Code Black (S02E02): "Life and Limb"

Review:
Masterclass. That is what you get when you combine Code Black’s cast with guest stars such as Eric Roberts, Camryn Manheim and Charlie Barnett. Not only that, they shed light on the life and history of Beth, a Trans woman, whose story is one so timely and poignant. Two episodes in, and Code Black has already set in motion how this season is going to go; with underlying themes throughout each individual episode, they don’t just explore the lives of our resident Angels staff, but do so through the cases and patients we meet every week. Titled “Life and Limb”, this week’s episode began with the audience hearing an emergency call about a truck versus bus accident on the freeway. 15 individuals critical, between the ages of 15-18 years old with 3 dead on arrival. The doctor at Angels who took this call, Dr. Dixon (Noah Gray Cabey), communicates what the audience is feeling, “that’s a lot of kids”. Elsewhere, Angus (Harry Ford) is seen solidly positioned at Mike’s (Tommy Dewey) bedside, urging his brother to open his eyes. Harry Ford has navigated the end of last season, and the beginning of this season with heartbreaking truth. Mike moves his fingers in response to Angus’ voice, Malaya (Melanie Chandra) and Mario (Ben Hollingsworth) having joined Angus, sit on opposite side of whether such a reaction is positive or negative. Malaya, supporting Angus remains optimistic while Mario takes the more realistic route, regardless, the three must end this conversation as the first wave of patients from the crash arrive.
As Centre Stage reaches full capacity in less than a minute, the doctors break up into respective teams; Malaya and Dr. Rorish (Marcia Gay Harden) are responsible for the truck driver meanwhile the others take care of the students. Willis (Rob Lowe) encourages Guthrie (William Allen Young) to call time of death of one, as they have more patients coming it while Mario must pull Dixon into line as he falters (gags) after noticing brain matter. The new dynamic with the residents, Mario and company now being second year, is one of the most interesting of the season. Not only do we get to see them with more responsibility, but also how they use that responsibility to guide the first years. The editing throughout this opening sequence, specifically the move into slow motion, gives the reality of this situation a new light. As Willis looks around, inspecting each individual bed, the feel of Centre Stage somewhat mirrors a war zone. Add to that the voiceover, in which we learn the hospital can’t I.D. the dead victims as all their identification is still in the bus, is shocking in all sense of the word.
Dr. Peele (Nafessa Williams) is overseeing the treatment of Holden, the team captain who dislocated his knee during the accident, but when she notices that his pain is getting worse not better, she calls for help. Mama (Luis Guzman) tries to calm her down, but before he can do so Willis steps in noting that he’s lost the pulse in his leg, and he needs surgery, something Charlotte should have picked up on. Pulling her aside, he asks her why she is here, reprimanding her for being careless. Charlotte however, stands up for herself, indicating her knowledge of “textbook” medicine is there. Willis doesn’t care, the hospital is no textbook. Overhearing this, Leanne steps in and comes to her residents’ defense; Charlotte graduated top of her class and has a brilliant brain, with Rorish encouraging Willis to be a little nicer. The chemistry between Marcia and Rob is gradually evolving, and the way their characters step to one another is very entertaining. Dr. Rorish has her hands full this week, with she and Malaya overseeing the care of the truck driver, whose wife (Camryn Manheim) has arrived in the meantime. Malaya still somewhat suspicious of the details surrounding the crash and who’s to blame, gives the wife just a little bit of sass (delivered with impressive subtly by Melanie Chandra), and is ordered away by Leanne. The wife is adamant that her husband was not under the influence of any illegal substances yet Leanne can’t say for sure if that’s the case. She also can’t say for sure whether he will survive or not, the reality of this written across her face, with Camryn Manheim already breaking our hearts.
Elsewhere, Campbell (Boris Kodjoe) and Heather (Jillian Murray) continue to dance around their somewhat tumultuous relationship during surgery (he’s still holding back on involving her professionally) until he instructs her to finish to procedure on Holden’s leg. Unfortunately, the surgery is too little, too late, meaning Holden needs an amputation but before that happens they require the fathers’ consent. Back in the ER, Mario and Dr. Dixon oversee a patient, Beth, suffering from abdominal pain they agree could be either an ovarian cyst or appendicitis. As news of Holden’s amputation trickles through, Willis is on route to tell the father when Charlotte insists she wants to be there. Even against Willis’ wishes, she’s there and listens, sadly, to the father grapple with this decision, proclaiming that his son is not a normal kid, and that he’d rather die than lose his leg. Both Willis and Campbell urge the father to give consent, because if he doesn’t, Holden will die. Keeping with the theme of father and son, while assisting Noa (Emily Tyra) with an aggressive patient, Mario is visited by his long-lost father, played by stalwart, Eric Roberts. Talk about drama, and that my friends is what ensues, especially when after two years the main reason father dearest has returned is for a little cash.
