Well and truly into their second season, Code Black is continuing to heighten the stakes; the drama is more heart-wrenching, the medical cases increasing in complexity and the relationships between the Angels staff evolving and devolving. With a more light-hearted opening this week, “Corporeal Form” opens on Willis (Rob Lowe) and Charlotte (Nafessa Williams) bonding over Mexican food and the fact that soy tacos are a thing in Los Angeles. Not only that, Charlotte again, is recognized for her movie role and scores her tacos free of charge. Their break is cut short however, when a car speeds up and throws a woman out the door. Laying motionless on the ground, the woman looks bloodied as the car speeds away. Elsewhere, Rorish (Marcia Gay Harden) is discussing with Campbell (Boris Kodjoe) the decision to place Dr. Peele on probation after last week’s mistake. Rorish is strong in her stance that this kind of punishment could tarnish Charlotte’s progression as a doctor, reminding Campbell they are after all, a teaching hospital. Her plight to have Charlotte given a warning is unsuccessful, with Campbell stating that Charlotte is to be tethered to an attending till further notice.
In the meantime, Jesse (Luis Guzman) has gotten word of a medical emergency in the boiler room and with the emergency room quickly filling up, Savetti (Ben Hollingsworth) and Dr. Keen (Emily Tyra) are sent to check it out. Willis has wheeled the woman from outside into Center Stage where Rorish and the team try to subdue a now very conscious, and very aggressive Spanish woman. They learn that she’s newly affiliated with a gang, but more importantly and shockingly, that’s she’s pregnant. Meanwhile, downstairs, Mario and Noa have arrived to find maintenance man Barry, trapped underneath rubble. Knowing one of them has to get in there, and knowing he’s too big, Mario informs Noa it has to be her. So, after retrieving her skateboard from her locker, she wheels herself in to assess Barry. There is lots of blood (a torn artery in his arm) that Mario guides Noa through treating. Not only that, they work together to calm each other’s nerves as well as Barry’s. Mario grabs the role of mentor and teacher with both hands in this scene, remaining cool, calm and collected, with encouragement for the young resident as well.
Back upstairs, Willis is with his next patient; a woman found wandering around, who doesn’t know her name. He names her Janie, which she likes but insists isn’t necessary, she’s just here while she moves on to the next world. Looking shocked, Willis questions this statement to which she simply responds that she’s dead. Luckily for Willis, Jesse had the smart idea of paging for a Psych consult – everyone meet Dr. Amanda Nolan. Can anyone say spark? Something immediately happened between she and Willis. Stay tuned, I guess. With Mike (Tommy Dewey) still on life support, Angus (Harry Ford) and his father meet to discuss the discovery that Mike has a living will in which it states that Angus is his medical proxy. Evidently concerned by this, his father informs Angus that he’s already made the moves to have it changed. Harry Ford plays Angus’ reactionary scenes so subtly yet at the same time what he’s feeling is obvious. Keeping with obvious feelings, patient Anita (the pregnant gang member from earlier) is still being aggressive and completely disrespectful to Angus and company. She’s adamant about not wanting to see the ultrasound and even a stern word from Jesse doesn’t seem to make the situation better. Even though this medical case is one we’ve heard about quite a bit (woman not knowing she was pregnant until 35+ weeks), it still renders the doctors in a state of disbelief.
Willis, having introduced Dr. Nolan to Janie, is standing by watching the consult as Dr. Nolan tries to determine what’s at play. Janie has an answer for everything; the body she has is borrowed and she knows why she’s here now. Diagnosing her with Cotard’s Delusion, Dr. Nolan defines it as an individual believing they are a ghost or dead, it can manifest from depression or psychosis or even brain atrophy. Note in this exchange, the flirtatious and joking nature of the two doctors. Could Doctor Nolan be a possible love interest for one Doctor Willis? Elsewhere, Charlotte has been designated to “scut” work but Malaya (Melanie Chandra), recognizing what it’s like to be reprimanded for making a mistake, reaches out to her fellow resident with a simple, non-complicated case. Zane has arrived at the hospital complaining of a sore throat, and sore stomach; Charlotte, as expected, thinks on her feet, and continues to be strong in her diagnosis. Rorish keeps a close eye on her, while Malaya, like Mario, thrives with the opportunity to guide and teach a younger doctor. Our Season 1 residents have certainly evolved since they started, with their new roles as mentors giving them each new focus and new drive. They together recognize a yellow tinge to Zane’s eyes, indicating a possible liver condition. Unfortunately, this positive teaching moment is cut short as Campbell continues on his rampage this week, insisting that Charlotte be taken off the case.
To lighten the mood, we can always count on Mama and Daddy banter. Marcia and Luis continue to have some of the best chemistry on television, their dynamic, both comedic and dramatic. Sadly, the reprieve is short lived, when Anita attempts to leave the hospital but fails when she starts to bleed. With a quick check in, we learn that the boiler that’s collapsed on Barry is actually what’s keeping him alive. They move it, he dies. Returning to Center Stage, Anita has suffered a placental abruption resulting in Rorish and her team having to deliver the baby immediately. Campbell, surprisingly, takes the opportunity to help Dr. Dixon, an action we see very rarely. The baby is delivered, and after initial concerns, starts to cry as normal. With the situation downstairs in dire straits, Mario has called upon Willis to assess, what he decides is risky, but doable. Accompanied by Heather (Jillian Murphy), Willis attempts to get Campbell to sign off but is it any surprise he balks at Willis’ suggestion? Regardless, he doesn’t give the go ahead. To make matters worse, shortly after, Willis learns that Campbell went above him and had Janie discharged. The rivalry between these two is quickly growing, and the energy both Rob Lowe and Boris Kodjoe are bringing, heightens the entertainment value.
