John C Adams Reviews 'The Resident'
I'm not usually one for medical dramas, so when I review one you know it's got to be something special to have made me tune in in the first place. In this case, I was won over by the strong characterisation coupled with an unremitting focus on the consequences of private medicine, lack of medical insurance and high deductibles. The current season (four) is the last and it’s showing on Sky here in the UK right now.
'The Resident' is set in the fictional Chastain Park Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia and follows young surgeons and residents through the daily changes of ER and other departments such as spinal surgery. Each episode features self-contained plotlines, so it is easy to pick up anywhere and still follow what is happening. One of the strengths is the continuing presence of so many central characters over the whole length of the show so far, which gives ample room for development in their story arcs.
The series is named after the fictional Conrad Hawkins (Matt Czuchry), who is one the hospital's senior resident internists. His main colleagues are Nurse Practitioner Nic Nevin (Emily VanCamp), with whom Conrad is in a relationship, and Devon Pravesh (Manish Dayal) who is also a resident internist. The three of them fight against the system of US healthcare generally, and in particular against the injustices at their own hospital in the face of a profit-driven business that fails to prioritise patients over the bottom line.
In Season Three, my two favourite episodes could not have been more different. The first of which started off as a road trip for Mina Okafor (Shaunette Renee Wilson) and AJ Austin (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) to a medical conference where Okafor is due to speak. Austin's clapped-out old car dies a death by the side of the road and when they try to get a local garage to help fix it they are treated with particular hostility. This gets worse when they head to a local diner to wait out the repairs. The initial assumption, shared by characters and viewer, is that racism in small-town America lies at the heart of their frosty reception. In fact, other factors more closely related to the difficulty in getting medical treatment without insurance are at play. This was also the Halloween special, and the episode was packed (perhaps a little too full) of real medical conditions that form the basis for tales of zombies, vampires and resurrection from the dead. The whole episode was fun but clever and thought provoking too.
My other episode of choice from Season Three was a later episode (17) which was slightly less chock full of content but which had more scope for reflection. It featured a plotline around human trafficking of a young woman across state lines and also a plotline set in Georgia's LGBT community that revolved around tribute singer Doll E. Wood, who is a Dolly Parton lookalike performer. Doll E. Wood's real name is Joseph Kinney (played by Todd Sherry) and they collapse on stage and are subsequently diagnosed as needing surgery, which may leave them unable to sing. It was such a feel good, be yourself kind of plotline that sat well against the more gruelling tale of the young woman groomed by traffickers and then abused and raped.
'The Resident' has much to recommend it, although from reviews I'm not sure how medically credible some of the details are. I have no understanding of medical matters, and don't watch medical dramas usually, so none of that mattered to me. The series has a tendency to get a little soapy at times, especially around relationships with plenty of 'will they/won't they' but Nic's main storyline of her sister's addiction and father's inability to cope with her troubles gives the show more than just a focus on romance. Season Three also explored AJ Austin's search for his birth parents and the effect this has on his adoptive parents.
Season Four kicked off with a brief recap of what it had been like for a hospital to treat Covid patients at the beginning of the pandemic, but the plot soon moves forward to a post-Covid world where other medical issues have space to come through. The key question for the last season is whether the hospital will be closed down after the corporate owners lose patience with its finances and bail.
I loved this show and would recommend it to even the most die-hard avoiders of medical drama – like me!
Thanks for reading my review. I'm back on Monday. In the meantime, the comments section is open.
Many thanks to JC Gellidon, National Cancer Institute and Hush Naidoo Jade Photography for providing the images for this blog via Unsplash.