‘Saving Hope’ S3 premiere recap: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Will Charlie be able to save Alex from life in limbo? (Photo credit: CTV)

Wow! “Saving Hope” returned with an exceptional premiere on Monday (Sept. 22) night. “Heaven Can Wait” delivered on all fronts. This episode met our expectations and then some. The acting was excellent, the writing was riveting, and the new central storyline for Season 3 is off to a phenomenal start.

The episode picks up exactly from where we left off last season. Joel’s troubled sleepwalking patient, Ian, stabbed Alex in the heart with pair of scissors. Dawn, Maggie and the O.R. team are working their butts off to save Alex when her spirit suddenly appears and locks eyes with Charlie. Get ready for some major goose-bumps Hopefuls because this episode tugs at the heartstrings on multiple occasions.

Tearful Charlie urges Alex to hold on even though she feels really strange in limbo. She feels like she’s going to die and tells Charlie she needs to be somewhere else. Then Alex vanishes. As Charlie seems to be hysterically talking to himself, Dawn repeatedly snaps at him to shut up. Come on Dawn, give the guy a break and just stay focused on saving Alex.

Outside of the O.R. Joel learns about Alex and he’s shocked. Sorry buddy, but you failed to watch your patient like you promised you would, so yes, you should be feeling really guilty about it. While Joel heads over to the O.R., we see Alex in some kind of alternate reality.

Alex wakes up next to her husband. He tells her not to forget the piñata. She heads downstairs and excitedly tells her daughter, “pickle,” that they are going to throw a fun birthday party for her. Could this be her future if she marries Charlie? The station wagon and clothing seems kind of dated, but so far this totally feels like some kind of “what if” scenario showing Alex a future she should fight for. Our interest has been peaked, but it is time to back to reality.

After more of Dawn’s persistent snapping, Charlie exits the O.R. just as Joel is approaching to check on Alex’s condition. If you wished for Charlie to take another well-deserved swing at Joel, then you must have been beyond satisfied by what happened next. Charlie charges at Joel and wails on him. Yes! Go Charlie! Joel fights back without hesitation. While they are duking it out in the hall, Dawn spots a hole in Alex’s right ventricle, so Dr. Reycraft and Maggie help her repair it. Back to the fight…

Gavin and Nurse Jackson watch the throw-down and decide they should intervene. Jackson hilariously quips, “I’m short, you’re skinny…Let’s do this.” They manage to break up the fight, but Charlie leaves Joel with a warning: “Joel, stay away from her.” Ghost Alex would’ve probably tried to have broken up the fight sooner had she been present, but she’s still stuck in her alternate reality.

We find out that Alex also has a little boy who is younger than her daughter. When she teases about the birthday “monster,” we realize that part of her consciousness is still in the O.R. because the guys were joking about Charlie and Joel fighting like Mothra and Godzilla. At least she’s still hanging onto her life during this weird trip. Then she cuts herself and starts bleeding on the kitchen floor just as her body starts bleeding out more in the O.R. The back and forth of Alex’s experience in this sequence is really well done. It is a nicely executed juxtaposition of Hope-Zion’s reality and Alex’s alternate reality.

Back in the “real world,” Zack gets Joel to help him in the E.R. Ian, Alex’s attacker, jumped off the roof after learning about what he had done. The second he heard the news alongside Joel, you could tell he was going to do something drastic. As they wheel Ian into the E.R. we are shocked by the graphically gruesome and bloody sight of his mangled legs. Not going to lie, most of Ian’s E.R. scenes were watched with a grimace through squinty eyes because this was just flat out gross to see. At least Ian says what’s been on our minds when he tells Joel that he was supposed to watch him. Yeah Joel, you messed up big time by falling asleep on the job and you betrayed Ian’s trust. You can’t help but feel bad for Ian, he harbors so much pain and guilt. He really didn’t know what he was doing and he reached out to Joel because he knew he had become unpredictable and dangerous. It is just so sad. While Joel wrestles with his guilt, we see how hard this has been for Charlie.

