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Monroe: Season 2 - First episode review

Monroe

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

JAMES Nesbitt made a welcome return as genius surgeon Monroe on Monday night (October 1, 2012) in an episode that mixed the miraculous with the painfully down to earth.

Piccking up 18 months after the events of the first series, the episode began with ‘a miracle’ as the ever-cocky Monroe successfully operated on a man with Parkinson’s, before climaxing with an even bigger achievement involving an ‘inoperable’ brian tumour.

Both triumphs succeeded in massaging Monroe’s ego even more yet Nesbitt capably invests his surgeon with enough charm, charisma and heart to offset some of his more arrogant and self-consciously chauvenistic tendencies.

He’s often been compared to Hugh Laurie’s House but while certainly relevant Nesbitt is also a very different beast – someone who retains a faith in humanity and the capacity for relationships, as attempts to ‘bond’ with his ex-wife’s new man showed.

Not that everything in this first episode was completely plain sailing. The arrival of a new head of surgery, in the form of Neil Pearson’s new cast member, looks set to provide him with an intelligent adversary – a pragmatist who puts common sense before luck.

A late exchange on this very subject provided one of the episode’s highlights (both actors on sparkling form), while quite possibly laying the groundwork for future conflict and a possible fall from grace for Monroe.

Pearson’s boss did, however, have the ‘last laugh’ of sorts, delivering news that Monroe would have to lose one of his two registrars… a decision that understandably sent Monroe into a rage.

But it also provided a pertinent reminder of the current predicament of the NHS, where staff reductions now seem to be the order of the day. For all of the medical wonder of this first episode, there was also some social bite.

Elsewhere, Sarah Parish’s career-driven doctor, Jenny Bremner, continues to struggle with her humanity, particularly now that she’s also having to juggle a new baby with a proper relationship with Tom Riley’s Lawrence Shepherd. Previously reluctant to show much warmth and emotion, she’s now also having to contend with being pushed to the sidelines professionally.

It’s effect on Riley’s nice guy Shepherd is also beginning to tell, the mixed emotions of which were nicely conveyed by the actor in question.

Indeed, another of Monroe’s undoubted strengths is the sheer likeability of its ensemble cast. We’re rooting for all of them now in some way, while even Pierson’s newcomer looks set to become a fascinating addition.

With previous medical favourites House and ER no longer with us, Monroe expertly fills in the void left by those shows, thereby proving that Britain can also mix it with the Americans when it comes to this kind of drama.