Code Black Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Pilot

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Finally, some doctors more interested in medicine than extracurricular activities in the on call room. 

While perhaps not quite delivering on the promise of being "the heir to ER, " Code Black Season 1 Episode 1 certainly delivered high quality medical stories told at a breakneck pace.

It's impossible to avoid comparisons to the two longest running medical shows, and truthfully, Code Black struck me as something of a love child of those two behemoths.

The pacing and the cases presented feel more like ER, while characters with mysterious pasts and medically improbable but touching scenes evoke Grey's Anatomy. Given time, Code Black is on track to establish it's own footprint in the genre. It already has a really good foundation to move forward from.

Marcia Gay Harden did a good job Dr. Leann Rorish, the doctor tasked with carrying both Angels Hospital Emergency Room and the show centered around it.

While I didn't find the "mysterious trauma in her past" to be necessary, I recognize that writers are fighting to stay on the air, and it's become an almost mandatory trope that the main character be maladjusted in some way. 

I know it's supposed to make us understand that it's affected her medicine, but I was a little confused about why Neal was still so invested in her tragedy when it happened three years ago.

Losing your family is a big deal, but Dr. Neal Hudson (presumably) has his own life, so unless he's sleeping with Leanne, his fixation on her perceived instability is odd. He's not even voicing his concerns out of an attempt at self advancement.

We're not their friend, their family, or their shrink. We're their doctor. He gets confused.

Dr. Leanne Rorish

And thus, so far all we know about Neal is that he was a student of Leanne's and that he's over invested in her life. He seems like a competent doctor, and is obviously the main foil for Leanne.

The writers will have to move past the whole idea of Leanne wanting to try something crazy and Neal objecting if the show is going to make it. 

The residents (as with basically every medical show) are the audiences entry point into the world of Angels Hospital. They are just as new to everything as we are, and allow for some obvious exposition to occur. All four newbies show promise as characters, with the women standing out.

Malaya Pineda seems to be the most gifted medically (or at least the most experienced with an ER), and Christa Lorenson brings a different experience to the typical medical resident.

You learn a lot when your kid gets sick. So I thought maybe I should make it official. I got into med school...and here I am.

Dr. Christa Lorenson

The men fall more into stereotypical roles – poor little rich boy suffering from low self esteem and the kid from the school of hard knocks who has had to fight for everything.  I'm really looking forward to those two sharing scenes. It's an obvious but relatable conflict, and I can't see the two of them getting along. 

The two other doctors featured in the premiere are likeable enough, but not very well developed, which is a shame. If Code Black is to flourish, it will really need to expand the staff of the ER, and eventually the hospital. While I'm not for ripping off other shows entirely, one of ER's strengths (and Grey's weaknesses) was the size of the cast. In addition to casting a deep bench of doctors, the extended support cast really sold the believability of the ER.

Having only one nurse featured is a drawback, especially since we didn't even see Luis Guzman doing anything particularly nurse-like.

Granted, as the head nurse, he may be spending more time on administrative duties than taking temperatures and delivering med. But as the ladies on The View found out, nurses play a vital role in hospitals. It would be great if the show runners could find a way to highlight that. 

Life Lesson. When asked if you want to examine your patient some more, it's like being asked if you want a breath mint. The answer is always yes.

Jesse Salandar

The show struck a good balance between realistic medical portrayals and cutting edge medicine. I was especially impressed with the skateboarding teenager who ended up having a subdural hematoma.

Usually when a TV patient is going to have a secondary injury like that, it's made to be super obvious, but in this case I was just as surprised as the doctors when he collapsed. 

The meeting between Ariel and the heart recipient at the end was my only major annoyance -- it was trite and unrealistic. I know, I know, it's just TV, but that little girl would have a) still been in recovery and b) been on immunosuppressants.

There's a process for breaking the anonymity of organ donation, but there's still no way that Ariel would have been visiting that girl so soon. 

The set decorators did a really good job of building a believable inner city ER, although the lighting could probably be adjusted. I know it's really nit-picky of me to mention, but "dramatic" dark lighting on television is a pet peeve of mine. It's especially irksome on this show as hospitals are notoriously bright and glaring with fluorescent lights. 

Overall, Code Black showed a lot of potential, and had me on the edge of my seat for a significant percentage of the episode. I can't wait to see where it goes from here. Watch Code Black online and let us know what you thought of the premiere in the comments!

Pilot Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.6 / 5.0 (25 Votes)

Elizabeth Harlow was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She left the organization in October 2018.

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Code Black Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Life Lesson. When asked if you want to examine your patient some more, it's like being asked if you want a breath mint. The answer is always yes.

Jesse Salandar

We're not their friend, their family, or their shrink. We're their doctor. He gets confused.

Dr. Leanne Rorish