Gavin and Shahir look at Charlie as he sits in silence carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. They agree to tag team and help comfort Charlie. Shahir adorably reaches out to fist bump Gavin, noting that it is more hygienic and it’s cool. Too cute! It’s great to see how much progress Shahir is making. Unfortunately, they fail to provide Charlie with much comfort. Everything they have to say is more medical than emotional. He doesn’t need a clinical justification of the pain he feels, he just needs his friends to simply be there with him. At least the awkwardness doesn’t last for too long.

In the alternate reality, Alex and her daughter hit the road to get party supplies when their station wagon breaks down. Suddenly Alex returns to Charlie and then disappears again. Charlie rushes over to the O.R. and warns Dawn that something is wrong with Alex.

Charlie insists that Alex is dying and they must have missed something. Dawn is offended and gets defensive. Then she asks if this is part of his “crazy” talking to himself thing and he doesn’t hide the truth. So what if it is? Charlie has the best record in Hope Zion and it is for a good reason. They can’t argue with that, so everybody reviews all of the possibilities of what could go wrong. While they are examining their options, Ian remains in agonizing pain.

Joel and Zack put pins in Ian to stabilize him. (Again, for squeamish viewers- Eww!) Poor Ian is pleading with Joel. He says, “I keep falling asleep and you keep waking me up.” Joel has a chat with Zack and tells him their life-saving efforts are only torturing Ian. There is no chance he will survive these horrific injuries. In the best case scenario, Ian will die on the operating table. Joel argues, “We’re waiting around for a miracle that’s not going to happen.” So they decide to give Ian the kind of help he truly needs. Strangely enough, Ian is the one lending a helping hand in Alex’s bizarre alternate reality.

Alex and her daughter are in the party store when Ian appears as stranger who just wants to help her out. He says Alex has nice smile and she tells him she is married, so he better not think he’s getting anything in return for this little bit of assistance. Suddenly her daughter disappears and Alex frantically searches for her. Coincidentally, Alex is about to pull a disappearing act of her own back in the real world.

While Dawn is refuting all of the possibilities of what could be wrong with Alex, a doctor rushes in saying that Alex is in trouble. While her body gets closer to death, Alex feels like she’s forgetting something in her alternate reality. She scolds her daughter and warns her never to run off like that gain. In the midst of all the commotion she realizes she forgot to get the piñata. Alex tells the kids to watch TV. She specifically orders them (especially “pickle”) not to bother their father because he is working downstairs. What’s going on with Alex’s husband? As things start getting really weird here, Alex’s situation gets even worse in the O.R.

Alex’s heart is abnormal and Dawn admits to having screwed up in a huge way. She stitched Alex’s main coronary artery shut, causing Alex to have a heart attack. While the team goes back to work on Alex, Charlie stays and holds her hand. Dawn says his presence is making everyone nervous. He believes he is the only one who knows how Alex is really doing, so he wants to be there. Then Dawn’s hand starts trembling as she prepares to work on Alex. While they’re still saving Alex, Joel is letting go of Ian.

Ian asks Joel what happened to the doctor he attacked. Joel lies and says Alex is in surgery and will make a full recovery. Ian feels bad enough as it is, he doesn’t need to die knowing that Alex may be following him into the afterlife. Ian then asks if his ex-wife has called back. She hasn’t and Joel justifies her lack of response by saying that it is the middle of the night. Ian has no one left. His son died, his wife left him, and now Joel is all he’s got. Ian doesn’t blame Joel for what happened. Well, that’s nice, at least one of us doesn’t find Joel reasonably responsible for all of this. Ian is focusing on the positive. He will be reunited with his son soon. He asks if Joel believes in that and he says he does. (Hmmm, would Joel be open to seeing ghosts or is he just humoring Ian?) Before drawing his last breath, Ian says everything he has now belongs to Joel, including his pendant of St. Jude. As Ian passes away, Joel’s eyes fill with tears. Again, this is so tragic. Ian’s life-story and condition is truly heartbreaking. Hopefully he will finally find some peace in the afterlife.

