It's not easy to say goodbye. My cousin Chris actually never says it, instead choosing, "See you later," because he doesn't want to jinx anything. It's especially not easy to do it after fifteen years. But tonight ER said goodbye.
The last episode got to the root of what made ER special. The doctors struggling with their role in the machine of life and coming to grips with the idea they would play life saver and life taker on a daily basis.
ER never apologized for the dramatic and even at times when the storyline went overboard, it rarely felt contrived or like drama for the sake of drama. Instead, if anything, ER only suffered from its success. Fifteen years is a television eternity and the ER 's inevitable turnover in staff only added depth to a show that had balance and poise.
I won't pretend to be the biggest ER fan ever and I have not seen every episode (although between me and my wife, we have the whole entire series covered I'm sure). Regardless, ER has come and gone in my life with relative ease. I remember first watching it with my dad while I was in high school. His favorite was Dr. Benton. I finished the show watching with my wife who I credit with keeping me with the show to the end. She predicted she would cry through most of it and she lived up to that expectation.
ER had the luxury of building to the end and had many past characters come through over this last season. Because of that the writers were able to make the finale less of a tribute and instead more of the same. But wasn't that the point of the whole show? People come and go. Patients get sick or get better or they get sick and die. Doctors have their passions and their demons but it matters little because in the world of a hospital life either goes on or it stops. You do your best, hope for the best and wake up to do it all over again.
The finale summed up expertly what life in (the) ER has been:
a mother giving birth to twins but passing away from complications
a girl in a coma from alcohol poisoning
a broken penis
an AIDS sufferer
an elderly DNR
a burn victim
a wedding gone awry
Many times when a series ends the writers feel the need to culminate or conclude. Not tonight. The finale spent 24 hours in the place it has spent the past 15 years: Following the doctors and the patients and allowing the new interns to pass down their knowledge to the med students. Life in a hospital goes on. Life goes on.
And when it was time to say good bye, ER ended with how it began: an emergency.