Chicago Med 2×11 Review: ‘Graveyard Shift’

Just when you thought you’d seen it all on Chicago Med, you get an episode where a patient is a panda bear. For so long there was this build-up as to who this mystery patient was – be it in the promos or the synopsis – but whatever I was expecting, it wasn’t this. And honestly, it just made me want another One Chicago spinoff, Chicago Vet.

In “Graveyard Shift,” a unique patient needs the help of the doctors at Chicago Med as the hospital sees a first when a panda bear is brought to the operating room. It brings its own unique set of circumstances, which includes saving an animal that there aren’t very much left of in the world, as well as raising some publicity and money for Med to help its patients.

Elsewhere, there were two emotion story-lines that centered around Reese and Latham, respectively. Reese got stuck with a heck of a difficult job during the graveyard shift, which finally broke her. Also, Latham struggled with his emotional deficiencies, which shed some light on his character and, in the process, also made him one of the more interesting characters on this show.

Let’s break this down:

A Unique Patient

Leave it to Chicago Med to bring in a panda bear as a patient and have it affect us the way that it did, and also teach a lesson in the process. One of the great things about Chicago Med – and all these Chicago shows – is the uniqueness of their cases week in and week out. It’s not stereotypically cliché or simplistic. They’re story-lines that make you think or make your jaw drop. And I definitely wasn’t expecting to see a panda bear as a patient in this week’s episode.

As Dr. Rhodes was enjoying probably one of his few nights off, he was called back into Med to help treat a special patient. While it seemed like everyone from Goodwin to Choi knew what was happening, we – the audience – entered this situation with Dr. Rhodes as he strode into an operating room with someone from the Chinese Embassy, someone from the Chicago Zoo, and a veterinarian. Then we met the panda bear that would be Rhodes’ patient.

There were several good reasons to treat and save this panda. Not only would it help Med get some exposure, as well as help earn more money that they could use to save their patients, but it would also help save a species in which there’s less than 2,000 of in existence. Basically, save the panda, save the world.

Thankfully Rhodes was able to perform the surgery successfully (good to know it works on pandas, as well as humans). But then the question became: how did this panda find his way to Med? Turns out Dr. Choi volunteers at the Chicago Zoo, and he offered to have the panda brought here for the operation.

Leave it to Chicago Med to teach us a lesson about humanity using animals. But also leave it to Choi to make us think. He’s good at that. There’s a reason that Choi volunteers at the zoo. After a long day where he has to deal with patients who are getting shot or stabbed or killed, Choi likes to visit the zoo where he can separate himself from that dark world. Animals aren’t like some of the humans he sees come into Med, who shoot or stab each other for petty, stupid, and ridiculous reasons. Animals don’t kill each other out of malice. They’re innocent. They’re reminiscent of what we aspire our human race to be. To get rid of the violence. To thrive in peace.

Reese’s Rough Night

“That was terrible.”

Reese wasn’t wrong as those words basically summed up her graveyard shift that consisted of some of the toughest things she’s had to do at Chicago Med combined with exhaustion and pent up emotions from the past. It was hard to watch. But it needed to happen.

One of the things that I admire about Reese is that she’s someone who’s very “go, go, go” even when she feels like she could pass out. She has this determination to be the very best she can be that there’s literally nothing that can stop her from achieving that success, including sleep. So in doing so, Reese decided to take the graveyard shift in order to keep an eye on her patient. But Reese soon got a front seat to what looks to be the toughest job in the hospital, which includes pronouncing patients dead and telling their families. Just the thought of it is enough to make one cry. But for Reese, being thrust into this situation and having to do it three times was definitely a night that would be emotionally draining for anyone. Yet alone someone who has secretly been bottling up her painful emotions so that they don’t slow her down.

But during the episode the question was flying through the air: How long until Reese breaks? We know that the whole Danny thing that, while now in the past, is far from over. Reese has done a good job of masking her emotions in a profession where there are a lot of emotions to be had. Perhaps Reese has picked up on some things while working in psych that subconsciously she’s been applying in masking her feelings. But no matter how long she carried the load, we all knew she was going to break eventually. No one can survive that kind of pain.

After pronouncing a couple of patients that weren’t her own – but still emotionally taxing – Reese soon lost her patient that she’d been keeping an eye on. That’s when we saw that chink in her armor; we saw her break just a little. She’s been so good at hiding her emotions following Danny’s death. Yeah, it might be over. But it’s not over. Reese is still carrying that with her. It’s going to affect her. And it appears this rough night has been the trigger.

