Complications Series Premiere Review: What Makes a Hero?

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Who is a hero? Generally, in real life, they don’t go around wearing a cape and tights. At the end of the day, the hero is the person who doesn’t run. That’s Dr. John Ellison.

Complications is compelling TV, which should come as no surprise since it was created by Matt Nix, the man who brought us Burn Notice.

But Complications takes things to a more visceral, emotional level thanks to a captivating story and Jason O’Mara, whose performance kept me riveted to the screen for the entire two-hour premiere. 

Granted, I tuned in for O’Mara. I first watched him on Life on Mars, then followed to the world of Terra Nova. His Deputy Jack Lamb was my favorite character on Vegas so when I saw he was playing the lead role here, I jumped on the opportunity to review the show. I wasn’t disappointed. 

Complications Season 1 Episode 1 and Complications Season 1 Episode 2 open with Dr. John Ellison in mandated psychological evaluation trying to save his career. He’s had a tough time. Last year, he watched his 8-year-old daughter, Becky, die of cancer.

Despite all his medical knowledge and the best therapy available, he was unable to save her. The consequences of that tragic event are at the core of what drives John’s actions throughout this premiere, and perhaps throughout the series.

It extends to the sense of powerlessness he feels even while running the ER as he explains in this Complications quote

We act like people die at the hospital. Some do, of course but for most of them there's a last moment when they could have been saved. That moment is long gone by the time they get here.

Dr. John Ellison

In a twist that involves a dying squirrel, of all things, John ends up in the middle of a gang shooting in a park where he saves 11-year-old Antoine’s life. Notice that the man who was supposed to protect the drug lord’s son ran when the drive-by shooter came back. John stood his ground, protected the boy, picked up the gun and killed the driver.

Later, John has an engrossing conversation with his therapist about that moment. How is he supposed to feel? If he ran, the boy would be dead. If he tried to save the boy, but didn’t pick up the gun, they’d likely both be dead. So what’s the appropriate response to taking a man’s life when he was more than likely willing to take yours?

Another favorite moment was the short scene between John and his father, whose relationship seems, for the lack of a better word, complicated, and I’m looking forward to finding out more as the series continues. 

Saving Antoine’s life at the park was just the beginning. Suddenly John finds himself the linchpin in the middle of a gang war, which is both scary for him and his family, and incredibly entertaining for the audience. Especially once he ends up unexpectedly partnering with nurse Gretchen Poik. 

Gretchen’s a chain smoker with a bad attitude whose about one step away from losing her job. Yet, despite the bravado, she’s got a good heart. No doubt it will lead her into trouble. It already has. 

On the periphery of John’s story are the staff at the ER. I’m still grasping the names, but they certainly hold promise as players in this action/drama. 

Then there’s John’s wife, Samantha. After losing their daughter, Sam’s as much of an emotional mess as John. Worse is that she knows her husband is hiding the details about the aftermath in the park. In his defense, he’s trying to protect her, believing that the less she knows the better. The flip side of that is that it will undoubtedly leave Sam feeling isolated and perhaps turning toward good friend Kyle, whom if I’m not mistaken, sounds as though she had an affair with when they met during grief counseling last year. We’ll see if I’m right. 

Complications is unique in that its main character is a doctor, but it really isn’t about the medicine. It’s about someone who had no control in a critical moment in his life and is now figuring out how to take it back. 

The plot is somehow intricate, yet simple at the same time. How does John save a young boy who has become the rope in a tug of war between rival gangs? How does he do it without destroying his career and putting his family in danger? 

How does he play god and not suffer the consequences? I’m not sure that’s possible but I can’t wait to tune back in and find out.

Don't forget to check back in next week for our review of Complications Season 1 Episode 3 or you can watch Complications online now here at TV Fanatic.

Pilot Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.

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Complications Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Nobody's going to say they believe in violence Nobody who’s not a sociopath, I guess.

Dr. John Ellison

We act like people die at the hospital. Some do, of course but for most of them there's a last moment when they could have been saved. That moment is long gone by the time they get here.

Dr. John Ellison