Friday, April 03, 2009

ER, "And in the End...": The booze you take is equal to the bones you break

Spoilers for the "ER" series finale coming up just as soon as I rent a Hummer...
"God, it's amazing how little has changed around here." -Rachel Greene
What she said.

"And in the End..." was written by John Wells, who ran the show in its formative years after Michael Crichton provided the initial pilot script, and directed by Rod Holcomb, who directed that pilot, and it worked as hard as it could bring as many elements from that pilot full circle as they could, while showing that the circle of life (and death) at County General goes on. It wasn't an all-time great finale, but it did what it set out to do, had some nice moments both with the current cast and all the returning veterans, and it felt like there could be an episode on in a month's time if NBC were to order more, and the beat would go on and on.

Now, despite my two recent trips down "ER" memory lane, it's been a while since I actually watched the pilot, so I may be missing a few things, and/or misremembering when earlier events took place, but here are some of the callbacks (to both pilot and other episodes) I caught:

• Lydia (who hasn't appeared on the show in years), wakes Archie up as he tries to nap in an exam room, just as she did for Mark Greene in the opening scene of the pilot. (I suspect, but can't remember for sure, that the dialogue they share about night shifts is pretty close to whatever Mark and Lydia talked about 15 years ago.)

• Susan makes reference to Grandma Carter, that formidable old bird.

• Julia, the new med student (or was she an intern? she seemed to have more responsibility than Carter did back in the day), got to deliver a cancer diagnosis to a patient, just like Susan did to Miguel Ferrer back in the pilot, though Julia's patient (who had survived 20 years with HIV/AIDS), took the news far better.

• Carter delivers a baby (which he did many times whenever he was having an emotional crisis; can't remember if that happened in the pilot), and the fact that the mother winds up dying could be read as a tip of the cap to "Love's Labor Lost," the series' high point.

• Julia had to ride up with the mom to surgery because her arm was still controlling the bleed, as Benton often did in the early traumas.

• The story with Ernest Borgnine saying goodbye to his love of 72 years was a callback to a story from either the pilot or the first regular episode where Mark and Doug helped an elderly man come to grips with his own wife's impending demise.

• Brenner gives Julia a pep talk that's similar in spirit, if not in content, to what Mark tells Carter when Carter goes out to the ambulance bay to puke late in the pilot.

• We see that Carter has worked on his jump shot, as Mark told him to do in their very last conversation together.

• Kerry Weaver chats with Kem about Africa, a callback to a long-forgotten bit of Kerry backstory.

• We see not only a grown-up Rachel (back to her in a minute) applying for a spot at County's affiliated med school, but a teenage Reese Benton, doing just fine in life without the Cochlear implant Peter decided against giving him. (As a longtime Benton fan, I found Peter signing the explanation to a joke about Carter to be maybe the most heartwarming moment in the whole episode.)

There were probably others, but the point is, Wells was bound and determined to pay homage to the series' long history, and for the most part he did it well.

I'm not sure, though, how I feel about the use of Rachel in this circumstance. When I first stumbled across the spoiler about her role in the finale last week, I was really irked. The Rachel we last saw on a regular basis was a trainwreck who hated her dad and sure as hell wouldn't have wanted to follow his career path, let alone work in the same hospital where he was so miserable. And even the last time she appeared, near the end of season 10, she was still written in fairly reckless mode, taking advantage of Elizabeth to get a scrip for the morning-after pill.

But I surprisingly didn't hate her scenes in the finale. For one thing, it felt like the best way to somehow incorporate Mark into the last episode, though the flashback episode earlier this year with him and Banfield did a fine job of reminding everyone what a good doctor Mark was. And her presence elicited a number of great reactions from the staff as they recognized her, most memorably Frank. (In about a half-second, Troy Evans took me back to Frank learning of Mark's death in "The Letter.") I just wish there'd been some kind of comment, even a throwaway from Elizabeth, about how far Rachel had come since we'd last seen her, or even Carter or someone else talking about the burden of following in her dad's footsteps at a place where he was so revered. There just seemed to be pieces missing that would have made the gimmick work better.

I also am ambivalent about Julia. I see what Wells was trying to do with her: by focusing on a character we haven't met before, it's theoretically easier to drive home the Life Goes On theme than it is with one of the regulars, or even with a relatively new character like Tracy or Ryan. The problem is that they Nikki & Paolo'ed her, acting like she'd been there a while, and this was just the first time we were seeing her. Obviously, there are lots of hospital staff we never catch a glimpse of, but it just felt awkward. Still, Alexis Bledel was better than I was expecting; she was often the weak link on "Gilmore Girls," but I thought she handled most of the emotional beats well, particularly Julia finding out that the mom had died.

(That trauma, by the way, was a reminder that, even in its creaky old age, "ER" could still bust out the memorable, horrific action sequences when needed. I may not get to sleep right away tonight thinking about all that blood and placenta and more gushing around Julia's feet.)

If they couldn't contrive an excuse to get any of the vets beyond Carter to handle a trauma, I thought "And in the End..." did a solid job of balancing old with new. And if it's not a classic finale, it was still better than I think many of us had a right to expect in some of the series' rough later years. I just would've liked a little more Archie and a little less Sam-and-Tony, but Morris got his happy ending last week, which meant they had to get theirs tonight.

What I may have liked most of all was just watching different characters, some major, some minor, take their final leave of the show without fanfare. For all the issues I had with "ER" as it entered middle age, I've been watching it for what feels like half my life (and isn't that far off), and I'm going to miss it now that I don't have the falling helicopter to kick around anymore.

What did everybody else think?

74 comments:

Zack Smith said...

Dr. Rory looked more like a model than a doctor. But she was a decent Carter-surrogate. I think she needs some sun, though.

