“Code Black” is the epitome of a broadcast network drama. It has a few big names that lead a fine ensemble cast who provide some over-arching storylines so that the procedural element doesn’t overwhelm — but it’s set in the typical hospital/police precinct/federal agency that do provide a revolving door of weekly cases to keep storylines easy to jump in on for the casual viewer.
Within these medical cases of the week, not all of them are going to be gripping or affecting TV, but with Wednesday’s (Nov. 9) “Hero Complex” episode, “Code Black” absolutely nailed two very emotional storylines.
The A-plot of the episode is about Joy (True O’Brien), a college student found on campus raped and unconscious, with both her attacker and her savior also admitted to the hospital after their altercation.
There’s a twist to the case that feels a little unnecessary, but Joy’s horror at being told what happened her and not remembering any of it, then having to go through the trauma of a rape examination was harrowing television. The exam scene was especially well done, filmed nearly without dialogue, punctuated by the visceral reactions of Joy and her female doctor and nurses.
One of the B-plots, while a wildly different story, is just as gut-wrenching, as a mother (Annabeth Gish) comes to grips with her 22-year-old daughter Whitney (Jonna Walsh) choosing to end her life rather than suffer through the end stages of a degenerative disease that will eventually kill her anyway.
When Geri (Gish) finally accepts her daughter’s choice and simply wants to hold her as the heart-stopping medication works its way into Whitney’s bloodstream, she is every parent whose greatest fear is losing their child.
The two storylines nicely mirrored the episode title, displaying heroes in the form of someone stopping an attack, a woman keeping her head up and moving forward after the trauma of rape, a daughter bravely looking death in the eyes and wanting to go out on her own terms and a mother putting her daughter’s wishes first.
They plots were so well done that it was actually a shame the show had to switch over to either of the other two threads, because they really took you out of the moment — especially Richard Lewis guest-starring as a comedian with a heart problem. An episode about rape and end-of-life choices could have done without the “I’m dyin’ up here!” jokes.
Still, strong effort by “Code Black,” which you already know if you’re a regular viewer. But if you’re not, it may be one to add to your DVR because it feels like a step up from your run-of-the-mill procedural.
“Code Black” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.