Thursday night’s “Ride Hard or Go Home” concluded with a mind-blowing twist that left fans gasping in awe. Once the final moments sunk in, U.S. fans proceeded to curse at NBC for taking this amazing show off the air just when Charlie’s suspenseful story was reaching its most pivotal point.
CAUTION: If you haven’t seen the episode yet, watch it on NBC.com, Hulu.com, or CTV.ca.
If you’ve already seen the episode, you are probably just starting to pick your jaw up off of the floor…read on and re-hash the drama.
As the first season finale approaches, ‘Saving Hope’ has done something quite unexpected. We usually grow accustomed to dramatic arcs being dragged out for at least 22-episodes, if not complete seasons before hitting a highly anticipated climax. However, this supernatural medical drama dived right in and gave audiences what they were waiting for in the 12th episode instead of stretching one aspect of the show’s premise too thin.
Charlie has been lingering in limbo for the season, slowly chipping away at his psyche in each episode until he unearthed a deeply repressed and traumatizing memory. Once he confronts his past, Charlie must make a choice: surrender to death or fight for his life and return to Alex. Meanwhile, Gavin and Joel face their own demons when they are forced to make risky decisions that put their careers in jeopardy.
Charlie in charge
Charlie’s spirit watches as Shahir continues to conservatively treat his comatose body. Shahir asks Charlie to open his eyes and his spirit grows increasingly frustrated as he tries moving to no avail. Then Alex enters the room with a life-changing idea. She asks Shahir to perform deep brain stimulation on Charlie. This would require Shahir to drill into Charlie’s skull and electro-shock his brain directly. Naturally, Shahir fears the procedure is too dangerous. Charlie urges Alex to keep pushing despite Shahir’s claims that he could bleed out and die in the middle of the operation. In the end, Alex doesn’t take “no” for answer. With nothing left to lose, she books an operating room and tells Shahir to be ready to work on Charlie. A proud Charlie once again praises his future wife saying, “That’s my girl.” As Melanda and Nurse Jackson roll Charlie to the O.R., his spirit ponders how this is “Hail Mary time.” If deep brain stimulation doesn’t work, there will be “nothing” left to try.
Later in the O.R., Charlie’s spirit looks over Alex’s shoulder and wishes her “good luck” as Shahir begins drilling into Charlie’s head. Shahir starts stimulating parts of Charlie’s brain with electrodes and Alex anxiously waits for a reaction. Shahir sends her out of the O.R., insisting it will take time and he promises to page her the moment anything changes. As the shocks penetrate Charlie’s brain, we flashback to his childhood.
A pediatrician examines six-year old Charlie, telling his Aunt Beth and Uncle Mike that Charlie’s silence is a normal reaction to severe trauma. We also get the impression that Charlie’s uncle is an insensitive jerk who doesn’t want to deal with a “crazy,” “mute” kid. Back in the present, Shahir increases the shockwaves to two volts and Charlie transports to even darker memory.
It is the day of his parents’ funeral and Charlie hides in the barn. As his Aunt Beth and Uncle Mike run in to find him, young Charlie ducks behind a hay-stack and turns into his adult self as he overhears their conversation. We learn that Charlie’s mom was Beth’s sister and Mike was never very fond of her. Mike tells Beth that they are not prepared to care for a child, especially a “weird” one who doesn’t talk or do “normal kid things.” This probably explains why Charlie spent some time in foster care instead of being with his aunt and uncle, they clearly didn’t know how to love and raise a traumatized little boy. Now Charlie realizes how intensely their actions influenced the rest of his life and he has grown tired from carrying around this repressed emotional baggage. Meanwhile, in the real world, we wait to see if Charlie’s memories are making any physical impact.
Shahir has been zapping different parts of Charlie’s brain for two hours. Although the shockwaves show some signs of activity, none are inducing arousal. Shahir doesn’t know why this is happening and he is starting to worry. He wants to stop before the procedure puts Charlie in even more danger, but Alex begs to try other areas of the brain. Shahir puts Charlie’s safety above Alex’s wishes and removes the electrodes. A little later, Alex sits in the hospital lobby and starts losing hope, until Joel appears.