Man, I liked seeing Benton and Corday together again. I will always be mad at Eriq LaSalle for pulling the plug on that romance.

Ernest Borgnine was great. He's been doing guest spots on TV shows since my parents were kids, but man, he knows how to bring it.

The AIDS/Cancer victim was also quite touching.

That was quite possibly the most gross birth scene I have ever seen on TV, and possibly the movies. It made me want to get a vasectomy.

Morris is 37? How old is Scott Grimes (trip to Wikipedia: born in 1971). Huh. He does not look that.

Shallow note: Sherry Stringfield looks very nice.

Like you, I liked Halle Hirsh a lot better than before. I won't say she's a great actress, but I did not want to murder her.

Overall, a nice but low-key fadeout. I didn't get the thrill of the early years, but it was like saying goodbye to an old friend. Frankly, I prefer this to the rushed revelations of many recent shows. It was a classy end -- perhaps years later than it should have been, but still a decent reminder of why we cared in the first place.

krysumn said...

"Carter delivers a baby (which he did many times whenever he was having an emotional crisis; can't remember if that happened in the pilot), and the fact that the mother winds up dying could be read as a tip of the cap to "Love's Labor Lost," the series' high point."

In the pilot, Greene shouted at Carter to put his hand "down there" and stop a baby from coming out before they reached the trauma room.

I believe they even replicated the shots in the first few minutes, right down to the extreme close-up of the feet (which were now wearing Crocs, a nice realistic update)

It was a satisfying episode, especially the opening credits, both off the top and the REAL theme song :)

These past few episodes reinvigorated my love for the show, so much so, I made the theme song my ringtone and am going to rewatch the early seasons again. Starting now.

Michael said...

I think it went out nicely. As I predicted - and it wasn't difficult at all - the camera pulled back for the very last shot as life goes on. I was surprised to see the exterior shot of County General finally show up.

Nice to see that to the very end, not every patient's story has a happy ending (the drunk coma girl, the twins' mom) or even closure (didn't the heart transplant woman from last week come back rejecting the heart?).

I also liked the scene where the nurses get some respect. They (Chuny, Haleh, etc.) are the only ones who have been around since the beginning and hold the institutional memory of the place.

I didn't catch some of the pilot episode tributes that you did, but I think it paid tribute enough to the staff of County over the years. I had a good nostalgic smile when Carter, Benton, Corday, Lewis, and Weaver had their reunion, and I was OK with Rachel. And was it my imagination or did they subtly remind us during their scene together that Corday and Benton used to date?

But after 15 years on the air, I can't believe they didn't reveal how Kara got a brand-new Viper.

Pamela Jaye said...

Rachel - what can I say?

I truly was suprised, as I did not see any spoilers. I was just trying to figure out who would be the right age and she was the only one I could think of.

I think they did rehabilitate her *a bit,* though I'd have to watch it again in order to figure out why I thought that. Maybe it's just that she seemed nicer, not manipulative, and more amenable to the whole idea of working in the midst of wackos and being bled and vomited on.

I should note that I hated New Rachel so much that my hatred carried over into her appearance on Grey's Anatomy (and if I saw her elsewhere, there too) so this ot hating her was a surprise.

I was also happy to see Lydia. Especially as her opening scene echoed the pilot.
Also Reese and Susan. I really didn't expect to see Susan. I was sad to not see Cleo, or, come to think of it now, Jeannie. Especially since everyone came from the four corners for no appreciable reason (were Kerry and Susan there for the opening? Jeannie would not have had to fly in.)

I was sad about Carter and Kem - it didn't seem too promising - but that was the only sad note I can think of, as the show ended just the way you would expect it to, with a new trauma coming in and life (and death) going on.

I'll admit to not having read your review or the comments. I've just been holding Rachel in since about 9:15 and had to get her out.

Our airing was interrupted, partially, by tornado warnings but there is apparently a rerun (tomorrow) and i'm going to give it another shot.
Did they mention Crichton at the end? i didn't read the credits.

Okay, off to snip the news coverage and then read your post.

Jim said...

I thought the Benton Corday moment was one of the best of flashbacks to the old guard. He hasn't forgotten her, hasn't gotten over her. All very subtle and well done, I thought.

I also liked the moment when Banfield met Susan, Banfield territorial and intolerant of the personal stuff, Susan oblivious and chatting away. OTOH, Banfield lecturing Archie on his diet was a great moment, showing that those two could have developed a very interesting relationship.

I stopped caring about Sam when they made her a victim. There was a time when she cold-cocked a gang-banger. Her relationship with Gates was always really boring.

Loved the old school opening.

Adam said...

My one big homage catch was that Carter's IV explanation to Rachel was verbatim how Benton explained it to Carter in the pilot.

No, I didn't hate Rachel's return as much as I expected, but a little explanation as to why she was there (and how) would have been nice. Duke? really?

Gayle said...

It was nice. Familiar, well executed, and a good send-off.

My problem: with the well deserved curtain calls for some of our favorites, the inevitable comparisons to the current characters is too easy.

I've been a fan since the beginning and haven't complained too much about silly stories or characters I don't care about; I've always been able to find something to like. Yet, when Susan and Weaver and Elizabeth and Benton and Reese and Carter all there in the same episode? I remembered just how great this show once was some years ago. That was an unexpected reaction.

In any case, I'm happy that Carter is back at County (seemingly) and mentoring Rachel, a Dr. Greene to be. It recalled the best that ER ever was as Mark mentored Carter and stood for the type of doctor that they all should aspire to be. That was touching.

Nugget said...

I appreciated the Rachel tie-in. Clearly, she had finally grown up. The last thing on Mark's list before he died was "Save Rachel", and in the end, we see that Rachel is eager to devote her life to saving others in the same place where her father had called home for so long. Quite beautiful, actually.

