whose star is most definitely on the rise. Having stood out among the Six Feet Under ensemble cast, he has since made his mark in movies such as Bobby, Harsh Times and Lady In The Water. What’s more, he landed the role in Planet Terror, the Robert Rodriguez directed segment of Grindhouse.

But he clearly hasn’t forgotten his small screen roots and seemed to be enjoying his guest appearance on ER. As stand-up comic Simon he displayed the trademark charisma that helped him stand out in Six Feet Under as well as an added poignancy that stemmed from his terminal condition.

Simon attempted to put a brave face on things by cracking endless jokes for the benefit of the ER staff – but this was offset by his quiet desperation at knowing he’d relapsed for a third time and was therefore out of options in terms of treatment.

A defiant attempt to get himself discharged long enough to make his final comedy appearance at a top Chicago club also proved fruitless (despite the best efforts of Abby Lockhart), so that all that was left to him was the operating theatre and the hastily assembled ER staff.

Rodriguez’s final moments were as amusing as they were heart-breaking – but they possessed a genuinely life affirming quality. His defiance to wallow in self pity and to fight until the end to be funny were quietly inspiring – so much so, in fact, that the end of the episode found Abby rushing home to Luka (Goran Visnjic) to ask him to repeat his marriage proposal.

It was a moment that must have warmed the heart of any long-term ER fan, especially in light of the suffering the couple have had to endure over recent episodes. But it was a moment made possible by the affecting performance of Rodriguez, whose tragic tale paved the way for such a bittersweet conclusion.

Rodriguez is clearly an actor to keep an eye on as he makes a bigger name for himself in movies, while ER continues to put out episodes of genuine quality and emotional depth.

What do you think?