At the end of the shift, Reese nearly collapsed into Dr. Charles as the emotional weight of everything – from Danny’s death to her mother to the job she’d had to do that night – came crashing down on her. It was too much. It was all finally too much for her to bear. She couldn’t keep bottling up her emotions. This was the breaking point. And she was so afraid of failure in all aspects of her life. It’s clear that this isn’t a battle that’ll be over quick. She’s going to need to talk this through. But breaking down is the first, very important step in getting there. And Reese is going to get there.

Dr. Latham’s Struggle

I’ll be honest, Dr. Latham hasn’t been one of my favorite characters. Perhaps it’s been because of how hard he was on Rhodes. Or perhaps it was his demeanor. Or perhaps it was the way he was introduced as this antagonizing character that was meant to be seen as an obstacle for Rhodes than a human being. But this episode was proof that you shouldn’t assume you know everything about a person. And in one episode, Chicago Med took a character I wasn’t too fond of and made him a character that I’ve become heavily invested in.

It’s no secret that Dr. Latham has had issues when it comes to confronting patients in emotional situations. He’s not someone who’s good at handling feelings. And last week was the moment that Latham finally acknowledged it and actually wanted to do something about it. He went to Charles to try and understand why he couldn’t see things – in terms of social cues – that others could. We soon learned that Latham has Asperger’s, which not only shed some light as to his behavior but also gave his character some real clarity. From the moment we learned that Latham has Asperger’s, he was no longer that doctor that struggled with emotions. He was Dr. Latham, who was struggling to come to grips of characteristics of his Asperger’s.

One of the things that actually broke my heart in this episode was how Latham was becoming aware of how others perceive him. When the staff called Reese to pronounce Latham’s patient, she questioned them about it. And it was really troubling how they seemed to laugh it off as something that’s just a fact: Dr. Latham isn’t good with handling emotions. But then, perhaps the part that got me the most, Latham questioned them about it. And they tried to laugh it off intertwined with excuses. It was Reese that was candid with Latham about how they perceive him – they didn’t think he was emotionally capable of handling that situation, which also involved telling the news to the family. And that was what inspired him to take action.

Earlier, Dr. Charles had mentioned this TMS treatment that was said to, when successful, help those especially with spectrum disorders develop those social skills in that they show immense improvement. But there were also risks, which include the overwhelmingness of it all. But it was watching these people in front of him – who were perceiving him to be a specific kind of person – that instigated this action. Latham was tired of living in a world he doesn’t understand. And living in a world that doesn’t understand him. While he couldn’t do anything about the latter, he could do something about the former. So Latham began the TMS treatment, with Charles by his side.

While it was only one treatment, there were instantaneous results. Dr. Charles showed Latham the same video of two women having a conversation that he showed earlier, and Latham picked up on something he didn’t know before. He recognized that one of the women was clearly bothered by what the other did even though she said she wasn’t. He recognized sarcasm.

Now that Dr. Latham has been made aware of his situation, as well as began treatment, he’s beginning to look at the world in a new way, which we saw as he did some people watching in the hospital and seemingly was picking up some social cues that he hadn’t recognized before. This was a storyline that I didn’t know I needed. But I’m so happy we have it. This has the potential to be significant for those that have Asperger’s and those that need to be more aware of those around them.

Five Things…

  1. Doctors should be allowed to wear tuxedos while operating. I mean, at least when the camera is on them. Especially when it’s Dr. Rhodes or Dr. Halstead. This is just a personal observation. And plea.
  2. The next One Chicago spinoff HAS to be Chicago Vet. The One Chicago universe is a force of nature. With three currently on air and another on the way in March, there have been no signs of this world slowing down. So of course we have to believe that there will be another spinoff in the future. And after this episode, why not Chicago Vet? Just imagine the intensity of Med mixed with cute animals and even more pain because we know, just like in a hospital, what happens a lot.
  3. Reese had her breaking point during the graveyard shift. Following the events of Reese’s patient Danny’s death earlier this season, Reese has remained this strong, stoic figure in the midst of this world that’s filled with emotion. But this was the episode where she finally broke. Everything from being overworked to the difficulty of pronouncing patients dead and telling their families, finally forced Reese to confront the feelings she’d been bottling up. And it was as messy as you’d think. (When Reese cries, we all cry.)
  4. Chicago Med made Dr. Latham into a character I care very much about. It really goes to show you what happens when you give some context to characters who typically operate from the sidelines. For the longest time, Latham has been this character that didn’t really understand emotion. And when we finally learned why – because he has Asperger’s – it not only made so much sense but it finally gave Latham’s character some clarity.
  5. Watching Halstead and Clarke working together was both good and awkward. Don’t get me wrong, I loved them as a team during this brutal graveyard shift. But I was also very aware of the fact that these are both men that like Natalie. Obviously I stand firmly on the Halstead/Manning side (Manstead owns my heart). But even these two characters knew it.

Chicago Med airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.

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