Code Black (S2E05): “Landslide”

Review
After the shock of last week’s episode, in which the Angels staff farewelled Charlotte (Nafessa Williams) in one of the most horrific ways possible, the latest episode of Code Black made sure we remembered the young doctor with all her grace and promise. Titled “Landslide” the episode opened on a somber looking Jesse (Luis Guzman) standing at a makeshift memorial for Charlotte as raining continues to fall. Bringing him out of his own mind, is the sound of a motorbike pulling up. As Willis (Rob Lowe) hops off his bike, the two share a quiet moment before re-entering the chaos that is Center Stage. Note the subtle inclusion of the line about shootings in Los Angeles, another brilliant example of the way that Code Black’s writing team continues to bring relevance and poignancy to the stories they tell. 

It seems Angus (Harry Ford) will have his hands full this week when a large group of children find themselves in the emergency room. Not only that, he has to deal with a mother (Played by the ever so talented Leisha Hailey) whose belief system doesn’t align with his own. Add to that the mother’s tumultuous relationship with her own mother (also present) and Angus is in for an awesome day. Specifically, the children have broken out in a rash after camping and the adults aren’t sure what’s to blame. Elsewhere, Campbell (Boris Kodjoe) and Leanne (Marcia Gay Harden) are on hand when victims from a nearby landslide are wheeled in. The team gets to work, Rorish in leadership mode, with Campbell also attempting to take the lead. The competition between these two continues to rage, but this time Leanne’s totally disregard for Campbell is noticed by Malaya (Melanie Chandra), ever so slightly. Elliot (Noah Gray Candy) and Noa (Emily Tyra) check in with one another after the terrible situation with Charlotte, both still deeply sad after losing their friend. Unfortunately, this moment is cut short when the grandmother collapses. She’s wheeled to Center Stage, adding another individual to the chaos can as Elliot and Angus get to work. 

Joined in Center Stage by Campbell, Elliot and Angus conclude that the elderly lady is suffering an MI but upon further examination Campbell notices something even worse. She’s suffering from measles, and now Angus and Elliot have exposed everyone in Center Stage to this highly contagious virus. In the meantime, the female victim from the landslide, Liz, wakes up extremely upset and grief stricken over the loss of her fiancée. Add to that her frustration at Rick for inadvertently being the one who killed him. Willis and Leanne somewhat tag team this situation, with Willis learning more and more about Rick, the male survivor. He was best friends with Liz’ fiancée but and did his best to save them all. Surprisingly, we discover that he has fallen in love with Liz, making for one hell of a love triangle. Willis, knowing when to step away, hears well and truly enough with Rob Lowe adding some subtle humor to a very complicated situation. Next door, Leanne does her best to calm Liz down by offering her all inspiring bits of wisdom. It seems to work (of course it does), with Liz a little more understanding and calm. 

After having waded through the waiting room, Malaya and Guthrie (William Allen Young) meet a patient who was in a car accident. Again, Malaya notices his hand shaking, this time as he’s writing in a chart. Close by, Mario’s dad arrives back in the ER after having been involved in another altercation. He’s drunk, and Noa realizing the familial connection reminds Mario of the protocol. He disregards her warning and also the protocol, proceeding to treat him. The tension is not lost on Noa, who unfortunately finds herself in the middle, with father dearest trying his best to woo her. Thankfully she’s focused on the medicine and notices the severe head laceration on the back of his skull. Back with Guthrie, we watch as he gives the taxi driver some heartbreaking news; he’s suffering from macular degeneration, and soon, he’ll be unable to drive. The guest star stories and talent continue to be the secret and outstanding ingredient for Code Black this season and as we watch the taxi driver sit with this information, our hearts shatter. But wait; when he turns it back on Guthrie, mentioning that he can tell Guthrie isn’t having a good day, we see a connection not yet made with any of his colleagues. The parallel between these two is haunting; and when the monologue about losing the one thing that is everything to him, we see Guthrie relate and associate. William Allen Young is a quiet force of such expansive cast, giving Code Black a grace and depth.  

