CBS is getting viewers ready for the new season of Code Black and the many changes that are in store. On Friday stars Marcia Gay Harden and the show’s new co-star, Rob Lowe, did a CBS Facebook Live Lounge chat for the 2016 Television Critics Association summer tour. It’s intriguing to watch the interplay between Harden and Lowe. She let him take the lead, while occasionally reminding him of talking points. At times I found myself wondering if this dynamic was Harden & Lowe or their characters. The latter could be a lot of fun on the show! (Also, Harden looks awesome! I know Lowe’s the consider a “pretty boy” but he couldn’t outshine Harden’s sparkle.)
The two answered questions that came up on the shared tablet, but they also teased some of the first few episodes. What was the most encouraging? Harden’s comments about the characters of Dr. Neal Hudson (Raza Jaffrey) and Dr. Christa Lorenson (Bonnie Somerville). Viewers of season one were not thrilled to learn that Jaffrey and Somerville would not be back. Harden made a point of addressing their distress.
At least in my mind, Bonnie and Raza’s characters have gone on to get married and they’re in another hospital, doing great medicine at another hospital. And we remember them for their great teamwork and great medicine that they did.
Harden said this within the larger context of discussing the new interns for Code Black season 2 and outlining the show’s new structure.
This chat really shows Harden to be in touch with the show’s current fanbase. Of course, the point of the changes this season is to expand that fanbase. However, with characters that were so popular to not have story closure would be a mistake. Plus, doing so wouldn’t be a big deal. An off-hand comment about their wedding and relocation by those that knew them would suffice. Hopefully the producers of the show will take what’s in Harden’s mind and have it mentioned at some point in the first few episodes.
The New Season of Code Black & Rob Lowe’s character
During its first season Code Black has had a number of well-known actors come and go. None of them have had the star power that Lowe does. Cress Williams had been brought in as a love interest for Harden’s character, but when that didn’t pan out he was abruptly gone. This addition of Lowe is not the same thing.
Yes, back in June, creator and executive producer Michael Seitzman made the point to not get too attached to any principle character. However, that seems to pertain to the large guest and recurring cast that the show will have. As Lowe’s character is one of 13 regulars, he will not be just passing through.
Takeaways from the chat
On the face of things Lowe’s character sounds very cool! Col. Ethan Willis is a doctor who’s been embedded at Angels Memorial by the U.S. Military’s ” elite army combat trauma unit that was recently stationed in Afghanistan.” Lowe explains that the idea is based on a real military medical program that sends doctors to teach “cutting edge battlefront technique to hospitals.
Lowe’s character gets to make a 35 foot jump out of a helicopter in the first episode. This is an immediate way for the audience to get he’s a tough and bad*ss kind of doctor. To that end, Lowe discusses “the golden hour” – a real-life concept from critical care combat that aims to cut down the time between an injury and when the person gets medical treatment. (Hence him jumping out of a helicopter.)
Lowe and Harden are both enthusiastic about the level of authenticity the show wants to continue to bring to the screen. The level of respect for what real doctors and nurses do hasn’t waned. This element from season one, of trying to really make things look authentic and pointing out the kind of pressure ER personnel are under every day isn’t going away. Thank goodness!
Questions and Concerns
At the same time, at least from this chat, it’s unclear what his character’s relationship with Harden’s Dr. Leanne Rorish will be. The answer to that will be key. The characters seem to have certain things in common: a dislike of authority, a prickly “Don’t mess with me” attitude, a passionate focus on savings lives, and past trauma. Dr. Rorish is the only doctor at the that actually likes him. Well, of course she does. He’s a lot like her!
This is what concerns me. The change they’d made at the end of season one had Leanne as the E.R. administrator. Now, Dr. Will Campbell (Boris Kodjoe) will be running the E.R., and the O.R.. On top of that, both the Colonel and Dr. Rorish will be working under him. Does this means Dr. Rorish returns to her position of running the intern program? Does the Colonel work with that program under Rorish or is it a separate program? How will this affect her position in the hospital?
Lowe describes a dynamic between his character and Dr. Campbell that seems similar to that of Campbell and Jaffrey’s Dr. Hudson. Where does Rorish fit in with these power plays? Last season the feud between Dr. Hudson and Dr. Campbell worked because Somerville and Harden’s characters were involved with Dr. Hudson in ways that balanced that story. It was a unique triangle – without the silly three-way sexual intrigue. Both Neal and Leanne at times needed a female peer to talk to, and it added to the solid feel of the show’s ensemble Without this kind of triangle I worry that the situation between Campbell and the Colonel may become a central focus. I would hate to see the new season of Code Black deteriorate into an E.R. with a constant battle of alpha dogs with Rorish sidelined to being the Colonel’s defender and helper.
I wouldn’t want Dr. Rorish to become, “the girlfriend.” There was some really powerful stuff going on with the character at the end of season. Will those issues of her learning to be a leader outside of the O.R. and rebuilding her life after her personal tragedy just get dropped?
A possible solution could be that Lowe and Harden’s characters are slated to get involved. That could be interesting as they do have those similarities. I definitely will be tuning in to see how all these changes play out. The new season of Code Black starts Wednesday September 28th, at 10pm on CBS. You can see the entire chat at cbs.com.