Tuned In

The Morning After: Chicago Hope

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As I’ve said, I wasn’t a regular fan of ER, and for that reason I probably didn’t set my bar of expectations for its finale that high. (Spoiler alert, obviously, if you haven’t watched.) But from my once-watcher’s perspective, it was a fitting, low-key finale, one that didn’t try to upend anyone’s image of the show or blow anyone’s mind, but simply showed life going on, one emergency at a time, even as some of its characters found a kind of closure. The finale was filled with callbacks to (as best as I can recollect it) the pilot, and even ended on a kind of hopeful, looking-f0rward note as Dr. Greene’s now-cleaned-up daughter Rachel reprised his role in the pilot, rushing off excitedly to help with a crush of patients coming in to the hospital. (A massive explosion with multiple casualties! Yay!)

In one sense, the thematic return to 1994 focused on ER’s role in TV history, reminding us how many of what were then stunning stylistic innovations—especially the frenetic, in medias res storytelling—are now second nature on TV. And it was appropriate, I thought, to end the series on what was, by and large, a typical episode (especially typical of the early seasons, which introduced the audience to the warlike welter of patient intake), with small victories and moving losses, treated both tearjerkingly and matter-of-factly, with lots of medical terminology batted around. (Last night introduced “uterine inversion” to my vocabulary, so thanks for that.)

Because I’m not an ER regular, I’ll leave it to the loyal fans to determine whether the various characters received suitable closure. But for the series itself, the just-business finale seemed, if not spectacular, just about right. Down to the final pullaway to the exterior of Chicago’s County General, ER left the hospital as it found it: a place where, in repeating patterns, life goes on, except when it doesn’t.