After the shaky-hand incident, Charlie decides to give Dawn some peace. He says he trusts her and steps outside, but he watches through the observation window just in case. While they tirelessly fight for Alex’s life, we gain a lot of insight in her alternate reality.

Alex returns home with the piñata and sees that her daughter has left the TV room. Alex warned her not to go downstairs and she should’ve listened. The little girl runs downstairs and finds her father hanging from the ceiling. Whoa! That was a very unexpected and dark turn of events. Suddenly the little girl transforms into Alex!

Oh. My. God. This wasn’t a weird glimpse of the future. Alex is facing her past and it is a haunting one. In a pleasant surprise, Luke appears before her. He quips, “Guess we’re home.” Alex is happy to see him and finds comfort in the fact that he found peace in the afterlife since he never could find any in life. Then Alex makes a jarring confession. She found her father’s body, but she wanted to have her party so she shut the door and just went back upstairs like it hadn’t happened. Alex realizes that she has always been near death, from her father to her job, she has been confronted by death throughout her life. Now she isn’t sure what do to. Luke explains how he knew it was his time to go. Then he jokes about having Alex stay with him in the afterlife, teasing that she could open a practice for ghosts. Then they hear Charlie’s voice. Luke tells Alex to go back, so she does.

Alex’s body has stabilized. Phew! She appears before Charlie and they lovingly stare into each other’s eyes.

Elsewhere Joel studies Ian’s pendant of St. Jude. Melanda informs Joel that St. Jude is the patron saint of lost souls, lost causes and impossible situations. She tells him to talk to Alex because she will be able to hear him. He wears the pendant and tucks it under his shirt as he walks away. Joel catches up with Gavin and apologizes for swinging at him during the fight. Gavin encourages Joel to get some help during this time because he really needs to deal with his feelings. Joel shrugs it off and heads off.

Dawn pages everyone and assembles all doctors in the lounge. She says that one of their own was attacked in what is supposed to be a safe haven for them, but there is nothing to fear. In a heartfelt little speech, she tells them to have “open hearts” and “good faith.” She says, “We’re healers, it’s what we do.” After a nudge from Gavin, she also urges everyone to go to counseling. When she’s put on the spot on whether or not she will go, she wisecracks that she’ll spend a couple of hours with “Dr. Chardonnay” first. Got to admit, that’s a good one.

Outside of the hospital Zach tries to cheer Joel up a bit. He starts rambling about growing a beard, explaining how it is peak beard time. Plus he’s half Armenian, so growing a beard just feels right. (As an Armenian, this was extra hilarious. Where did this random ethnic revelation come from? And yes, Armenians are generally known to be a hairy, so growing a beard should stereotypically be a breeze for Zach.) It is great how Zach gives us just enough comic relief when we could really use some levity during these intense episodes. He also gets Joel to open up.

While he was in medical school with Alex, Joel knew that she’d always ride her bike to class. One day he paid a kid to hide the bike just so he could give her a ride home. Interesting. So maybe Joel really is head-over-heels deeply in love with Alex. He still has some redeeming to do. It will be interesting to see how hard he will fight for Alex. Will he continue to challenge Charlie? After all, what kind of girl doesn’t like a man who is willing to fight for her?

After a crazy day, Gavin and Maggie finally have a chance to sit down and talk. She tells Gavin how Charlie saved Alex’s life. She even reveals how she admired the way Charlie attacked Joel because he passionately loves Alex so much. She looks at Gavin and feels like he doesn’t love her that same way. Gavin offers to do whatever she wants and fight whomever she wants to prove his love, but it doesn’t work that way. Sure Gavin is a sweet guy, but Maggie needs more than a sweet kind love. Maggie wants the crazy kind of love from a man who would want to fight for her. No matter how many times Gavin says he loves her, Maggie doesn’t feel like he does. So she breaks-up with him. Will this push Gavin to fight for Maggie? Maybe.

