Monday, January 19, 2009

Donnie Dark-ER

Last week's ER took the conventional chronological time sequence and really injected it with some freshly overused literary devices. Namely, a causality loop, also known as a predestination paradox, also known as Groundhog Day.

Dr. Neela Rasgotra relives an eventful day at Chicago's County General about 4 times, treating a young classical-music loving girl and a "dream runner" who acts out his dragon-slaying dreams by jumping out windows, as well as confronting the future of her career. For some reason Parminda Nagra is still bearable to watch, despite having one of the flattest ER characters in a half-decade of cardboard doctor/actors. Honestly, it's like she just joined the cast and I know nothing about her. Somehow she's become one of the 'regulars', and I inherently know she's very good at being a surgeon...mostly because she's Indian, and I've seen her do a butterfly kick.

Her Beckham fame has proven priceless to the lame duck writing staff of ER as she was the center of the entire episode. For the first half hour I actually enjoyed it. The usual tragedies occurred in the first 15 minutes, but then suddenly there was a chance to try over, for Neela to do things better. And she did, minimizing but not averting the tragedy. Still, I had hope. I thought "OK, it's actually kind of bold for them to do something you'd see more often in scifi. This omniscient/epileptic/analeptic feeling is familiar. Maybe things will work out well."

And then I heard the street musician playing "Mad World" and I knew she was screwed.

(Plus it made me flash to a crying Mary McDonnell burning a Bible and I got all confused.)

However each successive repeat of the day got more, well, successful. By the end she saves the girl, saves the dream-runner, sees the light about staying at county, and has really good sex with that beautiful Australian rugby doctor, whose casting was just a shameless piece of ratings-bait which I happily swallow.

And then, right when some of the hope returned as I knew the end was near, they played the Donnie Darko song and had her wake up one last time. Cut to credits. What was real? What sequence of events were accepted into the true world's timeline? Who gives a shit?

I choose to remember the final edited happy ending as the only ending. Props to the writers for giving it a try, but go a little further since you're leaving forever soon, and you have this built-in world to play with, so some originality would be appreciated.

Most bizarre and badly used guest appearance: Dr. Elizabeth Corday. She appeared for about 5 minutes total, as Duke Professor/Doctor who interviewed Neela for an attending position. She said she owed a lot to County General, and the was seen striding awkwardly off screen for good. After her River Song 2-parter on Doctor Who, I for some reason assumed she'd get an actual storyline in ER, the way they did with Dr. Greene. Shame on them for making her fly all that way for two lousy scenes.

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