Another callback to a series high-point were the final moments. All I could think of was "Blizzard". Very, very cool.

I had a few issues overall (no "set the tone", updates on Kerry's and Susan's personal/professional lives?), but nothing major, really. ER was classy from Day 1, and they were classy until the end -- graceful, low-key, and fitting.

ER will be missed.

sc said...

Sherry Stringfield did look very nice....better with age I think. Just wondering if anyone noticed Noah Wyle seemingly break down in his final hug with Eriq LaSalle. I slowed it down and tried to look closer by rewinding several times, as it seemed his smile went to downright tears as they embraced....could not tell for sure though. Did anyone else catch that?
Overall, a very classy and well deserved ending to what was at the time a ground breaking show that, thanks to cable and the changing times, we may never see again on network tv. Can you imagine a new show with as much hype coming on next season on NBC, but now having to be shown at 9 thanks to Leno???
You stay classy County General

Pamela Jaye said...

as for Julia, I spent most of the episode trying to figure out who she was, and if I had just missed her in previous eps, so you are right, it didn't work.

Perhaps Rachel worked for me due to the fact that you read she was coming, and I didn't know till I saw her actually being there. So, seeing she was not as bad as she used to be (for example, she seems to be getting along with Elizabeth rather than calling her names) it was easier to like her. also, I needed someone in the med school troop to anchor on, and she was it. ALSO, as someone mentioned, there was that ep where Mark and Kerry each take three potential students....

Mark said...

Was Benton and Weaver's relationship really bad? Weaver hugged everybody before leaving but their goodbye was frosty to say the least.

rosco said...

Rachel at Duke was explained by her saying that Elizabeth was on faculty there. She said she got a deal on tuition, and i suspect that she also got a deal on admissions. nonetheless, it would have been great to have something - especially when she ordered the margarita - about how far she has come. but i was fine with her even if i couldn't understand why someone would work in their dead father's shadow.

(speaking of bad kids turned good tonight, what about Sam's kid refinishing a car and giving it to her? i've hated that kid for multiple seasons and now he turns around and does that? all while sporting a bucket of a hair cut? by the power of Stamos...)

save for some moments with benton that made the air in my living room a little dusty - the episode was pretty much what i expected and, all in all, i was pleased with it. with so many characters returning and by not trying to wrap up any threads, it felt like it was a stand alone episode that could have aired as a movie of the week. everything that was going to be absolute felt wrapped up over the past few weeks, so watching this show was like a reintroduction to the series. we got to visit with some old characters, learn where they are now, but not where they are going. the newer cast carried on with the energy and action that made the show what it was. the patients all had enough impact to be memorable even if they only had one or two scenes. the technical genius of the show kept it looking great. the only resolution was that the hospital just keeps going. and really i'm fine with the finale being just that - a snapshot of what it was.

(of course, ER premiered in my first week of high school, so having a show reference the wonderful pilot also brings back some rather large memories.)

Pamela Jaye said...

The last thing on Mark's list before he died was "*Fix* Rachel"

It must have been in the Retrospective, cause I know I saw it recently, and there's no way I would volunteer to watch it any time soon.

Karen said...

Excellent ending! It had that "life goes on" feel to it. It was pleasant to see Thandie Newton show up and the rest of the original gang. The Rachel link was a nice touch, it was very circle of life.

Great points.

p.s. I wrote a post about the ER finale on my blog at reelartsty.blogspot.com

Nugget said...

Right -- "Fix Rachel". My mistake.

Anonymous said...

Great ending to a great show. Love everything about it and i give props to Alexis Bledel, who gave a pretty good performance. Would have loved to have seen more of her and the character of Julia.

Jeff L said...

"I'm Rachel Greene. My dad used to be on staff here."

I welled up right along with Frank.

I'm a sentimental fool for ER, so I just thought it was perfect. My only complaint is I wanted to spend the whole 2 hours with Carter, Benton, Elizabeth, Kerry & Susan at the bar! It was like seeing a bunch of old friends.

(But when did Kerry loose her crutches? And how!?)

Alf said...

Kerry had surgery. I think in reality the actress was suffering a bit from limping and using the crutch so much.

The finale will be rerun on Saturday night. Sadly, not the retrospective. I missed about half of that.

Carter already mentioned "you set the tone" to Morris earlier this season.

I too noticed the lack of goodbye between Weaver and Benton. Perhaps it was just edited out?

Alf said...

Oh, yeah, I would have liked to have seen Coburn rather than just hear her name.

Nugget said...

@ Jeff L
(But when did Kerry loose her crutches? And how!?)


In S12's "If Not Now", Kerry fell on the ice and injured her hip badly enough that, 5 episodes later in "Out on a Limb", she had hip replacement surgery.

When she walked through the ER without her crutch for the first time in "No Place to Hide", I had tears in my eyes. No one even noticed that she was walking freely, and it proved to her that no one ever looked at her and only saw her disability. Such a great moment.

@ Alf

I know that Carter said "you set the tone" to Morris earlier in the season (fitting because he's rightfully become the big kahuna), but I was just hoping to hear it again in the finale. The whole full circle thing, you know?

I'm a sap, what can I say? ;-)

jcpbmg said...

I too was hoping for a "set the tone callback"

It would also have been great if Carter gave Rachel the same "put your head down, the feeling will pass" speech Mark gave him in the pilot. I thought we were going there when they brought in the burn victim but sadly no.

And I don't mind admitting there was a second where I thought Susan and Carter would hook up (since Abby is permanently out of the picture and all)

Lizbeth said...

I didn't think I would get so emotional during the finale but damn if I didn't start tearing up the moment they played the full opening credit sequence. (I love opening sequences and really miss them in TVland).

Just that music alone brought back a flood of memories and made me think, "this is it...the end of an era."

