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ER: Season 15 - And In The End... (Final Episode Review)

ER, the final episode

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

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 22nd and final episode, entitled And In The End.. (as aired on Channel 4 on Saturday, September 12, 2009).

What’s the story? ER ends its 15 year run with a two hour episode. Gates (John Stamos) works on a young teen suffering from alcohol poisoning after playing a drinking game. Old friends come show their support when a new medical facility for the underprivileged is opened by Carter (Noah Wyle). Sam (Linda Cardellini) receives a special gift for her birthday. Carter and a new intern try to save a mother in labour with twins.

Did it live up to expectation? You bet! It was almost a shame to watch this final episode knowing that this would be the final time we got to see one of the best programmes in US TV history.

ER‘s great quality has always been its ability to engage on an emotional level. Sure, it was always prone to the odd moments of sentiment (particularly during the Christmas episodes), but it mostly stayed resolutely real.

For every triumph, there was a tragedy. For every success, a failure. For every heroic gesture, a moment of failing. It was the humanity we came to admire over the years, no matter how many cast members came and went.

And so it was that final episode And In The End… lived up to expectation and went out on a high, just as it arrived.

Crucially, there were no extravagant gestures, no big high (or low), and some nice nods to the past. There were reunions, but they were subtle and realistic rather than anything too “Hollywood”. And when the curtain finally came down on this longest running of dramas, fans were treated to the first ever full shot of County General Hospital as the camera panned away just as the first recipients from a major catastrophe started to arrive and life continued…

Perhaps even more crucially, this final episode warmed the heart as much as it left you shedding tears. There were so many fine moments… so here’s just a few.

The opening shot, though simple, mirrored almost exactly the first ever-shot – Archie Morris (Scott Grimes) being awoken by a nurse while trying to get some sleep during the overnight shift (Anthony Edwards’ Mark Greene had been introduced to us in exactly the same way).

A pregnant woman being rushed in resembled yet another device from the pilot, albeit with much darker consequences. It presented Carter with a heartbreaking challenge that ended in both triumph and tragedy.

Veteran actor Ernest Borgnine’s Paul Manning returned to the ER with his elderly wife (an MS sufferer experiencing her final days), and was forced to say a tearful goodbye. His depiction was honest and painfully authentic… and another of the episode’s tear-jerking moments.

Gates treated a girl with alcohol poisoning who had slipped into a coma following a party game, prompting much soul-searching and a desire to reach out to his own daughter on the dangers of too much alcohol consumption. As ever, socially relevant yet not hammered home.

Sam, meanwhile, came to the realisation that Gates was the man for her… someone who loved her no matter what. The acknowledgement of this came via a touching, subtle moment between them, as she thanked him for his continued support and relationship with her son, and took him by the hand as they watched Manning’s final moments with his wife.

And then there were the veterans… the old-school ER stars who came back for fleeting cameos, or something longer.

Carter finally opened a new medical facility for the underprivileged and was reunited on opening night with Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes), Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield), Peter Benton (Eriq La Salle) and Elizabeth Corday (Alex Kingston) – and in another surprise, his wife Kem (Thandie Newton).

The scenes between all old-handers resonated with fond memories and touching asides. Carter paid tribute to the memory of his late son, Joshua, when declaring the new facility open (yet another teary moment), and then took some time with Kem to reflect on what went wrong in their relationship. Nothing was resolved between them, except maybe the hope they could spend the next day together revisiting old haunts before Kem departed again.

Benton and Corday, meanwhile, shared a brief moment of laughter and reflection in the street outside a bar, while Benton and Carter’s respect for each other and their achievements also shone through. It marked a nice resolution to one of the most intriguing relationships of the series as a whole.

Nice, too, was the decision to bring back Rachel Greene (Hallee Hirsh) to the ER. Visiting as a prospective medical student, she then joined Carter and Corday for the final night, providing fond memories of another of the ER’s most enduring characters.

Needless to say, the final two hours flew by and it was genuinely sad to have to wave goodbye at the end.

Many medical series have come and gone, and the new batch remain as popular as ever, but few can lay claim to enjoying the enduring quality of this landmark show.

ER finished as emphatically as it began… and while we’re sorry to see it go, the many, many memories it has provided over the 15 years it’s been on our screens will continue to burn brightly…

Read our verdict on the complete Season 15

What did you think?

  1. Have to agree, a high quality finish to a high quality show. It will be missed. Noah Wyle’s performance was particularly impressive and summed up why we’ve been following these characters for so long

    Simon    Sep 23    #