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ER: Season 15: Life After Death (Season opener review)

Mekhi Phifer in ER

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, beginning with the emotional season opener Life After Death.

What’s the story? In the aftermath of the ambulance explosion, Morris and Neela do everything they can to save a wounded colleague, while Abby (Maura Tierney) – also injured in the blast – treats a young girl who was also injured.

Why so good? (SPOILER WARNING). ER has a grand history of tear-jerking moments, from the death of Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) to the stabbing of John Carter (Noah Wyle), right down to the departure of Doug Ross (George Clooney) – and this 15th season opener had us reaching for the hankies again.

The death of Dr Pratt (Mekhi Phifer) was an incredibly poignant experience, not least because it was so unexpected. At the start of the episode, Pratt had looked relatively untroubled by the effects of the blast, despite being in the front of the ambulance when the bomb went off.

He was able to give orders and take part in his own diagnosis – with only shortness of breath, the occasional vomit of blood and a bone sticking out of his leg for discomfort. But once back at the ER, his problems worsened and before long he had slipped into a coma from which there was no return – a side effect of the blast that only cruelly manifested itself later.

Needless to say, there was a massive outpouring of grief from devastated colleagues, as well as the odd revelation. Some may argue the sentiment was poured on a little too heavily, but for a long-standing character of Pratt’s nature, it seemed a fitting way to bow out and, for this reviewer in particular, the emotion didn’t seem contrived or manipulated, but genuinely deserved.

Primary among the strong performances that ensued was Scott Grimes’ continually under-rated Archie Morris, a close friend of Pratt’s, who seemed determined to carry most of the burden of responsibility. Early in the episode, he appeared to get cold feet when being told by Pratt not to “screw this up”, but then momentarily shone as he resorted to desperate measures to get his friend a life-saving airwave. The joy, however, was short-lived.

It was then Morris who was faced with the task of telling Pratt’s girlfriend, Bettina (Gina Ravera) that he had been intending to propose to her… presenting her with the ring he had found in his friend’s pocket. It was a poignant moment, extremely well played. Likewise, Morris’ solo moment in a darkened room, as he awaited the inevitable moment when Pratt’s death would be pronounced. Beautifully understated, it underlined Grimes’ often overlooked dramatic talent as an actor.

The remainder of the cast was excellent, too – most principally, Pratt’s brother, Chaz (Sam Jones III), who expertly combined anger with grief. His relationship with his sibling has often been volatile, but you could feel a palpable sense of loss and regret as Jones wrestled with his emotions.

And it’s testament to the overall quality of the writing that even peripheral characters, such as grouchy desk clerk Frank (Troy Evans) got a moment to shine, as he paid silent tribute to the memory of his colleague in his own inimitable way.

ER may lack the viewer numbers that it once enjoyed in its prime, but it has not lost any of its power to engage. Where the likes of Grey’s Anatomy consistently fail to deliver a set of characters worth caring about, ER‘s troupe of medical practitioners have consistently found their way into our hearts. When one of them leaves, or is killed, we feel the loss.

One can only begin to imagine how we’ll feel when the show exits our lives forever…

ER: Season 15 is currently airing on More4 on Thursday nights, from 10pm

What did you think?

  1. Pratt was a character I’d grown to love. I couldn’t believe they killed him off. Great story, great way to go… he’ll nevertheless be missed as the series sees out its final days.

    Jake    Jan 13    #
  2. I was in floods of tears at this episode. Definitely among the great TV tear-jerkers.

    Sarah    Jan 15    #