I could buy Rachel's turnaround because that's what kids do -- they eventually grow up and stop acting out.

The death of the pregnant mom once again proved ER can still rip my heart out. God, all that blood...the look on dad's shocked face at the bloody footprints, and knowing those five kids were just orphaned. Sadistic yet brilliant.

I loved the way the shift changes allowed us to get a glimpse of everyone. But I too could have spent an entire episode just catching up with Susan, Elizabeth, Benton, Weaver and Carter at the bar.

As for the final wide shot of the hospital -- is that the first time in 15 years we've ever seen a full shot of County? For 15 years we've been so focused on the ER and the ER bay that you almost forgot that it was just part of a bigger hospital.

Otto Man said...

Duke? really?

I assumed that was the writers' way of telling us she was still a spoiled brat.

Alan Sepinwall said...

As for the final wide shot of the hospital -- is that the first time in 15 years we've ever seen a full shot of County?

I believe so. Pretty much everything in that shot other than the ambulance bay itself was CGI-generated, and computer effects technology wasn't good enough (or affordable enough for TV) to create a shot of the full hospital, or of the El train passing overhead in the same shot, until recently.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Just wondering if anyone noticed Noah Wyle seemingly break down in his final hug with Eriq LaSalle. I slowed it down and tried to look closer by rewinding several times, as it seemed his smile went to downright tears as they embraced....could not tell for sure though. Did anyone else catch that?

Oh, he definitely cried - presumably because, with Benton, he could really let out what he was feeling about Joshua. (And Benton being Benton, he let Carter do it, but he also made fun of the speech.)

Wyle had a bunch of great moments, as you'd expect him to. The look on Carter's face when they delivered the baby was so filled with genuine joy that it's not hard to imagine Wyle thinking, "Man, I really loved doing these scenes" just as much as Carter was remembering how much he liked working traumas.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Re: Julia, it occurs to me that quite a bit of time could have passed between last week's episode and this one, as the only real continuing element was Gates and Alex fixing the car, and even that could have taken them a long time. Carter's all healed up from the transplant, Chaz is better-integrated into the ER, etc. So it could be read as her having turned up in the period between episodes. But I still think the intro could have been handled better.

Also, like some of you, I loved the return of the full opening credits and theme song, not just the familiar shots of Benton doing the kung fu punch, but seeing what Banfield and Brenner and the other newbies would have looked like in the credits if they hadn't been done away with a few years ago.

Toby O'B said...

The use of Alexis Beidel reminded me of the character John Short played in the final episode of 'St. Elsewhere', serving as a reminder that life (and death) would go on at the hospital - until Tommy pulled the rug out from under that idea.

Best part of his character - he was named "Brandon Falsey", a tip of the hat to 'St. Elsewhere's two creators. (And a dig at them at the same time.)

Jen said...

Did I mishear, or did Carter call Rachel "Dr. Greene" in the very last scene?

And Ernest Borgnine made me cry.

Otto Man said...

Did I mishear, or did Carter call Rachel "Dr. Greene" in the very last scene?

That's what I heard. I'm assuming Mark said a variation on that to Carter in the pilot? If so, nice bookend.

Hannah said...

Do guest stars Ernest Borgnine (The Single Guy) and Marilu Henner (Taxi) constitute a mini-salute to the glory that used to be NBC Thursday Nights?

Susan said...

• "The story with Ernest Borgnine saying goodbye to his love of 72 years was a callback to a story from either the pilot or the first regular episode where Mark and Doug helped an elderly man come to grips with his own wife's impending demise. "

It also reminded me of the story of Carter and Mr. Rubideux, aka "Ruby," played by Red Buttons, who didn't want to let his wife go.

I loved having Rachel there - it really felt like a passing of the torch. And I liked her little moments with the staff who remembered her, especially the nice moment with Chuny, a callback to the fact that Chuny had dated her dad and hung out with Rachel a bit years ago.

I haven't watched ER in the last six years or so and only came back for the finale, so I just thought Alexis Bledel had been added to the cast recently. If that was indeed her only episode, her lack of introduction was strange.

I also would have liked an update on what Kerry and Susan were up to. (And thanks, commenters, for the explanation as to why kerry didn't have her cane! In fact, I didn't even realize it until I read it here, but once I realized, I would have wondered.) I also loved that the same kid who played Reese at 3 was still playing him now.

The pre-show clip show left a lot to be desired. I wish they had organized it more - by seasons, or by theme ("disasters," "exits," tht sort of thing). It just felt sort of rambling.

Chris said...

Like Pamela Jaye said up above, I too was said not to see Jeannie/Gloria Reuben come back at the end (though I think she did get a guest spot last season). But I found it more odd that, unless I missed it, her character didn't make an appearance in the clip show that preceded the finale either, not even her incredible "shower scene."

Dave T said...

Duke? really?

I assumed that was the writers' way of telling us she was still a spoiled brat.


It was to show us she became responsible.

Having her apply at County was a bit cheesy, but still a bit cathartic.

Beatriz said...

Hi, first comment here, but given the situation, I couldn't resist.

I liked the episode a lot. Made me sad as I realized how much I'm gonna miss it, and really happy to see Susan, I was getting annoyed at her "lack-of-return". As Allan and some of you have stated, I too could have sat at that bar table for hours long, just asking how are Cosmo (that's Susan's baby's name, right?) and Henry, and Susie...

As for Alexis' character, I think she handled it pretty well, considering she hit the ground running. I'm a little biased to comment on her, since I've been a member of the Gilmore Club from season 1, and it was actually her presence that made me want to catch up with this season of E.R. I'd been a little emotionally distant from it since they decided to screw with Abby's life for the 100th time, but the thought of Rory in the E.R. had me running for my computer, to try and get back on that train.