Zane’s condition has deteriorated rapidly, and the timing of his mother arriving (played by the epically talented Sherri Saum) could not be worse. Leanne and Malaya get to work, but Charlotte is quickly dismissed from the area as she is supposed to be on probation. Sherri Saum’s entrance was nothing short of gut-wrenching, with her emotions visercal and raw. Speaking of arrivals, Julio, Anita’s estranged brother arrives in an attempt to break through to Anita. We begin to learn a little more about Barry too; his wife died and she was all he had. Noa does her best to try and calm him down, but self preservation is kicking in, he doesn’t want to die. Tensions continue to rise between patients and staff, and when Rorish overhears yelling she’s surprised to find Zane’s parents in an argument. Sherri Saum, is hurt and struggling, the embodiment of a parent witnessing their child in pain and feeling utterly helpless. The scene is one of the best of the episode; when Leanne reveals that Zane is in liver failure after having had too much cough syrup, his mom launches at his dad. The anger, and shock that her son needs a liver transplant, illustrated through every bit of Saum’s performance.
After hearing “no” from Campbell regarding Echmo, Willis had the army ship a prototype that could assist in saving Barry’s life. Again, Campbell denies this solution. And to make matters worse, Janie shows back up in the ER having been involved in a hit and run. Following his instinct, he begins to work even though Campbell instructs Willis to step away. Having this confrontation in front of everyone doesn’t help the situation, especially when Campbell is completely out of line. Speaking of confrontation’s, Anita and Julio come to blows as he encourages her to leave the gang. His request falls on deaf ears yet with a little background story from Dr. Dixon Anita seems to come around. We learn that Elliot (Noah Gray Candy) went into the system when he was two, and that he had a great life. But still, he had questions. Either way, Anita has to do what she believes is best for her child.
To break up the heart-wrenching nature of Angels this week, Guthrie (William Allen Young) welcomed a man who thought it’d be cute if he proposed to his girlfriend by putting the ring on his penis. So that didn’t go so well, because now he’s in the hospital, and it’s stuck. Somewhere nearby, Zane wakes groggily asking for his dad. But when he’s not there, his mom sleeping close by, Leanne learns some interesting information. Zane mentions that they’re always fighting, this is when he’s asked whether he was the one that drank all the cough medicine. And he did, he was sick and he didn’t want them to fight. This sad admission is overhead by the mom, and as Leanne leaves, the two share a knowing look. In the boiler room, the procedure to free Barry is beginning with the team removing the blood from his body, to pump it back in later. He’s freaking out, Noa unable to calm him but that is when he sees her. Janie, in her hospital gown. Are they connected? Either way, the vision is enough to calm him down giving the medical team time to remove the rubble.
The episode starts to move towards it end when Anita, after holding her baby and being encouraged by her brother that she can be a mother, changes her mind. Checking back in with Barry, he’s undergoing surgery with Campbell performing it as everyone watches from above. They wait, anxiously, for his heart to beat and when it does Mario, Noa, Heather and Willis are full of relief and happiness. Back at the ER, Zane’s parents are sitting by his bedside when Rorish arrives with the liver test results. He’s a donor match and after having believed he was responsible in the first place, the gratitude that he’s able to save his son’s life is evident. It has to be said, Sherri Saum is one of the strongest actors on television as this moment. Inhabiting roles requiring depth and an array of different emotions, her ability to do leaves her unrecognizable and her performances, captivating.
As we know, we all need to balance the tense with the less-tense and when we return to see Guthrie ready to remove the ring, with a saw, it’s laugh out loud worthy. His soon-to-be fiancée however, questions whether there will be any permanent damage. Jesse assures her that he’ll make a full recovery. He’s full of good news and wisdom, our beloved Jesse, as he reminds Charlotte that there is always an internal battle that we fight. It’s between fear and guilt versus hope and humility, and you know which one wins? The one you feed. It is lines like these, relevant to our lives in more ways than one, that Code Black is characterized by. The ones that inspire us, and the ones that make the audience feel like they’ve been heard. That they’re not alone. It isn’t all rainbows and butterfly’s, especially for Heather, when Campbell revoked her OR privileges due to her involvement with Barry’s case, and her selfishness. He does so, in front of a big crowd of Angels staff. Noticing Rorish’ look of horror, Campbell confronts her asking what it is she doesn’t agree with. It’s not that she disagrees but maybe he should think about how he handles those types of situations. If the tension between Willis and Campbell wasn’t enough, it seems like he’s at odds with Rorish too, especially when he shuts her down by saying he was hired to manage it better. I’m not too sure what the endgame is here, but what I do know is that if Kodjoe, Lowe and Harden continue to bring the passion and fire they have so far, especially in these confrontations, we’ve got one juicy battle on our hands.
Elsewhere, Mario and Noa recuperate after their trying day, and bond over their success. Add to that the tiniest bit of flirtation and we may have a new pairing, well that may be the case had Noa not shut him down instantly. Interrupted (great timing by the way) by Willis, who seems a little out of sorts, the two young doctors voice their concern. That is when some of the pieces regarding Janie (who has disappeared again since) add up. She thinks she’s dead, and was injured in a hit and run, the same type of accident that took Barry’s life. Coincidence you say? Paranormal, maybe? Meanwhile, Angus refuses to sign over power attorney to his father, passionately stating how supportive Mike was for him during rehab. That he didn’t abandon Angus then, and Angus won’t do that to him now. And as another stressful day at Angels closes, Dr. Nolan wonders why Janie affected Willis so much, why he was so invested. Well, it’s because he’s been dead too.