[This post contains details from the Chicago Med episode that aired Nov. 17]
With a multitude of TV series dedicated to life in a hospital premiering and being quickly axed season after season, what does a show have to do to stand out in the crowd? Well, being part of the Dick Wolf and Chicago Fire team certainly comes as a huge benefit. On Tuesday night’s premiere episode of Chicago Med, we are introduced to the emergency room at the prestigious Chicago hospital, along with a cast of fresh faces and veterans, many of whom have connections to the Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. teams that fans will most certainly look for as the series progresses (and as crossover episodes air).
To its credit, Chicago Med does begin on an interesting note. An unknown man gives some money to a street saxophone player, then makes his way up to the train station, and gets onto an oncoming train. The scene then moves to the entrance of Chicago Med, where Sharon Goodwin, the hospital’s chief administrator, addresses a crowd of journalists, photographers, hospital staff, and citizens for the opening of the new emergency department. She then hands the mic over to Rahm Emanuel, who’s making a cameo. While Rahm is making his address, the unknown man and many others on the train feel a mighty crash.
As the man makes his way from car to car, we see that the train has derailed in spectacular fashion, and the hospital’s ribbon-cutting ceremony is cut short as several pagers go off for incoming trauma patients. The series wastes very little time before springing into action, but it does find time to still give us updates on all the faces we’ll be seeing week to week.
We quickly meet Maggie, who seems to be the head nurse at Chicago Med, as she sends the arrivals to different hospital beds and doctors. Here we also get a quickly glimpse at Dr. Ethan Choi, Dr. Natalie Manning, and the reintroduction of Will Halstead, the brother of Detective Jay Halstead at Chicago P.D.
The unknown man is very clearly a doctor as he rides in the ambulance back to Chicago Med and attempts to intubate a severely injured man with a severed artery and a tourniquet on his leg. Unfortunately, the doctor can’t get the patient’s mouth to open but keeps him going until they finally get to Med, where Halstead butts heads with the strange doctor over who should treat the patient until he discovers that he is his new trauma fellow, Dr. Connor Rhodes. Someone’s not getting a proper welcome to his new job.
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We see April Sexton, a nurse in the ER, and Manning treat a young girl crying for her mother, and Maggie is quickly tasked with finding her family. Rhodes meets fourth-year med student Sarah Reese, who is unable to perform a routine task on the patient and must step aside while Sharon Goodwin watches the hospital’s newest hire. Rhodes brings his on-the-brink patient back to life, but sadly the peace won’t last long; Halstead and Choi’s patient is succumbing to her brain injury.
Rhodes and Sharon’s meeting is cut short as Chicago Med gets its newest and most veteran patient: Jamie, a 20-year-old cystic fibrosis patient who has been in and out of Chicago Med at least eight times, considering that’s how many times he’s had to be intubated because of the disorder. Rhodes volunteers to treat Jamie as Sharon tells Maggie to inform Dr. Charles of Jamie’s arrival.
Dr. Charles is another Chicago P.D. vet; he’s the chief of the psychiatry department and has been working with Jamie to live with cystic fibrosis for most of his life. Jamie’s visit turns serious when his cold makes it much harder to breathe, but rather than being intubated one more time, he tells Rhodes to skip it, and Dr. Charles understands and respects his wishes. Thankfully, Rhodes is not willing to let Jamie potentially die, especially as the cold turns into pneumonia. Rhodes appeals to Dr. Charles, even though Jamie’s life expectancy is up in the air, and Charles convinces Jamie to get tubed one more time.
Meanwhile, Manning finds out she’s pregnant and is getting tons of support from both Maggie and April. It turns out that Manning is about to become a single mother, as her husband was killed while on duty in the military. Maggie finds the mother of Manning’s patient and learns that her husband was transferred to a separate hospital for surgery. While the child is in danger when her heart stops, Reese earns her doctor stripes back by resuscitating the little girl with chest compressions.
NEXT: So what do we know about these docs?
We don’t learn too much about the characters in the pilot, aside from Manning’s widow status and Charles’ relationship with Jamie. What we do see is that bringing Rhodes into Chicago Med is bound to shake a few things up. The guy seems to have a fascinating medical work history, some of the women on the show have already shown their interest in him, and his relationship with Halstead is already quite tense. No, there is time to learn more about the doctors, especially as they treat more and more new patients and eventually intersect with the other Chicago shows.
The toughest patient cases by far the ones treated by Rhodes and Halstead. Gina, Halstead’s patient, is a surrogate for a couple who cannot have children, but with her head injury worsening despite her improved motor functions, the risks for both the baby and Gina are high. Halstead gets help from Manning with Gina’s recovery, but after medication is unable to lower the swelling in Gina’s brain, the doctors tell the parents she must go into surgery (performed by the surly Dr. Abrams). Unfortunately, thanks to their surrogacy contract which gives them power of attorney, they are allowed to make the decision about Gina’s surgery, especially if it means risking the baby’s well-being. They decide at first to resist the surgery because it would essentially make Gina a human incubator, a worry the mother had at first as she and her husband have been taking care of Gina since before the surrogacy process began. But Sharon Goodwin comes to the rescue by convincing her to help try and save Gina’s life, and the surgery is luckily a success.
Rhodes’ patient from the train, Hector, is not as lucky. Despite trying everything to save Hector, as evidenced by his tiff with Halstead, Rhodes is unable to help Hector regain consciousness. The situation is doubly upsetting as Maggie discovers an engagement ring in his backpack: He was planning to propose to his girlfriend. And when Maggie reveals this information to the woman, she puts on the ring and later refuses to allow his body to be used for organ donation. That’s a punch in the gut for Rhodes, who learns that Hector’s lungs are a match for Jamie. But because the show can’t begin on such a sour note, the would-be fiancée finally comes around after Dr. Charles appeals to her humanity by showing her Jamie’s condition. Charles and Rhodes bond over a drink after work and head back to the hospital so they can support for Jamie after his surgery.
It’s not quite as hard-hitting as a previous NBC, Chicago-based medical series (ER, of course), but Chicago Med has potential. They have so much room to play with these characters and the stories they choose to tell — we’ll see what route they take soon enough.