Code Black (S2E04): “Demons and Angels”

Review

In the spirit of Halloween, this week’s Code Black episode gave us all the chills, good and bad. Titled “Demons and Angels” the episode opens on a packed out emergency room, full of zombies, ghosts and the cutest little batman. Willis (Rob Lowe) runs into Dr. Nolan whose on babysitting duty for her boyfriend whose out of town. Dressed as Cat woman, she’s headed to a haunted house with Ian, her boyfriends son (the cute little batman I mentioned earlier). The two share a quick, but somewhat flirtatious exchange, before Willis enters the chaos that is Angels on Halloween night. Elsewhere, Angus (Harry Ford) interrupts his father and Dr. Campbell (Boris Kodjoe) as they are discussing next steps when it comes to Mike’s (Tommy Dewey) care. Angus believes that Mike is ready to come of the ventilator whereas his father does not; the tension between them all is palpable, with Angus clearly outnumbered. Again though, Harry Ford layers Angus in a way that the audience both empathizes and champions his plight. 

The rest of the team have their hands full as they get an influx of patients from a building collapse. Mario (Ben Hollingsworth) lands a raving meth head zombie, while Malaya (Melanie Chandra) and Guthrie (William Allen Young) team up to treat their patient. Leanne (Marcia Gay Harden) remains behind and luckily she did, as shortly after a car comes swerving into the emergency parking lot. Out of the front drivers seat hops a young girl dressed as a princess; her grandpa is unconscious and he needs help. Distraught, Leanna ensures the young girl that she did a great job and now it’s her turn to try and save him. Entering the ER, the intensity is high, with the stress of the atmosphere effecting Guthrie more so than usual, perhaps. During a procedure, Malaya notices a shake in his hand, what could be going on? Quick cut, and Leanne, with Angus gets to work on the old man. In the meantime, Willis arrives to discover that the building collapse occurred at the haunted house where Amanda Nolan was headed. Understandably concerned, Willis informs Rorish that he needs to go, and requires 2 doctors to assist. Leanne signs off, and sends with him Noa (Emily Tyra) and Elliot (Noah Gray Cabey). 

As Willis and company arrive at the haunted house, the chaos and panic is overwhelming. Given a pep talk and only moments to compose themselves, Noa and Elliot are instructed to triage the victims. Willis however, starts the search for Amanda initially finding himself stuck in a freaky room where he struggles to keep in touch with reality. He eventually overcomes the fear, and successfully tracks down Amanda. She’s uninjured, but Ian, he’s trapped on the other side of the rubble. Willis calls to Ian trying to wake him up, with the young boy eventually waking to find a deep cut on this leg. Back at the hospital, Heather (Jillian Murray) and Campbell continue to navigate their professional relationship with a whole lot of attitude and sass flying backwards and forward. Campbell still refuses to reinstate her surgery privileges stating that the problem with Heather is that her mouth is smarter than her brain. Campbell seems to be attempting to stamp his authority this week, bossing everyone around. He even insists that Mario stop wasting his time on the sedated meth head and discharge him.

Elsewhere, the young girls mother arrives, frantic, with the news of her father’s condition sending her spiraling. The situation takes a heartbreaking turn when Tyler, her son arrives after not following through on a promise he made to take his sister trick or treating. Not appreciating her son’s attitude, the mother lays a solid slap on his, reprimanding him. Back at the Haunted House, Willis has managed to start communication with Ian via FaceTime and is walking the young boy through the steps of building a tourniquet. After finding a pen and an electrical cord, Ian is successful and the bleeding stops. Charlotte (Nafessa Williams) is still on desk duty, but this week Guthrie tries his best to involve her. He has the right idea but again, Leanne is there to pull her back into line. Not only that, she offers Charlotte a little bit of advice; that if she sees herself as a doctor, go be a doctor. Leanne is quickly pulled back into action though when the elderly man from earlier crashes again. They start CPR but sadly, have to call time of death. To make matters worse Campbell is still of his rampage, seemingly not caring about what this man’s death really means. 

Checking in at the haunted house, there has been another collapse that finds Amanda trapped underneath. Luckily, Willis is able to maneuver her out from under the rubble but not without an injury. She has displaced her rib but insists that she’s fine and the he help in. Charlotte, having made her way to the waiting room, is joined by Malaya. Reluctant to get started, especially with her celebrity status, Malaya offers Charlotte some advice and encourages her to start with the little girl dressed just like her. Leanne having informed the elderly man’s daughter of his death, find his grandson alone in the corridor. He’s blaming himself for what happened, carrying guilt with him. Not standing for this, Leanne shows the young boy just how his grandpa died and assured him that his mother doesn’t hate him, she hates herself. The first stars, and stories that Code Black tells continues to hit close to home every week. Be it family, losing a loved one, drug addiction, shooting or PTSD, they cover it. 

