‘Saving Hope,’ this summer’s supernatural medical drama, premiered Thursday night with a pilot that shows promise for this new series. Based on the first episode, this show will be centered on a love story between Chief of Surgery Charlie Harris (Michael Shanks) and fellow general surgeon, Dr. Alex Reid (Erica Durance), as they both try to find their way back to each other across two different plains of existence. However, while the two love-birds strive to reconnect, medical emergencies continue to perplex all of the doctors on Reid’s team and we soon discover that each week will give us insights into these new characters through a variety of bizarre cases.
The series opens with Charlie and Alex taking a taxi to their wedding when they are suddenly side-swiped. Alex remains unharmed and Charlie has a gash on his forehead, but seems to be fine, so they immediately tend to the woman who was driving the SUV that rammed into them. Alex calls for paramedics, while Charlie pulls a MacGyver-esque stunt to save the woman’s life by cutting her side open with a pair of scissors and using Alex’s tampon to release the blockage in her chest. The ambulance arrives and all seems to be well until Charlie suddenly collapses.
Charlie lays still on a gurney as their team of doctors rush him into the hospital; with Alex by his side, his eyes are open and he tries to tell her not to worry. Then the new hot-shot orthopedic surgeon on staff, Dr. Joel Goran (Daniel Gillies), states that Charlie has been unconscious for 30 seconds and his odds are not looking good. At that moment, Charlie realizes he is having an out-of-body experience; he stands beside his unconscious body in his wedding tuxedo and knows that his life now rests in their hands. Charlie explains, “You belong to the hospital…and all you can do is hope.”
The episode then flashes back to twelve hours earlier on the day when Charlie and Alex are gleefully preparing for their wedding. Their playful interaction reveals how they are deeply in love and their interactions with co-workers, as well as the events of the day, give further insight into their personalities.
We quickly learn that Dr. Charlie Harris is a self-assured, strong-willed, and aggressive surgeon who makes life-and-death decisions based on the facts at hand. However, he may not always be right. For example, Charlie’s pre-coma case involves Shawn Price, a man with a tumor in his arm who has no qualms with Charlie’s decision to amputate it. In fact, Shawn wants to lose his arm so surely that he gets upset when Charlie post-pones his surgery. One would think this reaction would cause Charlie to question Shawn’s psychological state, but it doesn’t. Instead, Dr. Goran realizes something is awry when he takes over comatose Charlie’s case. Dr. Goran looks into Shawn’s past and learns that he served in Afghanistan, so he is most likely suffering from PTSD and survivor’s guilt. Their resident psychologist, Dr. Gavin Murphy (Kristopher Turner), confirms the diagnosis and agrees with Dr. Goran’s decision to perform a limb-sparing surgery instead of amputating the arm. Despite Alex’s instructions to follow Charlie’s “aggressive” plans, Dr. Goran listens to his gut-instincts and saves Shawn’s arm at the last minute. Although Shawn threatens to sue Dr. Goran for not performing the surgery he wanted, the smile on his face clearly expresses his relief. This is just one of a few “wake-up calls” Charlie has while wandering the hospital halls and observing his profession from a new perspective.
Charlie watches as his colleagues scramble to save his life; the odds of brain damage increases the longer he remains unconscious, but there is no way of knowing how bad it really is until Charlie wakes up. As Dr. Shahir Hamza (Huse Madhavji) orders a series of tests, Charlie explains how doctors fear the unknown and he grows increasingly frustrated with his metaphysical state. Charlie scoffs at the absurdity of his experience and quips, “I’m having an out-of-body experience in a tux…Wake up you dumb bastard!” However, his musings are abruptly interrupted when a former patient approaches him in the hall.
Flashing back to earlier that day, we see how Charlie and Alex operate on a bus crash victim with ease. While Alex holds John Doe’s abs open, Charlie tends to the man’s guts and inappropriately chit-chats with his wife-to-be about how many children she wants to have. Once again, Dr. Harris’ over-confidence is highlighted, but this time he gets a rude awakening when John Doe speaks to him in limbo and learns that the doctors weren’t able to save his life. Charlie frankly says, “You died…we tried everything…Sorry about that.” He downplays the significance of John Doe’s passing, until he discovers that poor man has a wife and daughter that he is terribly worried about. Before he has a chance to tell Charlie his name, John Doe vanishes into thin air. Being stuck in limbo, encountering the patients’ ghosts, and analyzing how other doctors work with their patients will perhaps cause Charlie to re-evaluate the way he treats his own patients if he should ever awake from his coma. We can already see how Charlie’s condition is beginning to make Alex reassess her medical judgment, especially when it comes to deciding how to proceed with Charlie’s treatment.