And I'm glad I did.

Just one more thing: did anyone else get all the Salamunovich shout-outs? There was a name tag on the past doctors wall when Haleh took both Abby and Nella down there and in this episode the family w/ the 3 kids and the newborn twins was the Salamunovichs.

mjryan said...

I haven't watched ER consistently since Carter went to Africa so I've missed a lot of what's happened over the last few years and have been disconnected with ER for a while. But, because I loved the show so much in its heyday I wanted to honor it by watching the finale. I cried when I was supposed to and felt the requisite amount of nostalgia for the early years of ER. However, half of the episode I wasn't connected to (the new doctors, although I thought Alexis Bledel was the best aspect of the new guard) and the reunion of the old guard felt more like the actors saying goodbye to each other than the characters. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Susan and Weaver couldn't stand each other! I don't particularly remember what Weaver's relationship with Corday was but, generally, the other doctors respected Weaver's abilities but found her difficult to deal with on a personal level. The only two doctors that ever had what I would call a close relationship with Kerry was Abby and Jeanie. That's why the hugs and kisses all around outside the bar felt wrong for the characters but right for the actors saying goodbye. While Weaver not hugging Benton is right for the characters, because of the real personal nature of the other hugs, it made me wonder what their real life relationship was like.

I watched the special before and was disappointed that the actors that played the nurses and paramedics weren't interviewed, too. Looking at IMDB, that actresses that played Chuney and Doris have some of the most credits in the series history, not to mention Malik and the desk clerks. Their constant presence has been a comforting part of the show from the beginning.

Another callback that no one has mentioned: Carter saying "Susan Lewis looks amazing" (or along those lines) calls back to Carter's crush, and attempted kiss of Lewis outside her apartment door, in the first season.

amysusanne said...

It was a really nice ending. Good things, bad things, strong things, weak things, but overall just a warm way to go out. I turned into a total sap the second those credits started to run and the Archie/Lydia scene was awesome so I was probably going to give them a pass on the rest no matter what they did. But, I think that, for the most part, they pulled it off.

I was really surprised by how happy it made me to see Rachel in that first quick shot of her when Chaz was doing his tour. I hated second Rachel with a passion. Even though I agree that there could have been a little throwaway moment explaining how she went from demon child to a nice gal about to enter med school, I don't think I really needed it.

There were more high points than lows (I really love Banfield losing control of her ER as the old timers did whatever they wanted) and even though I don't want another season they did a good job of making me sad to see them go.

And I'm going to miss Archie.

Bix said...

Another callback (from the pilot IIRC): Alcohol poisoning like the college student who Susan lectured while he was intubated.

I found the new brunette nurse (who was all over the first half) much more disconcerting than Dr. Rory. With Julia, I got the impression that it was new intern season. The nurse stuck out like a sore thumb as they acted like she'd been there forever.

Also: The time manipulation with Chaz (Soap Opera Rapid Medical Schooling Syndrome?) was really annoying.

Isaac Lin said...

Regarding Dr. Weaver's interactions with the others: it was Dr. Corday's farewell that surprised me the most, as I recall she had a particularly bitter reaction to some bureaucratic rigidness on Kerry's part during Mark's illness.

Anonymous said...

I actually enjoyed the retrospective more, and after getting nostalgic for the early years during the retrospective, I found it hard to transition into the actual finale and deal with the likes of Gates and Banfield again. I can't stand either of those actors or characters and I've been DVR-skipping through many of their scenes all season. But the finale ended up being pretty good. I liked Julia and wish she had been on the whole season instead of Banfield. I always though the show was better when the ER is seen through the eyes of the idealistic young intern/resident instead of the mature and experienced doctors. The cast as a whole got younger in later years but I thought it was missing someone like Julia.

One thing that felt odd was it seemed like the cast of the middle years were all missing (Abby, Luca, Neela etc.) and I know story-wise it was impossible to bring everyone back, but it was strange to see the early years and later years mixing without any of the middle years folks around or even mentioned. I know Pratt, Abby and Neela all got extended farewells (those were the best episodes of this season imo) so enough was enough I suppose.

I'm glad I watched it back in the day. I'm glad I kept up with it sporadically over the years. I'm glad I saw the finale. I'm glad its over. So long ER.

Pamela Jaye said...

seen in a ...twitter cloud? this morning:

End of an ER-a

(I need a twitter course. I didn't know how to respond to the cloud (is it even possible?) and I still am not sure what the # is)

Alan Sepinwall said...

One thing that felt odd was it seemed like the cast of the middle years were all missing (Abby, Luca, Neela etc.) and I know story-wise it was impossible to bring everyone back, but it was strange to see the early years and later years mixing without any of the middle years folks around or even mentioned. I know Pratt, Abby and Neela all got extended farewells (those were the best episodes of this season imo) so enough was enough I suppose.

Logistics were a problem here, but barring Luka and Abby flying in for the Carter Center dedication (which would be odd, given their weird histories with Carter), I think Wells did the best he could. Neela showed up again on the webcam, and Chaz is as much a stand-in for Pratt as Rachel was for Mark.

Pamela Jaye said...

but i was fine with her even if i couldn't understand why someone would work in their dead father's shadow.

Meredith Grey
that's one really big shadow (but it's also fame vs poplarity. I'm betting a whole lot more of Mark's co-workers actually *liked* him)

I miss Old Rachel...

Anonymous said...

That Hummer was about the most random, bizarre thing I think I ever saw on TV, let alone on ER! But if anyone could get away with it, I suppose ER could. Maybe Alex Kingston just wanted to drive a Hummer as a hoot!

M.A.Peel said...

The opening credits. How amazing that just seeing Carter push back on that chair, and Benton's graceful martial arts move could summon up all the emotions of being a fan of the early years. ER--lightening in a bottle.