Liz is rushed to Center Stage after she crashes, showing signs of bleeding to death the team quickly get to work. Rorish, Willis and Malaya are working to save her life when Campbell arrives to again, attempt to assert authority. And again, has no luck, with Willis disregarding any orders. Luckily, his procedure works and the Liz is saved. As the stakes continue to rise, Mario returns to visit his father, handing over a piece of paper. We learn that it’s a cheque; he tells his father to take it, and that he’s done. Eric Roberts offers such ingenuity in these moments, with the hurt of this exchange ever so subtle. In contrast, Elliot is anything but subtle when he loses his cool with the mother from earlier. Stamping his disapproval of her belief system, that her not believing in vaccination caused the situation, Elliot well and truly loses all professionalism. Angus, still moping after his run in wth Campbell watches on and does nothing, a fact that does not sit well with Rorish. Removing Angus from the room, Leanne doesn’t hold back when reprimanding him. She highlights the fact that he isn’t a parent, that showing compassion is something he should do especially when being a parent is like walking through a mine field. The truth to this statement is amplified by Marcia Gay Harden’s status as a mother within Code Black and in real life. Lastly, she encourages Angus to teach Elliot, that that is now his job. Speaking of teachers, Malaya having pushed the envelope with Guthrie a little too far regarding his shaking hands, finds herself on the end of a heated confrontation. Guthrie is unimpressed, and reiterates the importance of Malaya being focused on her patient and nothing else. 

You know you’re reaching the climax of Code Black when everything starts to go wrong. The grandmother begins to crash as Elliot, whose been given responsibility, stands by not knowing what to do. Fortunately, after his stern talking to, Angus shows up just in time. He takes the lead and guides his young counterpart through the steps, and together, they successfully save the lady’s life. Meanwhile, Mario arrives back to Center Stage to find Noa furiously performing CPR on his father. It’s understandable when shock overwhelms him; he stands motionless unable to really speak or hear. As Noa continues CPR, she looks to Mario for what to do next. Eventually, he snaps back to reality and orders her to call it. Sadly she does, and we watch as Mario takes control of the most heartbreaking of situation. He wheels his father away, with Noa alerting Jesse to this fact. While this was occurring, Leanne and Willis received another victim from the Landslide. It’s Drew, Liz’s fiancée who was believed to have died. Shockingly, he survived only to be pierced by a tree branch that missed all his vital organs. To put it simply, he was damn lucky. 

Jesse, being as observant and intuitive as ever confronts Malaya about Guthrie’s hand tremors, her struggle to get through to her mentor evident to our beloved Mama. Initially surprised that Jesse had worked it all out, Malaya asks what she can do. Wisely, Jesse states that it’s up to Guthrie to come to Malaya. When he’s ready, he’ll search her out. Meanwhile, Rick and Drew are reunited after their landslide experience and the moment is nothing short of soul-igniting, the brotherhood between the two so visceral. Speaking of brotherhood and family ties, Noa finds Mario frantically attempting to make coffee after his father has just died. We know Mario by now, and we know that this reaction isn’t out of the ordinary. He’s avoiding the topic, and Noa, unfortunately is not going to be the one to breakthrough to him. If last week’s loss wasn’t enough, watching Mario grieve his father adds even more pain and Ben Hollingsworth’ work, depth and scope. Back with Guthrie and company, it seems as though Jesse can’t take his own advice when he confronts Guthrie about his shaking hands. A little taken aback initially, Guthrie ensures his colleague that all is okay, that it’s just low blood sugar. He walks away, leaving Malaya baffled at Jesse’s surprise interrogation but more so fearful of how long it’s taking them to breakthrough to their friend. Melanie Chandra and Luis Guzman silently, yet powerfully, bounce off one another when it comes to these scenes. Their ability to illustrate emotion with a look, unparalleled. 

The episode moves towards its conclusion when Campbell confronts Angus following their difference of opinion regarding Mike. Apologies are exchanged, while Campbell reports that there Mike shows increased activity, which is a good sign. Speaking of good news, Drew and Liz are reunited and it’s nothing short of romantic. Downstairs however, we see Mario still somewhat holding it together, sitting next to his father’s dead body. This scene may be Ben Hollingsworth’s strongest to date. Initially stoic and a pillar of resilience, Mario talks to his father while Angus watches from the shadows. After getting to know each other both personally and professionally, it’s no surprise that Angus is the one there to comfort him. All it takes is a hand on the shoulder and an unmoving presence for Mario to feel comfortable enough to breakdown and grieve. Like I said, Ben Hollingsworth is unrecognizable as he inhabits he deep, overpowering grief one faces when losing a loved one. It is visceral and completely stripped bare. Upstairs, Willis and Jesse reunite after a hard days work to share a beer (or two). More importantly, we witness the nature of their relationship; Mama takes care of everyone, meaning Willis too so when he hears that Willis most certainly wants to return to the war, he’s a little bit concerned. However, for right now, he’s happy to stick around just to piss Campbell off.