Joel sits next to Alex and it is a little awkward at first. Earlier in the day Alex confronted Joel about his recent inappropriate actions. When he continued badgering her about his unrequited feelings, she abruptly cut him off and asked what he expects from her. Alex is not going to abandon her fiancée and she needs Joel to stop making advances. Now Joel approaches her solely as a friend. Alex confesses her feelings of despair. She fears her efforts to save Charlie have all been exhausted and she doesn’t have “anymore fight left.” But Joel disagrees. He gently takes her hand and tells her to go fight.
Alex bursts into the O.R. and tells Shahir to shock the area of the brain that controls consciousness. Once again, Shahir is afraid because he has never gone that deep in the brain. This is their last chance to see if they can bring Charlie back and they go for it with no abandon. By this point in the episode, some of you may have noticed that once the shockwaves started hitting Charlie’s brain, his spirit completely left the hospital and lived in his memories, which must mean the treatment is working. As Shahir increases the voltage on the most inner-parts of Charlie’s brain, we see him travel into a new metaphysical territory.
Charlie stands in the barn and questions his six-year old self, asking why he won’t wake up. Then Charlie gets a flash of the car crash when Shahir ups the voltage some more as he starts to see unique signals of Charlie’s brain activity. Shahir gradually increases the electrodes to four volts, careful not to fry his brain. Alex reassures Shahir and the shockwaves transport Charlie out of the barn, landing him next to the crushed car. Suddenly Sergeant Jimmy Howard (the cop that shot himself in front of Joel) appears and asks for Charlie’s license and registration. As Charlie looks out into the unknown abyss down the long, dark road ahead, Howard tells him “backstabbers, scumbags, and lies are out there.” Howard insists that Charlie would be better off going “home” with him, meaning Charlie should just give up and die. Charlie replies, “Home? …That’s Alex.” He starts running away from Howard and sprints down the road.
In a beautifully moving sequence, Charlie runs through the barn doors, which open into the hospital, where he overlooks the O.R. Shockingly, Charlie’s eyes open and for the first time in months he softly utters, “Alex.”
What an amazing and surprising turn of events! We knew the goal was to have Charlie wake up, but did we really expect him to? More on that later…let’s go over the rest of the episode first.
Gavin faces a moral dilemma when he breaks the rules in order to help an elderly couple, Ester and Roy Goldbach. Gavin has been working with his mentor, Dr. Druckerman, as they help the Goldbach’s learn how manage Roy’s progressive Alzheimer’s. Dr. Druckerman keeps things strictly professional, but Gavin bends the boundaries and offers to do more for the couple. As they leave, Gavin gives his cell phone number to Ester while Roy harmlessly flirts with Maggie. He tells her to call him anytime for help. Ester calls later that afternoon, she has hidden the car keys from Roy and he is angrily freaking out. Gavin leaves in the middle of his shift and Maggie tags along during her lunch break to help him out.
At the Goldbach’s, Gavin instructs Ester to “go along for the ride” and be agreeable, instead of constantly correcting Roy about the things he has forgotten. Eventually, they calm Roy down and he asks them to stay for some coffee. Mid-way through their conversation, Roy forgets who they are again. As Ester corrects him, Roy grows angry and frustrated, accidentally knocking her to the ground. Gavin calls the paramedics and the Goldbachs are admitted into the hospital. When Roy stabilizes and sees Ester’s condition, he feels heartbroken for harming his “saint” of a wife and admits to Gavin that he would want to lock up any man who would do such a thing. Before Gavin can comfort him, he is called away to have a talk with his boss.
Dr. Druckerman chastises Gavin for breaking so many rules. He tells Gavin that he admitted Roy and instructs him to follow the rules from now on. Later, Gavin thanks Maggie for helping him and says he owes her one. She says he can dump his new girlfriend, so they can get married and be together for the next 60 years, like the Goldbachs. Finally Maggie came around and realized that Gavin would be a much better boyfriend, but we’ll get back to that in a bit.
Gavin checks in on Ester. She has a broken hip and laughs it off as a “rite of passage” for someone her age. She doesn’t like the thought of her husband being stuck in a ward and cared for by strangers. She says, “I’m his wife. I’m his care. He belongs with me…’til death to us part.” But, Gavin makes her understand why life would be safer for both of them if Roy has full-time professional care. All she asks of Gavin is to spend one last night with her husband before they are separated. Gavin claims it is against the rules, but decides to take her to Roy anyway. He rolls her bed and positions Ester next to her sweetly sedated husband.