Dawn sits on the couch in her office with Dr. Chardonnay in her hand. Reycraft sits beside her, offering her support as she finally releases the tears she’s been bottling up. Will this experience cause Dawn to second guess herself the next time she’s in the O.R.? It’ll be interesting to see if there are any consequences for her major faux-pa. For now she will find solace in her salacious liquid little helper. Dawn isn’t the only one getting her drink on after a rough day.

Maggie is already trying to cope with the situation the best way she knows how. She bumps into Joel in the elevator and asks if wants to go out for drinks and talk, emphasizing her desire not to sleep with him since she just broke up with Gavin. Joel decides to pass and replies that Gavin is a good guy. She leaves saying, “You’re all good guys.” As Joel proceeds to walk down the hall, we see Ian’s spirit following him. Uh oh! Is Ian stuck in limbo? Can he not move on until he know Alex will safely survive? Is he attached to the St. Jude pendant? Will Charlie be able to see him and help? Would Alex want to help him if she ever sees Ian? Until they do something to help Ian out, it looks like Joel is being haunted. This should make things more interesting around the hospital.

As the episode concludes, we are left with a loving portrait of Charlie and Alex. They stand beside her comatose body and Charlie tells Alex that she’s the only ghost he sees now. He points out the irony of their situation, “It’s kinda funny if you think about it.” Yes it is, but this bit of déjà vu doesn’t feel repetitive or stale. It’s refreshing and exactly what the viewers were hoping to see.

Alex laments, “Maybe I’ll always be close to death” and refers to what happened with her father. Then she wishes she could touch Charlie. Charlie sits next to Alex on the bed and caresses her face, but she’s not sure if she can feel it. She’s afraid and doesn’t want to go away again. Charlie makes her promise to stay with him. As she agrees, Charlie kisses her hand. Alex glowingly smiles. Charlie says, “I love you.” Alex sweetly replies, “I can feel that.”

What a fantastic episode! What did you think, Hopefuls? Did you enjoy “Heaven Can Wait”? Do you feel Alex’s coma is too redundant? Or do you find it to be a good catalyst that will strengthen her relationship with Charlie? Do you find Joel somewhat responsible for what happened to Alex? How will this influence his relationship with Alex?

Share your thoughts below!


  • Stand-out performances:As always, the whole cast did a phenomenal job and they demonstrated a lot of raw emotions. Michael Shanks may have mastered the art of the man cry and he took us through quite an emotional journey as we watched him struggle with his pain, fear, and frustration. However, it was beautiful to see that his love for Alex is the strongest emotion he exhibited. Michelle Nolden is also doing a wonderful job as Dawn Bell. She has given great depth to a character that could simply be a stereotypical villainous bitch into someone we actually can feel for. Dawn can still be mean, but she is a layered character and over the years we are beginning to understand why she acts the way that she does sometimes. She isn’t deliberately cruel, she’s just troubled. Dawn earned some slack in this episode and she may even be growing on some of us.
  • Developing patterns:Charlie thankfully pointed out the funny irony of Alex’s situation. Just like Charlie, she’s in a coma. But this time around she has a trusted guide who can help bring her back. Something of note is both of their experiences in the afterlife. In Season 1’s “Ride Hard or Go Home,” Charlie had to relive one of the worst days of his life. It was an experience that haunted him and he was forced to face it. Alex experiences the same thing during her time in limbo. This time around, it was more of a surprise to the audience, but it presents the same message. In order to move on with their lives and return to their bodies, spirits must overcome a haunting moment in their past. A life-changing that has shaped their futures, but one that must eventually let go of. It is something to keep in mind as this season progresses.
  • Luke’s return: It was great to see Luke again, although it was under very sad circumstances. Is this where he’s hanging out now? How often does he get sucked back into his childhood home? Or was this a one-time thing, so he could see Alex on the other side?

Catch part two of “Saving Hope’s” Season 3 premiere Thursday, Sept. 25 at 9 p.m. on CTV.

This article was originally published on Examiner.com on September 24, 2014.

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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