ER: Season 15 - Age of Innocence (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from our favourite television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we’ve decided to take a look at each episode of the 15th and final season of ER. On this occasion, it’s the eighth episode, entitled Age of Innocence.
What’s the story? Gates (John Stamos) goes out looking for a homeless war hero and upsets Sam (Linda Cardellini). Neela (Parminder Nagra)‘s med student gets the entire surgical department into a lawsuit. A couple comes into the ER after an attempt was made at burning down their home. Brenner (David Lyons) gets into a fight with a patient, and later confesses a secret to Morris (Scott Grimes).
Why so good? The eighth episode of this landmark season in ER‘s history continued to underline the quality that has been its hallmark. Age of Innocence was a powerful episode in many ways, but not least because of the central story involving David Lyons’ Dr Brenner.
The case began when a woman was rushed into the ER suffering from burns following a fire at her home. Her husband (played by Stephen Spinella) seemed caring, but an early exchange raised flags of concern. He was hiding something.
When the patient’s brother later turned up, it emerged that the husband, a teacher named Henry Lotery, had been accused of molesting one of his pupils. The accusation triggered a response from Brenner, who immediately became hostile towards Lotery.
Gates, meanwhile, listed as Lotery explained how he’d been found not guilty of the charges, but his life was in tatters anyway. Later on, however, Lotery came to the assistance of a young girl patient while she was receiving a procedure, and while her mother was absent making a phone call.
Upon seeing Lotery with the girl, Brenner snapped and phsyically intervened, even allowing Mrs Lotery’s brother to beat the living daylights out of Henry as the young girl looked on and horrified ER staff attempted to intervene.
With Henry Lotery subsequently requiring urgent medical attention for a possible blown eye, Brenner attempted to calm down. But was his response an over-reaction triggered by a past secret?
It’s typical of ER‘s brilliant writing that the answers were never clear throughout the events that followed… until – that is – Brenner had his moment of confession with Morris and maintained that Lotery was guilty, in spite of his perceived innocence.
In a sting-in-the-tale ending, Brenner confessed about his own experiences at the hands of a predator, while aged 10, as scenes of Lotery befriending the young girl and acquiring her blog address were intercut with his tearful breakdown.
Just as Brenner explained the process of being befriended by such an offender, so Lotery proceeded to tick all the boxes as he appeared warm towards the young girl. It sent a shiver down the spine.
The final scene found Brenner, oblivious to Lotery’s most recent advances, locked in a stare with him as Henry sat – apparently hurt – in the hospital room.
Cases involving child abuse are never as clear-cut as they seem, and Age of Innocence showed just how difficult it is to realise a potential predator. Henry Lotery, superbly well played by Spinella), projected innocence. He had even been cleared.
Brenner’s emotions, on the other hand, appeared impulsive and rash, especially in light of his hot-headed impulses. We, as viewers, were all duped… and the lasting legacy of the episode was that Lotery had been allowed to “get away”, and had even struck up a new “secret” friendship with a potential new victim. We looked at his treatment differently. We felt sick. What of the wife who had stood by him, believing his innocence, and almost paid with her own life as a result?
Maximum credit goes to everyone involved in the episode. Brenner, in particular, succeeded in endearing us to his normally arrogant character even more, while Morris was once again on hand to lend a sympathetic ear and some advice.
Guest star Spinella, meanwhile, did a superb job of manipulating our sympathies. His performance was in no way telegraphed, which made the ending all the more powerful.
And finally, hats off to the writing team of ER, who once again took a hot-button topic and turned it into an emotionally involving and deeply thought-provoking episode.
What did you think?
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