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ER: Season 14: The Chicago Way (Season finale review)

Mekhi Phifer in ER

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 finale of ER entitled The Chicago Way.

What’s the story? When a drunk patient (Steve Buscemi) is admitted to the ER, his actions place everyone at County in danger. Pratt (Mekhi Phifer) continues to pursue his dreams of becoming Chief of the ER, while Gates (John Stamos) is worried about his future with Sam (Linda Cardellini). Luka (Goran Visnjic) unexpectedly runs into Dr Moretti (Stanley Tucci).

Why so good? ER has always been a great one for ending things on a cliffhanger and The Chicago Way was no exception. In what proved to be a typically emotional 60 minutes in the lives of the County docs, the fate of several once again hung in the balance.

Prior to that finale, however, we were treated to the surprise return of Stanley Tucci’s Dr Moretti (such a welcome addition to the early episodes of this series), some typically poignant moments between Luka and the wise elderly patient (played by Hal Holbrook) he has come to look after, plenty of tension surrounding Steve Buscemi’s mystery patient and another typically assured turn from Scott Grimes’ unsung hero, Archie Morris.

Digging a little deeper (spoilers included): As the credits rolled to mark the end of the 14th series of ER fans were left to mull over two big things: another shock ending that really left them guessing as well as the knowledge that the next season – its 15th – will be the final run in the show’s impressive history.

I’m all for quitting while you’re on top but still can’t help but feel that ER still has plenty to offer yet. It’s arguably still the best of all the American medical shows (House and Grey’s Anatomy included) and continues to deliver stories that take viewers through a range of emotions.

Season 14 had everything from Abby Lockhart’s continuing battle against alcoholism and estrangement from husband Luka to Pratt’s emergence as a potential new ER chief. It also tackled issues such as the war in Iraq and capital punishment.

The final episode, The Chicago Way – the name itself is a clever nod to Sean Connery’s speach in The Untouchables – was another rollercoaster ride of excitement and emotion.

The excitement was provided by Steve Buscemi’s drunk patient – a Mob lawyer turned informant whose “bender” had placed his security in the Witness Protection Programme in jeopardy.

Pratt stepped forward to administer to him and quickly found himself to be as paranoid and safety conscious about the possible threats lurking within the hospital as his charge – especially in light of an early attempt on Buscemi’s life.

Torn between his duty as a doctor (which was compounded by his patient’s heart attack) and the pressing need to get the hospital out of harm’s way, Pratt found himself facing some difficult decisions, which led to some great interplay between Phifer and Buscemi about the consequences of always doing what’s right.

Finally, once Buscemi had been discharged in an ambulance, it seemed like we might be able to rest easy. But then the ambulance blew up moments after leaving the hospital with either Pratt or Sam (Linda Cardellini) inside – and just seconds after Abby (Tierney) had crossed the road behind it. It was an explosive and jaw-dropping finale to another memorable series that provided no clues whatsoever about the fates of certain characters.

To make the big bang all the more shocking, however, it came at key moments in each of the characters’ lives. Pratt, for instance, had finally begun to feel good about himself, having all but secured the top spot in the ER and bought an engagement ring for his girlfriend, Bettina, while Sam looked to be heading for hapiness with Gates.

Abby, meanwhile, had finally patched things up with Luka – and it would be a particularly cruel blow if she was harmed in any way.

Which brings me to the ongoing Luka/Abby drama. Both characters have been put through the emotional wringer this season and their various traumas had created an unlikely rift.

For Luka, coming to terms with his wife’s indiscretion with Moretti had been virtually impossible to achieve until some wise words from Hal Holbrook’s cancer patient – as well as a surprise visit from Moretti himself – prompted him to realise just how much their relationship meant. His reunion with Abby was, therefore, a geuinely heartwarming moment. Like I said, it would be the cruellest blow if such happiness was short-lived…

And finally, let’s not forget the contribution of one of my favourite characters: Archie Morris. Normally the joker in the pack, Morris has had his own traumas to deal with in recent episodes and, once again, found himself at the centre of an emotional case.

Asked to help an Asian mother with breathing difficulties and her attractive daughter, the jovial doc noticed some instant chemistry between himself and the daughter, only to be confronted with the revelation that she was, in fact, an escort. Moments later, however, he found himself having to administer the last rites to her mother and imploring her to say goodbye once the ER staff stopped the resuscitation attempts.

It was, as ever, sensitively done by Scott Grimes, who expertly balanced the humour of his early exchanges with the heartfelt humanity needed late on. His performances continue to illuminate this top-notch show.

Roll on Season 15, then, when we can get some answers concerning the fate of our favourite characters, while coming to terms with the ER‘s last hurrah. One things for certain, it’s going to be emotional…

What did you think?