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ER: Season 15 - Old Times (Review)

George Clooney returns to ER

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 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 19th episode, entitled Old Times (as aired on Channel 4 on Saturday, August 29, 2009).

What’s the story? A former mentor and colleague visits Carter (Noah Wyle) in his time of need as he waits for a kidney transplant. Meanwhile, a woman is grief-stricken over the sudden death of her grandson. Sam (Linda Cardellini) and Neela (Parminder Nagra) are stuck at the airport with transplant organs in hand. Banfield (Angela Bassett) bonds with a baby abandoned at the ER.

Why so good? This is, arguably, the one every ER fan had been waiting for during the final season. And it didn’t disappoint.

Old Times marked the biggest reunion so far of former cast regulars – namely George Clooney, Julianna Margulies, Eriq La Salle and Noah Wyle. It also boasted guest appearances from screen veterans Susan Sarandon and Ernest Borgnine.

And as befitting a series of this quality, there were no grand gestures, no shameless sentimentality and a business as normal attitude to how it went about business.

The central storyline focused on Carter’s kidney transplant, a device that enabled the return of Dr Doug Ross, nurse Carol Hathaway and Dr Peter Benton.

Ross (Clooney) and Hathaway (Margulies) were responsible for making sure the grandmother of the donor patient granted permission for the organs to be used. Benton (La Salle), meanwhile, happened to be working at the very same hospital that Carter would undergo his life-saving operation.

The nostalgia trips this afforded were great, as was the opportunity to catch up with past favourite characters. Ironically, however, Ross and Hathaway never got to find out whose life they were saving with the kidney organ… an especially “real” aside that worked in its favour.

Rather, they took it in turns to persuade Susan Sarandon’s grief-stricken grandmother to give into the sad truth that her grandson’s life was over, and that she should adhere to his wish to donate organs.

A lovely moment between Clooney and Sarandon was beautifully played, but not overcooked in the way that other shows – such as Grey’s Anatomy – might have done so. Rather, the sequence was heartbreakingly real… sombre, thoughtful and suitably poignant.

Such a moment came in stark contrast to Ross’ inquisitive exchange with Neela and Sam, during which he attempted to learn which personnel remained at County General. Only Anspar came up as a shared colleague; although crucially, Carter’s name wasn’t mentioned. But it was a nice reminder of the names that have come and gone, even since the Clooney era.

Back in Chicago, meanwhile, Carter and his former mentor Benton bonded as the former awaited the arrival of his life-saving organ. The two, who had often enjoyed a prickly relationship, clearly continue to hold each other in high esteem and it was nice to be witness to such a belated reunion.

Benton, never one to show too much emotion, offered insights into his family life, as well as advice on whether Carter should call his wife. And he even scrubbed into surgery to ensure that his friend received the best care possible, even going so far as to avert a potentially life-threatening oversight by his fellow surgeons.

Refusing to forget the present, meanwhile, other parts of the episode focused on an abandoned baby that provided Angela Bassett’s Banfield with an emotionally challenging scenario, and an elderly couple who were soon to be confronted with a tough decision (a nice, albeit brief, cameo from Borgnine).

As ever, ER provided moments to both touch and warm the heart. It was an exemplary episode that was well worth the wait for Clooney’s final bow.

Hopefully, no long-term fan will have missed out…

Read our review of the previous episode

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