Dr. Alex Reid has been a pragmatic physician who grounds her beliefs in science. When she has any doubts, she turns to Charlie for comfort and advice. When her hubby-to-be winds up in a life-threatening coma, she has to make the tough call of whether or not he should be resuscitated if his heart stops again. Science tells her that his quality of life after such severe brain damage will not be worth living, but her heart and instincts convince her that Charlie is still around.
When Charlie codes, Dr. Hamza suggests they perform a procedure to reduce the pressure in his brain. Alex watches as they drill holes into his head and spirit-Charlie gently places his hand on her shoulder, but instead of consoling her, the gesture freaks her out and she frantically leaves the room. Later that day, Dr. Hamza wants to have “the talk” with Alex; Charlie has no parents or siblings, so she has to make the call about his DNR policy, but she refuses to discuss it. When Dr. Goran offers some friendly reassurance in the possibility that Charlie’s condition could improve, she bitterly turns her unfaithful former flame away by saying that he may be many things, but “nice” isn’t one of them. At the end of this gut-wrenching day, Alex goes to be with the person who knows her best – Charlie.
In a bittersweet conclusion, Alex lies beside Charlie and tells him about her day as she always does. She tearfully whispers, “What am I going to do without you?” Charlie’s spirit pleads, “Don’t you give up on me. I’m still here.”
What did you think of the ‘Saving Hope’ pilot episode? Will you tune in again this week to see what happens when Charlie reaches out to a little boy for help? Share your thoughts, likes, dislikes, and first impressions below.
- Other cases:‘Saving Hope’ surprisingly packed in more side-stories and cases than you would usually expect to see in a pilot. In addition to the two cases mentioned above, Alex treated Angela, a pregnant teenager. The case seems cliché until the girl shockingly dies of an embolism hours after giving birth. Mitch, her boyfriend, then struggles with the decision of whether or not he wants to keep the baby. In a rather honest moment, the boy confesses that the baby killed his girlfriend, so he doesn’t want to raise it. But after Alex has him spend some time with the precious newborn, Mitch changes his mind. Meanwhile, Maggie Lin, a young physician who too frequently turns to Alex for consults, cares for a couple of teenagers suffering from daffodil root poisoning after the young girl concocted a love potion for her crush.
• Lowlights: Although the episode was engaging and enjoyable, there were a few shortcomings that you might strive to overlook. For example, teenagers are thoroughly treated, but their parents are never present. It is understandable to cut time short by omitting another variable in these storylines, but they could’ve had a few parental extras stand-by considering that one of the teenagers delivered a baby. On an aesthetic note, the bright shining lights constantly flickering throughout the episode became an unnecessary distraction. The pilot was filmed in an actual, functioning hospital and most flashes seemed to be caused by bouncing reflections, but it is difficult to understand why the director and cinematographers did not try to fix it. If it was intentional, then did they want the audience to feel blinded and flustered? Hopefully, that problem will not appear in future episodes.
• Highlights: Michael Shanks plays Dr. Charlie Harris with a paradoxical unlike-ability and charm. He has the arrogance and sarcasm of Patrick Wilson’s neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Holt, from CBS’ ‘A Gifted Man,’ except on this show, he will learn his life-lessons by doing the haunting instead of being haunted. The use of his narrative provides an interesting perspective into the mind of a stranded surgeon and hopefully it will be featured more greatly in upcoming episodes. His attitude towards his situation is also presented very truthfully. He mocks his sharply dressed spirit-self, yet remains distressed by his puzzling predicament. Watching him reach out to Alex & Co. will be fascinating to see as the series continues.
• Reunions: Did seeing Lois Lane (Erica Durance) and Hawkman (Michael Shanks) together again make you miss ‘Smallville’? Their chemistry on ‘Smallville’ was fun to watch and seems to have nicely carried over onto this series.
• Ratings: According to a CTV media release, ‘Saving Hope’ “Ranks as #1 Canadian series premiere of the 2011/2012 season.” Unfortunately, it did not do as well on NBC in the United States. Hopefully American audiences will start tuning in as the season continues.
This article was originally published on Examiner.com on June 12, 2012.