In the waiting room, Guthrie, with a noticeable shake to his hand drops coffee everywhere but insists he is okay. Close by, Mario and Angus get into a heated discussion when Angus informs his friend of his father’s intentions with Mike. Mario, not standing for Angus’ weakness says it how it is – Mike trust Angus with this, it wasn’t casual. At the Haunted House, Willis has been able to get to Ian reuniting him with Amanda. With some time to kill, Amanda asks about the mystery of Ethan Willis — and we’re sure the audience is intrigued as well. We learn that Willis was discharged from the Army for disobeying orders; he continues to give American medicine to those in Afghanistan effected by the war. Simply and poignantly put by Amanda, he participated in a criminal act of kindness. Unfortunately, soon after this exchange Amanda passes out giving Willis the opportunity to relocate her dissolved rib. 

The atmosphere becomes quite hectic as the episode progresses, yet when the Meth head from earlier wakes to find himself hearing voices, the episode takes a turn. Frantic, panicked and aggressive, he yells and lunges for the security guards gun. He unfortunately disarms the security guard and begins shooting with people running every which way, trying to avoid stray bullets. The Angels team do their best to protect the patients, with Angus, Mario and Rorish all in close proximity but it is Charlotte who performs the ultimate act of heroism. As bullets fly, Charlotte runs to shield the young girl she’s been treating. As the chaos dies down, Campbell having tackled and subdued the assailant, they discover that in the process of saving the little girl, Charlotte herself has fallen victim to a gunshot. Jumping immediately to attention, the Angels team rush Charlotte to Center Stage. Everyone is there, working swiftly to ensure Charlotte has the best chance. It must be noted that the Code Black cast is one of the most nuanced when it comes to these high-volume, highly emotional scenes. Having been lucky enough to witness the filming of this scene, the vulnerability and utter commitment seeps through. Additionally, Melanie Chandra offer subtle hints of PTSD as she stands close by watching Charlotte be wheeled in. It wasn’t too long ago that Malaya found herself in the exact same spot and Chandra, locking into those emotions is again as communicative as ever. 

Having not heard the news of the shooting, Willis is on the phone to Heather informing her that he’s going ahead with a procedure that could both save and/or kill Ian. Regardless, he doesn’t have time to wait and must do it en-route to the hospital, encouraging Heather to be ready. Speaking of not knowing, Noa and Elliot arrive back to the hospital greeted by Dr. Guthrie who offers some calm words of advice to his young squires. Ultimately though, both young doctors are instantly shaken when they see their friend on the operating table. What happens next is the second event this season to shake the Angels team for their core; Campbell and Leanne argue, passionately, about the course of treatment for Charlotte while the entire staff stand by, praying that Charlotte pulls through. As she begins to crash, the craziness begins to escalate. Meanwhile, Willis successfully pulls off the risky procedure saving Ethan’s life. And with one young life saved, and another hanging in the balance, Code Black delivers a flawless balance of inspiration and heartbreak. Not only is Charlotte’s life in jeopardy, Guthrie and Malaya must work of their own patient while simultaneously being privy to the dire situation next door. Again, we see the shake in Guthrie’s hand, as does Malaya, and this time after being offered help, accepts. 

Having stabilized Ian en-route, Willis arrives back at the hospital, hot on the trail of an OR. He needs Heather to help, but with her probation still in place, she’s reluctant. But when Willis – Rob Lowe as fiery as ever – questions whether she’s a surgeon or not, she jumps in the elevator and follows him up. Thankfully, Willis and Heather Dave Ian’s life; a feat that Willis treasures. Rob Lowe, in this episode alone, gave Dr. Willis layer upon layer of history, and emotion not yet seen until now. Back downstairs, Charlotte continues to bleed with this fact making Leanne more and more agitated. As the machines beep, and her colleagues utter words of encouragement, Campbell highlights that she’s been down for too long, they have to call it. Marcia Gay Harden, a force of nature when it comes to these deeply motherly and emotional scenes, let’s the reality of the situation take hold. Leanne, feeling a responsibility unlike any other makes it known that calling time of death is a job that is hers. As silence befalls the once loud Angels ER, we watch as one by one the team break. Their hearts crack open and their minds in disbelief. Between Marcia Gay Harden’s captivating performance and Melanie Chandra’s understated throwback to Malaya’s own trauma, Code Black farewells a member of their team both beautifully and shockingly. The shot of Guthrie, as he holds Malaya close is evidence enough that moments like these require no words or dialogue but just a shot of family members, grieving the loss of a loved one. 

Shortly after, Jesse finds Leanne alone, in the operating theatre deeply pained and blaming herself. Again, Harden inexplicably captures the true nature of such a loss when Leanne states that Charlotte was someone’s daughter. Again, having been lucky enough to witness this cast work, is in itself a dream. But to be able to watch the finished product and write about such artistry is even sweeter. On a somewhat happier note, Campbell reinstates Heather after he admired her work with Willis while Ethan and Ian were reunited when the young boy woke up. Yet, in the biggest development of the show to date, Angus having heeded Mario’s advice, goes ahead and removes Mike’s breathing tube. Harry Ford individually can break our hearts, and when Angus pleads with Mike to breathe you can hear them crack. Watch closely though, because as Angus is joined by Mario with words of encouragement, Mike finally takes a breath, on his own.