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ER: Season 14 - Blackout (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 14 episode of ER entitled Blackout.

What’s the story? With Luka (Goran Visnjic) still away in Croatia, Abbie (Maura Tierney) continues to struggle with balancing the demands of motherhood and the pressures of ER life. Having turned to the bottle, she finds herself at an important crossroads while sat at Chicago’s international airport awaiting a flight to Croatia. The episode then flashes back 15 hours and follows her path to despair.

Why so good? Blackout is a classic example of why – in its 14th season – ER continues to enjoy an embarrassment of riches. The episode was deeply involving, occasionally funny and nailbitingly tense in places – whilst throwing in the odd surprise. What’s more, with a cast still at the top of its game, there were exceptional turns from Tierney, Stanley Tucci (as Dr Kevin Moretti) and Scott Grimes (as Dr Archie Morris).

Digging a little deeper: First and foremost, this episode belonged to the continually impressive Maura Tierney. Abbie Lockhart may not be the most likeable of characters at the best of times (in fact, she’s downright pig-headed) but she’s a complex, fascinating and deeply flawed person to be around.

Blackout put her through the emotional wringer in more ways than one. Her ongoing battle with the booze has already led to some very bad decisions this series but on this occasion it contributed to one of her worst – and not within the confines of the hospital.

Having endured another typically bad day (thanks to a power outage caused by an unusually hot day and her disagreement with Pratt over the diagnostic tests for a fussy baby), Abbie left early to seek comfort in a new bottle.

She then succumbed to temptation completely by turning up drunk at a party being held to celebrate Pratt’s medical exam results and proceeded to make a fool of herself in front of everyone – including the current ER chief, Kevin Moretti (Tucci).

Their long-running antagonism had already blown over outside of the ER, when Moretti confronted her about ignoring his orders, and continued inside the bar as she accused him of flirting with her.

The last thing anyone expected, however, was to find the two of them in bed come the latter stages of the episode. But, having drunk herself into another stupour, Abbie awoke at Moretti’s dazed and confused, before fleeing and making a bee-line for the airport with her baby in tow.

The final moments of the episode unfolded as Abbie sat at the airport having been refused access to a flight, wracked with feelings of self loathing and guilt. Flashbacks to her encounter with Moretti merely confirmed that she was a willing participant in their illicit encounter.

Where Abbie goes from here is anyone’s guess but Tierney infuses the character with such credibility that it’s difficult for viewers not to sympathise with her in some way, whilst simultaneously gasping with disgust. She’s an extremely convincing drunk – but equally compelling as a woman overwhelmed by personal demons.

Viewers will probably be shaking their heads with disapproval one minute, and then wanting to give her a hug the next.

Strong, too, is Tucci’s Moretti – a quietly charismatic individual who has quickly stamped his own difficult personality over the ER during this season. His own play for Abbie was shocking, given that the character had never shown any real hint of attraction to Lockhart in the first place. It should also be intriguing to see where his character goes from here – but Tucci is a welcome addition to this long-running series.

And final word must go to the ever-popular Scott Grimes as Archie Morris, who once again achieved the difficult art of playing the fool and then breaking our hearts with almost effortless ease.

His encounter with a truck door at the beginning of the episode was classic knockabout comedy, while his quiet despair at failing his own medical exam was expertly realised without every being showy. Grimes is one of the unsung heroes of this latest ER cast and another of the ensemble characters who continue to make this excellent medical drama such essential viewing.

What do you think?