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  •  One Of The Best Episodes Of Television Ever (18+ / 0-)

    During much of my high school years, ER was the biggest show on television. Contrary to NBC's current ratings starved state, ER was one of the anchors of NBC's Thursday night lineup, which at that time had the powerhouses of Friends and Seinfeld to just dominate all of the networks.

    The show reinvigorated the medical drama (with House, Grey's Anatomy, etc., owing it some favors), and it also marked a point where television dramas started becoming more serialized, and more complicated with the characters & situations they exhibited. It's generally regarded as one of the show's that started a new "Golden Age of Television."

    One of the episodes that cemented ER's popular and critical acclaim was the first season's "Love's Labor Lost." Unlike the later seasons when helicopters were crashing and gunmen were taking hostages, the main story of the episode sounds mundane. It's just a group of doctors trying to deliver a baby. But everything that could go wrong does go wrong, and it is one of the most compelling hours of drama ever broadcast.

    From the A.V. Club: A riveting ER gives Dr. Greene one bad day that just keeps getting worse

    The thing to know about Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) going into this episode is that he’s a great doctor. He’s a little passive and insecure in his personal matters, sure, but on the emergency room floor? Dr. Greene is in his element. If your chips are down and you end up in the emergency room, he’s the guy you want saving your life. “Love’s Labor Lost” does a great job of weaving this narrative right into the first act, stressing Mark’s dedication to emergency medicine (he’s just been promoted) and showcasing his easy bedside manner and ability to make quick connections with his patients, in this case a very pregnant woman who comes in with what appears to be a bladder infection. They laugh, they smile, and he discharges her with instructions and a prescription.

    Then everything goes to hell.

    The setup feels like classic horror, with everyone having a carefree time—they even make time for random denture jokes!—right until the dread sets in, and Dr. Greene, his staff, and an expectant couple go through the worst day of their lives. The episode is even shot and scored like a horror movie at times, with cameras circling the action as Dr. Greene desperately tries anything he can think of to save this woman and her baby. Throughout the ordeal, even as the situation becomes a perfect storm of everything that could possibly go wrong with no positive outcome to be anticipated, there’s still one persistent thought in the back of your mind: “Mark Greene is a great doctor. Mark Greene can save them. He can save them both.”

    But he can’t. He’s a great doctor, but even great doctors are just humans, and humans aren’t perfect. This episode has many virtues, but the thing that has always resonated with me from the very first viewing is how effectively it tells Mark Greene’s story without directly commenting on the man at all. By watching his decision-making throughout the case, seeing where things went right and went wrong, then subsequently showing his reaction to his patient’s death, ER took an awful tragedy and used it to crack a character wide open. Watching the episode again floored me in exactly the same way it did the first time, and it will floor me again the next time, and the time after that.

    One thing I loved about the show, and I don't think many others have been able to capture, is the sort of engrossing, frantic feeling that "all hell is breaking loose."

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