While the pickings continue to be disappointingly slim at the local theater complexes, television is still the place to find the best entertainment as some favorite shows have returned, and other new ones keep popping up. While the jury is still out on the second season of “True Detective,” shows like “Murder in the First,” “Tyrant,” and “Royal Pains” recently have made triumphant returns, and one of the best new offerings is “Complications,” a different kind of medical thriller that has me completely hooked after the first three episodes. “Complications,” which is the brainchild of Matt Nix (“Burn Notice”), tells the story of Dr. John Ellison (Jason O’Mara), an Atlanta, Ga., emergency room doctor whose act of kindness turns into a complete nightmare for him. He has just finished an exhausting night shift and is on his way home, where lives with his wife, Samantha (Beth Riesgraf) and their son, Oliver (Albert C. Bates). All he wants to do is get some rest, but his dog foils his attempt at that by injuring a squirrel, and, being the good doctor he is, John takes the injured animal to a vet. During his trip, he hears gunshots at a nearby playground and spots someone lying in the road. He rushes over to discover a young African-American boy who has been seriously wounded. When he kneels down to help the lad, he hears someone yell, “They’re coming back.” As he looks up, John sees a car speeding down a hill toward him. He reflexively glances around and spies a gun lying on the road. Without really thinking, he grabs the gun, spins around, and fires through the windshield of the car killing the driver. Then he rushes the young boy to the hospital.
As it turns out, the boy’s name is Antoine Tyler (Jaiden Tyler), the son of Ezera “EZ” Tyler (Anthony K. Hyatt), a gang leader who is serving time in prison. The guy John killed was a member of a rival gang known as Nortenos Locos, and when they find out that Antoine is alive, they want to finish the job. In the meantime EZ’s head henchman, Darius (Chris Chalk), contacts John and takes him to visit EZ in prison. The ensuing meeting doesn’t go well for John because he wants to wash his hands of the whole matter. But EZ has other ideas and informs John that he is to take care of Antoine and protect him until he is instructed otherwise. As if John doesn’t have enough on his plate, he’s still dealing with the loss of his young daughter a year earlier and a newly developed crisis at his hospital involving a whacko nurse.
“Complications” is aptly named because poor John’s life is anything but simple. O’Mara is outstanding in the lead role, and he’s consistently convincing in conveying his character’s concomitant feelings of fear, frustration, and outrage. All he was trying to do was save a boy’s life, and now his own life, the lives of his wife and son, and his medical career are in grave danger if he doesn’t do what he’s told. In an online interview with Megan Daley of Entertainment Weekly O’Mara offered some interesting insight into both his character and the program. “I think the most interesting thing about it is that here’s a man who has done the right thing. He’s made a split-second decision; he’s decided to stick by that decision. And he is not going to get rewarded for it. In fact, he’s going to get punished. He’s going to be chastised by his bosses. He’s going to have a psychiatric evaluation. His wife is going to have a ton of questions. His family is going to be put into a ton of danger. Instead of having a feeling that everything is going to be okay, everything gets worse. There’s a sense of an ever-deepening crisis as each episode unravels.
“John Ellison is a flawed character, and he doesn’t always do the right thing or make the right decisions, but ultimately he’s doing it for the greater good. That’s what makes him a hero. “I suppose what’s important to note is that the story takes place over two weeks. It’s a very compressed timeline – you’re almost talking about a day per episode. Obviously, we’re not doing ‘24’ here; that’s not what this is about. But, you know it’s a day or day and half per episode. Things are almost happening in real time. “So, this boy has to recover from this gunshot. He has to recover somewhere safe that’s protected. We have to ensure that no matter what – John Ellison has been told that if anything happens to the boy, that he’s dead. That’s the deal. He has to make sure the boy is taken care of. That’s a pretty full-time job in and of itself. There are lots of people who don’t want that boy saved. While that sounds linear, there are other parts of the story that branch out and become important.”
In addition to the main plot centered around John and Antoine, an equally interesting subplot develops involving Nurse Gretchen Polk (Jessica Szohr) and her attempt to save a female patient from a physically abusive boyfriend. This fiery nurse is one of the best characters in the series, and I’m really eager to she what happens with her. Oddly enough despite my aversion to doctors and hospitals, medical dramas and novels always have intrigued me, but “Complications” is more than just another medical show. In addition to everything going on in the emergency room in particular and the hospital in general, the show also involves us in John’s personal life, which is quite complicated to say the least. His association with the gang is bad enough, but he also as several other major issues to contend with. “Complications,” which airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on USA, offers top-notch entertainment, and it deserves a place on your must-see list. Watch one episode, and you won’t be able to wait for the next one. Television triumphs once again, and this show receives the final score of a very uncomplicated 10. Don’t miss it!