What a fitting and excellent finale Medicine Man proved to be. Written by Steve Maeda (the ‘quiet man’ of the Lieber/Maeda partnership), it gave all our actors something to chew on, and the audience lots to enjoy.
Two separate trauma incidents provided our patients, both rather less spectacular than in recent weeks (topping last week’s giant sinkhole was always going to be difficult). The first, a road accident, brings in Ben (John Bain) and his teacher Lori (Elizabeth Ho). Terrifyingly, Ben’s skull has become detached from his spine (Proctor describes him as being ‘internally decapitated’. Countrywide, Americans swooned at how he pronounces it) and in the course of examining him, a pre-existing and non-life-threatening spinal cyst is discovered. Ben’s mother Dana (Betsy Brandt) has no health insurance and so the cyst has not been treated, but it will impact on Ben’s quality of life. Here’s what Jeffrey Lieber had to say about this aspect of the story when I spoke with him the other day:
The medical story of Medicine Man was inspired by an article we came across that said that people without health insurance were vastly more likely to die in a trauma incident than people with health insurance. It didn’t intellectually make sense – because trauma is about saving lives and damn the health insurance – until we realized that people without health care COME INTO a trauma event less healthy and therefore are in worse shape to start with.
Eva Zambrano feels that, while Ben is under the knife, it makes perfect sense (which of course it does, surely?) to fix both the trauma injury and the cyst. But it seems that is not the way things are done, and Eva is left with a dilemma. The solution she chooses ends up being to her patient’s benefit but to her own detriment, and she gets a dressing-down from renowned (and formidable) surgeon Dr Sanaval (April Grace). It was pleasing to see a tv show tackle the very topical issue of health insurance (and the issues it raises for the considerable numbers of US citizens not in a position to afford it) in a sensitive way, and Lana Parrilla’s Eva was able to show us a little more of what her character could have gone on to become had the show not been cancelled. Serena’s praise of Eva as they both ate cake (presumably only microscopic crumbs: those girls do NOT look like serious cake-eaters!) left us in no doubt that Eva did the ‘right thing’.
Presumably, gorgeous Bailey Chase as Dr C’s naughty brother Rick and his kidney cancer storyline would have trickled on into series two. Those two are a great partnership. Seeing Rick press all of Chris’s buttons gave Mike Vogel an opportunity which he grabbed with both hands. As far as it went, it resolved nicely with Rick reverting to type, but we’ll never know if he recovers or not.
I commented last week on how great it would be to see Jeremy Northam do some more comedy in the future and I got my wish sooner than I imagined! Jeremy’s Proctor was treating the victim of the second trauma incident. It really doesn’t matter what the incident was nor what his injuries were, all that matters is that Jesse (W. Earl Brown, Deadwood, in one of the best guest roles we’ve seen all series) refuses to be operated on unless Proctor and Tuck can produce a male Mallard duck and make a medicine hat from its feathers… And no, he’s not certifiable (Proctor tries that route) he just happens to hold a rather unusual set of beliefs about waterfowl! Proctor elects, finally, to go with the flow, and the interchanges between W. Earl Brown, Jeremy Northam, Omar Gooding and the duck they eventually source are an absolute delight, topped off by Proctor donning the medicine hat and announcing, with aplomb and obvious relish, ‘All hail the king of Quacksilvania!’ Jeremy really seemed to enjoy himself in this episode.
When Jesse comes round after the operation, and presses Proctor to divulge what he believes in, Proctor takes him to his favourite part of the hospital (the roof, of course) and shows him the sunset. As the camera pans back, Proctor releases the duck and it flies away with all our dreams of a second season. It’s all very fitting that this is where it ends, back up on the roof with the sun setting (remember 88 Seconds?). But I’m still not happy about it…
With thanks to Joan for the beautiful images of Proctor on the roof