Later that evening Maggie finds Gavin looking into patient advocate websites as he tries to find another way to help the Goldbachs. She asks if he wants to join her and some other co-corkers for a beer, but he prefers to stay in. Gavin asks her to stay, so they can start their “60 years off right” and he seals it with a passionate kiss.
What a relief to see these two finally get together. The show has done a good job of moving story-lines along before they grow dull. Now all there is left to settle is Joel’s ego issues.
The episode opens with Dana informing Joel about an impending law suit against him from the guilt-stricken vet whose arm he saved from amputation earlier in the season. Dana warns him to be careful of the decisions he makes in the future, so naturally Joel goes ahead and makes another risky move with his new patient.
Joel treats a 36-year-old jockey named Stacy. She show signs of a pelvic and groin injury. Upon further examination, the issue seems to be a little more complicated than usual. Joel tells her that she can play it safe and slowly rehabilitate over the next six months or she can undergo a risky procedure and heal much sooner. Stacy can’t afford to take six months off at her age because it will end her career. She would rather risk surgery and asks Joel to trust his gut, so he books the O.R.
Something goes wrong during the operation when the wire cuts in too deep and causes Stacy to bleed out. Joel pages Alex for help. Alex stops the bleeding and saves Stacy’s life. When the Joel and Alex discuss the surgery with Dana, we get a better understanding of what happened.
When Joel inserted the wire into Stacy’s hip, he hit an artery which has now left Stacy paralyzed. Alex defends Joel and says she stopped it from getting worse, but Dana is livid. She tells Joel that he must report all of his cases to her, so that she can decide on his operations for the next couple of months.
Later, Joel checks on Stacy and says he feels bad about how her surgery turned out. Stacy replies that it was her decision to take the risk, so she doesn’t blame him. He listened to his gut and she wishes she had done the same when she training with her horse, so that she wouldn’t have hurt herself in the first place. After their chat, Joel visits Dana and gives her ultimatum.
Joel wants Dana to let him to do job and make his decisions or else she should just fire him. When she refuses to do either, Joel quits and walks away.
Surely, Joel can’t leave the show. What will change Joel’s mind and keep him from quitting?
Watch the video on the left to see CTV’s super-trailer for the grand finale, “Pink Clouds,” which airs on CTV this Thursday, Sept. 13 at 9 p.m. For those of you who don’t have CTV, hang in there and catch “Pink Clouds” when it is posts online at NBC.com, Hulu.com, orCTV.ca.
What did you think of “Ride Hard or Go Home”? Did you think Charlie would wake up? Do you think the aftermath will cause problems in his relationship with Alex? Are you happy to see Gavin and Maggie together? Does Dana have a right to closely supervise Joel’s actions? Share your thoughts below!
- Boo to NBC:What a shame that NBC dropped the last two episodes. Why do you keep doing this NBC? It is a good thing the show is Canadian or else NBC would have prematurely cancelled it the way they carelessly disposed of ‘Prime Suspect’ and ‘Awake’ – both of which were enthralling and brilliantly-acted shows. Go ahead and voice your agitation on Twitter: #KickaPeacockInTheBalls
- Sleeping Beauty wakes up:This truly was surprising. What happens now? The finale promo shows Charlie in physical therapy as he tries to regain strength, but how is he doing psychologically? Will Charlie remember what he experienced on the other side? Will he still be able to see spirits? What would you like to see happen?
- Well crafted:This episode was cleverly crafted. Nice parallel between the Goldbachs and Alex and Charlie. Ester and Alex refuse to give up on the men they love and they are willing to do anything to care for them. The way in which scenes transition between Charlie’s subconscious and Alex’s reality was also very smooth and artfully portrayed. Do you agree?
This article was originally published on Examiner.com on September 8, 2012.
UPDATE (Summer 2016): ‘Saving Hope’ now airs on ION Television in the U.S. and still airs on CTV in Canada. Visit ‘Saving Hope’s’ ION TV homepage (HERE) or CTV Homepage (HERE) for details.
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