Close by, Angus is stitching up Noa after she was thrown to the ground while Dr. Guthrie sedates their patient. Noticing a ring on the patient’s finger, Noa works her millennial magic to figure out his identity and it’s pretty impressive. First the alumnae page, then Facebook and then successfully tracking down the brother, Noa shows off her technological detective skills. In what was one of the most raw and brilliantly written exchanges in the episode, Dixon reveals to Mario and Jesse that Beth is suffering from prostatitis. Mario, initially a little confused by it, eventually realises she is Trans. More so, a little ignorantly asks why Dixon didn’t realise “she was a dude” during the examination, to which Dixon proclaims “she isn’t a dude, she’s a woman”. And with that, Code Black joins a host of television shows to have effortlessly and beautifully touched up the climate surrounding the Trans community. I don’t think I’m alone in saying, that I cheered and said “heck yes” when Dixon shut Mario down like he did. Noa and her millennial skills work a treat, and when the brother (Charlie Barnett) of their patient arrives we discover that he’s schizophrenic and “Sally” who he’s been referring to is actually his trumpet.
First off it was Dixon shutting Mario down, but now, as they both stumble through talking to Beth and her partner, Jesse is the one to shut them down. Rose, we discover, didn’t know that Beth was Trans and with the news too overwhelming turns and leaves. Meanwhile, Malaya and Leanne try to stabilise the truck driver as he continues to crash and worsen. Camryn Manheim delivers the next line with soul-crushing realness – “He’s not going to make it, is he?” – And Marcia Gay Harden communicates Leanne’s pain of the answer through nothing but her eyes. The power of these three women in this scene is phenomenal, with minimal dialogue but bucket loads of emotion delivered through nuanced body language, tone and facial expression. Checking back in with Holden, Willis finds the young boy calling around for second opinions regarding his leg. Surprised by this, Willis pulls the father aside for one last attempt to reiterate how important this amputation is. In an honest moment, the father reveals he can’t be the one to make his son do this because, for the rest of their lives, he’ll be known as the guy who cut off his leg. Rob Lowe continues to inhabit this character, and position himself within this cast fantastically, none more so when he offers Holden one last pep talk. Speaking of pep talks, Mama finds Rose sitting in the waiting room after finding out about Beth. They’ve only been together a couple of months but Rose really does love Beth. Mama, in all his wisdom, with all of his heart, tells Rose the one thing he has found that everyone has in common, is that we all need someone to care of. And more importantly, we are all the same. Bravo Code Black writers, for another deeply rousing and inspiring monologue, reminding us all that love is love, and that on a human level we are all the same.
The pep talk to young Holden seemingly worked, and as he is wheeled to surgery, Charlotte’s guilt over the entire situation comes to a head. Specifically when Campbell questions why they are even in this predicament as it is and Willis covers for her. Not wanting to fall into the same pattern as her celebrity career, she admits to Campbell that it was her mistake. This admission gets her a stern talking to as well as leading to a heated stand-off between Willis and Campbell. Could this possibly signal the start of a bitter rivalry? Angus is still watching over the brothers, and witnesses a beautiful showing of love and commitment when he starts to sing. The parallel between this story and Angus’ is possibly the most gut-wrenching of the episode with Harry Ford continuing to do such breathtaking work. The health of the patients, at this point seems to decrease, with Mario’s father coughing up blood and losing consciousness, while Beth shows signs of being septic when pus is present in her urine.
With the episode moving towards its conclusion, Code Black’s creative team again, ties each storyline up with an important lesson. Alice, the wife of the truck driver has decided to take the breathing tube out to make him more comfortable. He becomes conscious again, asking whether he killed anyone, panicked, and in a moment, Leanne chooses to lie. Shocked, Malaya follows her away questioning why she did what she did when there was obvious traces of amphetamines in his system. Leanne simply states that he’s paying the ultimate price, he too will die, and in that moment Leanne chose grace. Marcia Gay Harden and Melanie Chandra, having now worked together for over a full season, continually evolve their characters, collectively and individually. Mario’s dad, whose liver is failing, doesn’t seem too concerned with nearly dying, especially when he’s more focused on insulting Mario and telling him he’s a disappointment. Ben Hollingsworth has been the dark horse since Code Black started, quietly pulling away the layers of Mario to reveal vulnerability and depth. He’s one to watch this season, and with the introduction of his father, the audience can only predict how dramatic life is going to become for Dr. Savetti.
Elsewhere, Willis again shows that he’s not all hard-core when he gives Holden an incredible gift. With his connection to the army, Willis was able to procure top of the line prosthetics; Holden looks at these with amazement and hope, something he hasn’t had all episode. The inspiration the audience draws from each of these stories not only reiterates why Code Black is uniquely its own, but the importance of why real life must be represented through media. Lastly, Beth explains to Mario that she’s always loved women, and just because she is now a woman, that doesn’t change who she’s attracted too. The two bond over the fact that no one understands everything about them, before Rose returns to apologise. The conversation is emotional and real, the two women apologising for their shortcomings, admitting to the fear but ultimately declaring their love for one another. Talk about inspirational. The ending is nothing short of emotional, as the trumpet sounds, Charlie Barnett gives a completely heart-soaring performance as his character listens to his brother play. Paralleled with scenes of Angus and Mike, as the screen goes black, our hearts a left praying, and hoping that Mike, will soon open his eyes.
Other key notes:

  • Leanne and Willis continue to jump between at each other’s throats to supporting one another
  • Dixon is a virgin
  • Noa saves Charlotte’s butt, they need friend’s right?