Here at PopWatch, we’re reminiscing about the pop culture moments that we still can’t get over — no matter how much time has passed.
In its six seasons on the air, Third Watch had some pretty epic and heartwrenching character exits — paramedic Bobby Caffey (Bobby Cannavale) was shot and killed while on a call, firefighter Alex Taylor (Amy Carlson) was blown up in a freak accident, and Bosco’s brother Mikey (Charlie Day) was beheaded (off-screen) by a drug lord. But among all that bloodshed, the farewell that actually sticks out in my mind is that of beloved noble paramedic Doc Parker (Michael Beach).
Perhaps it’s the lack of carnage that makes his exit stand out among the rest. But I think the main reason I really can’t get over it is because it was so tragic.
The backstory: Doc was a golden-hearted paramedic. He cared — sometimes too much — about his patients even though they were only in his rig for mere minutes at a time; he mentored his partner Carlos, sometimes with hilarious results; and he always tried to do the right thing. But around the fifth season — after the loss of a dear colleague (the aforementioned Alex), a string of personal battles, and the horror of September 11 — it became clear Doc’s strength was waning and he began suffering greatly from post-traumatic stress disorder. But no one quite noticed his struggle until his fuse blew.
The arrival of a new lieutenant named Steeper, who had a reputation for closing firehouses, immediately sent Doc into a spiral. He became obsessed with proving that Steeper was going to close the firehouse down, endangering the lives of the residents the paramedics served, and Doc decided he needed to prove a point.
In the episode “No More, Forever,” Doc stole a gun from cop friend Sasha after a one-night stand and used it to hold the entire firehouse hostage. He also shot Steeper in the process, hoping to show the new boss what it would be like to wait for an extended period of time in order to get medical attention, as the residents would have to if the firehouse was closed.
The entire time, viewers knew this was about much more than an at-risk firehouse. It was about everything — the stress of saving lives, the massive loss of life he’d seen, and the weariness left when a man gives his all. It was terribly sad.
In the end, Doc was saved after fellow veteran Sully (Skipp Sudduth), a cop, convinced him to surrender, but Doc’s exit from the show will always stand in my memory for being among one of the most powerful and unexpected character write-outs I’ve ever seen.
I mourn the fact that more seasons of Third Watch aren’t available on DVD. But you can see Doc and Sully’s interaction below. (Thanks, YouTube.)