Complications: Doctor as Crime-Fighting Hero

Dr. John Ellison, the protagonist of Complications, confers with nurse Gretchen Polk.

The opening scene is foreboding. We see a lovely suburban home, but it's nighttime in the middle of a thunderstorm. Three dark, silhouetted figures run towards the house. Upstairs, a couple is asleep in the bedroom. The man wakes because he hears his dog barking. He gets up to investigate and hears a noise coming from downstairs. Seemingly unsurprised, he calmly wakes his wife and tells her to go to their son's room and lock the door, that someone is in the house. Then, heading for the stairway, he grabs. . . his doctor's bag?

What is happening? Does he plan to hit the intruders over the head with the bag? Attack them and then stitch them up? Then the man opens the bag and takes out a gun. With the weapon in his hand, he heads downstairs to confront whoever is there.

Instantly the scene changes. It's now ten hours earlier (as a caption tells us) and the man is sitting in a psychiatrist's office. We learn that he's John Ellison, an ED doctor, there at his hospital's request to have his mental fitness for practice evaluated. And slowly we find out what happened earlier that day leading up to the incident with the intruders, and why the doctor was prepared for them.

The USA Network's new summer show Complications takes two very popular kinds of shows—medical dramas and crime dramas—and merges them into a dark, intelligent series about a disillusioned doctor who is thrust into the role of hero when he saves a young boy caught in the middle of a gang war, but then finds himself drawn further into the violence when he realizes the boy's life remains in jeopardy. And with that a vigilante crusader is born.

There's blood--both from the street violence and the hospital situations—but far more compelling are the moral dilemmas, as Dr. Ellison has to contemplate whether violence is ever justified if it can save more lives, or whether rules--hospital or societal—can be broken in pursuit of a greater good.

And while the premise might seem a bit farfetched—how many colleagues do you have who would readily pick up a gun and start fighting bad guys?—there's a real attempt at medical authenticity. Many of the scenes were shot at St. Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta (although the ED used in many scenes is a stage set). And a real ED doctor and registered nurse were present during much of the filming to offer expert opinions and help ensure medical veracity.

Starring Jason O'Mara as John Ellison, Complications began airing June 18 and is on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. Central). You can catch up on episodes you missed on the USA network's website, www.usanetwork.com.

Dr. John Ellison, the protagonist of Complications, confers with nurse Gretchen Polk.

The opening scene is foreboding. We see a lovely suburban home, but it's nighttime in the middle of a thunderstorm. Three dark, silhouetted figures run towards the house. Upstairs, a couple is asleep in the bedroom. The man wakes because he hears his dog barking. He gets up to investigate and hears a noise coming from downstairs. Seemingly unsurprised, he calmly wakes his wife and tells her to go to their son's room and lock the door, that someone is in the house. Then, heading for the stairway, he grabs. . . his doctor's bag?

What is happening? Does he plan to hit the intruders over the head with the bag? Attack them and then stitch them up? Then the man opens the bag and takes out a gun. With the weapon in his hand, he heads downstairs to confront whoever is there.

Instantly the scene changes. It's now ten hours earlier (as a caption tells us) and the man is sitting in a psychiatrist's office. We learn that he's John Ellison, an ED doctor, there at his hospital's request to have his mental fitness for practice evaluated. And slowly we find out what happened earlier that day leading up to the incident with the intruders, and why the doctor was prepared for them.

The USA Network's new summer show Complications takes two very popular kinds of shows—medical dramas and crime dramas—and merges them into a dark, intelligent series about a disillusioned doctor who is thrust into the role of hero when he saves a young boy caught in the middle of a gang war, but then finds himself drawn further into the violence when he realizes the boy's life remains in jeopardy. And with that a vigilante crusader is born.

There's blood--both from the street violence and the hospital situations—but far more compelling are the moral dilemmas, as Dr. Ellison has to contemplate whether violence is ever justified if it can save more lives, or whether rules--hospital or societal—can be broken in pursuit of a greater good.

And while the premise might seem a bit farfetched—how many colleagues do you have who would readily pick up a gun and start fighting bad guys?—there's a real attempt at medical authenticity. Many of the scenes were shot at St. Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta (although the ED used in many scenes is a stage set). And a real ED doctor and registered nurse were present during much of the filming to offer expert opinions and help ensure medical veracity.

Starring Jason O'Mara as John Ellison, Complications began airing June 18 and is on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. Central). You can catch up on episodes you missed on the USA network's website, www.usanetwork.com.