As much as I hated brat Rachel, her turnaround is a testament to Mark being able to "fix" human brokeness of all kinds.

Anonymous said...

Right you are Alan, I forgot about Neela on the webcam. And you're right about Chaz as stand-in for Pratt. I never liked Chaz though, and Pratt was awesome. I suppose I was really just missing Abby and Luka (mainly Abby). Green, Carter and Abby were the characters who defined the show for me. The retrospective was heavy on Dr. Green, and I was please with Carter's role in the finale. I just wanted more Abby. At least I can look forward to seeing Tierney in the new Parenthood remake.

Nugget said...

Weaver often had tense personal and professional relationships with the various characters, and while in the end, Susan and Kerry were at odds (over bureaucratic issues), they had actually become pretty friendly on a personal level. Susan was there for Kerry during Kerry's pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage.

And Elizabeth and Kerry had also become close -- Elizabeth is the one (kind of the only one) who reached out to Kerry after Sandy's death when Kerry was fighting for Henry.

Actually, Kerry had mended fences with pretty much everyone by the time she (or they) left, and she had kind of become part of "the crowd". Although, I thought it was interesting (strangely awesome, actually) that Kerry was the "social butterfly" of the group and the instigator of more hang-out time. Miami (and leaving the hospital) has done wonders for her.

Pamela Jaye said...

I believe so. Pretty much everything in that shot other than the ambulance bay itself was CGI-generated, and computer effects technology wasn't good enough (or affordable enough for TV) to create a shot of the full hospital, or of the El train passing overhead in the same shot, until recently.

just asking how are Cosmo (that's Susan's baby's name, right?) and Henry, and Susie...

The baby was Cosmo, but thee husband was Chuck. Susie... was last seen in NYC on Third watch, an ep I've misplaced the tape of, but did finally get on the DVR. Joe(?) dumped Chloe, who fell off the wagon and left Susie is some flophouse... eventually they all were found and sitting in an ER in NYV with Susan who flew there without a comment of her terror of flying. I thing Chloe then vanished from the ER. The last that was hear of them was in a phone call or Fax at the beginning of The Letter.

Was Alexis a med student or an intern?

I was excited when Kerry's mom showed up as I expected that her disability would be explained. I think it was congenital hip dysplasia. Why are diagnoses is latin? Hip out of joint from birth isn't as fancy? Anyway, I was happy mom asked. Hey! that'ss where I've seen Frances Fisher (otherthan mant SAG/WGA promotional films)




Aha!
Was that the shot with the ambulances? (apparently I need to watch this again)

I remember taking a tour of WB after Friends had finally ended and thinking - finally, I don't have to visit that set! but of course, they'd set up this special Central Perk monument room.
It never meant anything to me, as I never watched the show (before RA told me about the duck).

ER, on the other hand...
All we ever got to see was the ambulance bay, and behind that, there was nothing. It was a false front to a stage somewhere else that we never got to see. What we generally saw was Gilmore Girls. How I would have loved to see the set from inside (I did see a tour on Ellen)

We were there when the memorial for Romano was up. I wouldn't go near it (spoiler-phobic even then) although I'm sure they'd removed the identifying marks. I think Luka's apartment was somewhere above the ambubay (by the time I asked, he had left).
We also got a drive-by (from afar) of the back of the White House.

Who is Salmunovich? The name I think I keep noticing in the credits is Subramanian.
Also, I found it interesting that Parminder was hired due to former lack of Indian med students/interns. Can't really argue with that. (although the new crop from lasy season on Grey's looks as if they were deliberately chosen to be "diverse")

Soap Opera Rapid Medical Schooling Syndrome may have been annoying, but the term made me laugh :-)

Pamela Jaye said...

I think my reaction to Rachel (sans spoilers) was different because of Alan. He made me think about it. So when it happened, it was like it was "mine" cause I thought it up (obviously I wasn't the *only* one, but still..) and then even felt the need to defend it - even though I thought it was an icky idea! (I hated New Rachel as much as anyone. anyone know what the story was with Old Rachel?)

So, unlike most people maybe, I was excited to see her, but then it turned to happy, warm feelings when I felt she had stopped being so much of a brat that my feelings leaked from the character to the actress and followed her to other shows.
A plus, perhaps for the actress.The next time I see her, I won't hate her.

Pamela Jaye said...

Great comments:

I always though the show was better when the ER is seen through the eyes of the idealistic young intern/resident instead of the mature and experienced doctors.

As much as I hated brat Rachel, her turnaround is a testament to Mark being able to "fix" human brokeness of all kinds.


I'm not sure anyone explained where Kerry went, entirely. She was offered a job as a medical reporter in Miami (after she was dumped from being chief of staff for some reason I forget)

Alan Sepinwall said...

(I hated New Rachel as much as anyone. anyone know what the story was with Old Rachel?)

John Wells said they cast Old Rachel when she was 5 years old, hadn't used her in a long time and, when they decided to do the Delinquent Rachel story arc, wanted to get an actress they felt would be more up to the challenge.

Otto Man said...

It was to show us she became responsible.

I'm going to assume you don't know many Duke students.

Nancy said...

I loved it. My favorite moment was Frank realizing exactly who Rachel was - so unbelievably touching...and then they showed the entire hospital at the end, and I just lost it for some reason. Life goes on at County General. Well done ER!

Also - loved Classic Jerry in his convo with Banfield when she questioned him about Dr. Carter.

"Because he's a doctor." You go Jerry!

I have to admit I'm clueless as far as this Alexis Bedel person is, and find it highly amusing that some other forums/boards are raving about her performance last night as if she were the only person on the show. Really? Yes, I know she was on Gilmore Girls, and no I never watched that.

And didn't Dr. Neela have her "veryspeciallastepisodeever" a few weeks ago? Why they felt compelled to show her this week, or last week, when it didn't advance the story at all, kinda left me puzzled.

Overall a very solid A- from me.

Cory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nugget said...

@ Pamela Jaye
(after she was dumped from being chief of staff for some reason I forget)


The hospital board was trying to pin the entire Clemente fiasco on Luka and take him down because of it, and Kerry stepped up and took the blame for Luka and was demoted to ER Attending in the process. Hence, the initial hostility from all the staff and between Kerry & Luka when Luka was going facilitate his budget cuts by firing Kerry.

DolphinFan said...

What a superb finale.
The best series-enders combine two elements: they mesh with the hundreds of episodes that fans enjoyed up to that point, and they give a sense of the characters' completed journeys in a way that lets us know that we'll remember them and draw up new stories for them in our memories (or fan fiction). As different as ER is from THE SHIELD, I think their two finales were A+ efforts because they hit both those marks.
I hated New Rachel, but Hailee Hirsh did very good work here, showing Rachel had grown up. And I agree with whomever wrote that you kind of had to have a Mark Greene proxy there, Lord knows Jen wouldn't have been acceptable!
The stories were terrific overall. My favorites were the tragic twins/mom dying one, Marilu Henner getting beaten up, and Mr. Gandhi. The Ernest Borgnine story was a little anvil-laden but if that's what it took to get Sam to stop being such a miserab' long enough to give us a pleasant last scene with her and Gates, I'm glad they did it that way.
And kudos to the ER folks for not bringing back characters like Chen, Malucci, and Cleo. That might have been the best decision of the entire farewell season!
Thank you for 15 great years, everyone involved with ER!!!

Anonymous said...

Nugget:

Kerry did take the blame in the end, but Luka had wanted to fire Clemente when Victor was suspected of shooting his lover (which wasn't true) and of using drugs (which was true). Kerry wouldn't authorize the firing so Luka had to deal with Clemente until his complete mental breakdown in the penultimate episode of Season 12 (where Gallant was killed in Iraq). Kerry initially pawned off responsibility for not getting rid of Clemente earlier on Luka, and it's possible she only told the full story because the board was going to fire Luka at the same time his and Abby's baby boy was fighting for his life. As much as Kerry was a great character, she lost the CoS job because she misjudged Clemente and lied about it. Yet Kerry had a core of likability and decency that endured, and that's why her appearance in the finale was so enjoyable. Good and bad and human and deeply drawn; that was Kerry Weaver.

Nugget said...

@ Anon
Good and bad and human and deeply drawn; that was Kerry Weaver.


Wonderful description!

Yeah, I'm glad that you filled in all of the blanks. I was just going for the shortened version. Heh.

Actually, the situation was typical Kerry -- doing what she could in the vein of self-preservation, but ultimately coming clean and doing the right thing. Like when she outed herself to Romano in defense of Kim. In both cases, she was a little late and she paid a very heavy price (losing the CoS position, losing Kim) but she was able to regain her integrity.

Hands down, my favorite character over the course of the series.

Tiana said...

The death of the pregnant mom once again proved ER can still rip my heart out. God, all that blood...the look on dad's shocked face at the bloody footprints, and knowing those five kids were just orphaned. Sadistic yet brilliant.

I completely agree. Wonderfully written and acted.

I loved this finale. Seeing Older Reese made me tear up a bit! "I'm not a baby!" It would've been nice to see Cleo as well, but we can't have it all. I'm rather glad that Kem and Carter won't end up together. I don't think they were a great match.

Funniest random moment from the finale: "I slipped out & Mr Fred hit the edge of the desk..." -Grabby Old Guy

Mike F said...

I gave up on ER about 5-6 years ago, but happily fast-forwarded through the last couple months of episodes to see all the old cast members' scenes and I thought on the whole, it was all very well done.

Bravo to the series and here's remembering one of the great shows (for the first third of its run at least).

Pamela Jaye said...

thanks Alan

Pamela Jaye said...

are students at Duke *more* irresponsible than college students at any other school? (I live in a cave)

yatesy said...

I think the no mentioning of how far rachel has come goes to the old writing expression of "show, don't tell". if i had to sit thru 5 minutes of exposition about how much as a brat she was an look how adult she is now, i would have been annoyed. but you could see in the faces of everyone who knew her and knew she was a bratty kid, that she had grown up and had embraced the good her father did, bringing it full circle that indeed, he did "save/fix rachel".

a nice touch indeed.

Beatriz said...

@ Pamela Jaye

Sorry, I meant Henry as in Kerry's son. And Teresa and Mike Salamunovich were associate and co-producers on the show, respectively.

Uh, you know who I'd have liked to see? Carter's mom. Pres. Laura Roslin will always be, on some level, Carter's mom to me.

Simon Crowe said...

Just did a quick scan of comments and was surprised no one noticed tha Carter's line "When did it stop raining?" is a direct homage to a Clooney line in the pilot.

I haven't watched ER regularly since what's his name had his arm cut off by the helicopter, but it occurs to me that (if I was going to be watching TV anyway) most of the hours I spent watching "Greys Anatomy" would probably have ben better spent on late-period ER.

Pamela Jaye said...

I was just watching the retrospective again, and Dr Romano - I don't know if someone said what it was he said to Reese, but it wasn't I love you. I was something about "Father" (that was the only word I recognized).

Does anyone know what he said?

Pamela Jaye said...

the "when did it stop raining?" went along with the "when did it start snowing?" (and maybe something else)

and I did notice it at the time (as I did watch the pilot yesterday or the day before) but I forgot to mention it! oops.

and I forgot Henry existed.

thanks for the (multiple ;-) ) explanations of Kerry's misdeed. Interesting how no one (except perhaps the posts I have not yet read) mention the misdeed where she want to Magoo's, turned off (?) her beeper, and left her underlings - was it Carter, Chen and Malucci? (I don't remember the details of that eihter) alone with a terrible case, for which they all got in trouble, and she didn't do a thing to save them. So this was a pattern with her, maybe. She was so ambitious from the minute she walked in the door and stole Mark's fries.

As for season 12, I think it was the nadir.

Pamela Jaye said...

and just for the fun of it, I see that in the scenes they showed in the retrospective, they did not leave out Denny Duquette (Carter was trying to amputate his legs to get him out from under that train)

It seems a lot of people from "the middle" were not there - but I can't think who they were (except Malucci and Chen, and I can live without Malucci, oh and Lucy) but they had Jorja Fox - I'll chalk that up to her relationship - she was also on The West Wing, and one bit of Maria Bello.

I don't remember who Doug and Mark were working on, but I do remember Ruby.

The lack of Gallant was also... he was there for a while.

But I'm happy that Susan was in the finale, cause I'd heard that they weren't bringing her back.

And what in the heck was with John Wells' hair?

Stephen said...

This series holds a special place in my heart. I have watched every episode since the pilot all those years ago. I remember it like it was yesterday. Every thursday night I would sit down with mum and Dad and my packet of skittles, which were bought by mum specifically for ER viewing, and watch riveted to those early episodes. Over the years I have moved out of home and started my own family but always have caught up with this show.

Four years ago my mother passed away from lung cancer and while watching this episode it reminded me of those nights and the fun we had watching Doctors Mark, Peter, John, Ross and all the now doctors that came through the Er over the subsequent years.

It's funny how a tv show can affect you this way but ER did and i will miss it.

HMM2 said...

Did anyone else notice that the person with AIDS/cancer was played by Arthur Allan Seidelman, who's won emmies for his television directing and had a PBS show "Actors on Acting" years ago? Were there any other easter-egg guest stars?

Emma said...

Just a thought about the Nikki/Paolo-esque appearance of Alexis Bledel, and Carter's seemingly miraculous recovery from his ORGAN TRANSPLANT, etc.: remember when the series began, it was a 2-hour pilot episode (a Sunday or Monday night movie-of-the-week spot, if I remember correctly) and then, that next Thursday night, our first true episode? (Like many others here, those early eps are burned into my personal history...)

Anyways, I think that there was supposed to be something like a 6 week gap between those episodes. Enough time, at least, for Carol to recover from her suicide attempt and have her return to work be one of the lenses the audience could use to observe that episode's drama. Maybe another callback for the finale was that same kind of time-gap, setting this special, more-like-a-movie-of-the-week episode off from the rest of the season in the same way the pilot was?

Of course, some kind of on-screen note about that, in that great, ER-font, would have been nice...

Robert said...

Who was the doctor that helped the Old guy with the broken Penis?

dez said...

Who was the doctor that helped the Old guy with the broken Penis?

One of the new residents they introduced this season.

I didn't get as weepy as I thought I would, but overall, I enjoyed the finale.

Also, I'm pretty sure the dad of the twins was the dad of all the kids, so even though the mom died giving birth, the kids aren't orphans :-)

Anonymous said...

Love that show!
All those years..
It was maybe not the more popular in the last years, but it has always been my favourite,
It's indescribable, it's like that.
I will miss it so much.

Kiss from France, Isabelle

Railbus said...

Increased business travel combined with an accumulating lack of engagement with newer casts led me to give up ER around the 10th season. Ironically, a prolonged overseas assignment has given me the chance to catch up with some of later highlights, especially "And in the End..."
I agree with the observations of most commenters here. The two most memorable, "throat-choking-up" moments for me in an episode filled with many of them were:

1. The opening credits
Yes, as remarked here, it does echo back to the earliest seasons but it is also an echo of a bygone era of television in general, when valuable advertising time was sacrificed to provide a moment of acknowledgement to the individual players in an ensemble.
More specifically to ER, the practice (seen throughout the last session) of showing the names of returning cast members alongside the present cast before/during the opening theme rather than as a "special guest" afterwards. Classy.

2. The final three minutes
Combining the thrill of "one last crisis to show you" with the "you may be leaving but life here goes on" sentiment conveyed through the final pull-back. Not "the end" but "the end for you." Sheer artistry!
But more than that was the power of last line: Middle-aged Carter--older but wiser for wear than when first we met--but responding instinctively to an emergent crisis like an old warhorse to the bugler's call, his eyes alight with the same adrenalin-fueled rush we saw in his youth. And in the midst of that crisis, he pauses to ask his former mentor's daughter: "Are you coming, Dr. Greene?"
Comments herein focus on "Old Rachel" vs. "New Rachel", on the incongruity of "Teen Rachel" vs. "Young Adult Rachel", on reducing Rachel to merely a Mark Green stand-in. They all miss the point of why she's in the script. Rachel's reintroduction was the set-up for this moment---the dramatic climax "pay off" of this episode as well as for the entire series.
Recognize that Michael Crichton introduced us to the young, idealistic but inexperienced John Carter as the "every man" through whose eyes the viewers both saw the inherent chaos of the ER and learned how people cope with its challenges. We followed his journey through many seasons and grew in our understanding along with him, guided through many of the rough patches by the patient, persistent tutorage of Mark Greene.
What better gesture could bring the past 15 years to closure than to witness John pass to Rachel the torch her father bestowed on him.

"Are you coming, Dr. Greene...?"

Two hours/15 years distilled down into five words. So powerful on so many levels! Television doesn't get better than this. Not just a "throat-choking-up" moment but a "tears-welling-up-in-the-eyes" moment too before the final pull-back.

All shows must end sometime. The mark of a truly great show is how it chooses to do so. None better than this.