‘Code Black’ Season 2, Episode 13 Recap and Review: ‘Unfinished Business’


Rollie Guthrie is back and it’s his show in this week’s episode of ‘Code Black,’ which sees him take on a new job and a risky surgical procedure.

What makes and has made CBS‘s Code Black an elite program on television is how it always strives to be more. It’s more than just about who lives and who dies, more intense than any other medical drama, more thought-provoking than most dramas of any genre. “Unfinished Business” is about that more – not just the medical tragedy of the week but everything that goes with it.

The episode opens with Rollie (William Allen Young) having a discussion with Dr. Will Campbell (Boris Kodjoe) about the surgery he turned down last week, while also formally assuming his new role as the Angels Memorial chaplain. No sooner have they finished talking than the ER gets hit with victims from an apartment fire. But can Rollie get used to not helping them, at least physically?

As is par for the course on Code Black the opening sequence is pure chaos. Not only in handling patients, but one woman insists she’s missing a baby and another man tells the staff that the fire was arson.

The baby is found alive but unresponsive. One of the most heartbreaking scenes of the season, if not the series, is Rollie watching helplessly as it dies after an unprepared Dr. Elliot Dixon (Noah Gray-Cabey) is stuck trying to save it by himself – and then is stuck in the sealed chamber with the dead baby for an hour until it decompresses.

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Back on the floor Jared (that’s Tyler Young, the co-star of USA’s Eyewitness) admits to Dr. Mario Savetti (Benjamin Hollingsworth) that he was playing with fireworks and blames himself for the deaths of the baby and everyone else.

But there aren’t just physical injuries involved. Col. Ethan Willis (Rob Lowe) tries to help a young woman who fought with her father over wanting to move to New York for her singing career before the blaze broke out, and Dr. Angus Leighton (Harry Ford) tries to help a single mother whose suicide attempt was foiled by the fire, calling it “a second chance if I have ever seen one.”

So it’s up to the Angels Memorial staff to heal not only people’s medical injuries but their needs that have nothing to do with their bodies. As was pointed out last week, medicine isn’t just about science.

The father of Willis’s patient, who happens to be a man of the church, asks for the chaplain and so he and Rollie are able to comfort each other about their respective painful experiences. But just after they have that moment Emmanuel dies, preventing his daughter from apologizing to him.

Rollie carries that with him as he goes to see Elliot, who has been liberated from the chamber but is still freaked out over what has happened. He declares that he’s quitting, but Rollie won’t let him saying that his empathy is what makes medicine his calling.

Just as Jared confesses to the accidental arson, the landlord who accused him comes back and admits that it was actually faulty wiring that did the building in. Then Angus’s patient makes a new attempt to end her life, and it’s as they’re trying to save her again that we realize Rollie is actually in the operating room.

He consented to the surgery a week ago and we can all enjoy Coldplay’s “Fix You” while we realize that the rest of the episode was all in his head. Emmanuel, the pastor, was his father and all the other cases were representing various moments in his life. Wow, what a nice fake-out there, Mr. Seitzman.

Once that cat is out of the bag, we see that Rollie has made it through the surgery and that he’ll be back to being a doctor. And Cole (Cress Williams) is right there by his father’s bedside, so Rollie decides that this is the time to tell him that he had a twin sister he’s never known about, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The accident was what broke their family apart. If you’re not crying at this point, you’re not human.

The episodes of any show written by series creators are always a little bit more special, because they are crafted by the person who knows the world and the characters better than anyone. This is the genius of Michael Seitzman, and it’s essentially his love letter to Rollie Guthrie and William Allen Young. It’s a two-man show of the finest order.

We’ve seen episodes of TV before where it turns out things are all in somebody’s head, but those usually come with really obvious hints like certain fuzzy camerawork or people behaving strangely. Seitzman plays it completely straight until it’s time to make the reveal and so we’re completely sucked into the medical drama and then it all makes sense.

And William Allen Young, who has for so long served as a rock for this ensemble, gives the episode his all and creates one of his strongest performances. The scene between him and Cress Williams is worth the price of admission alone, and leaves us wanting more.

Episodes like this are why Code Black needs to be renewed, and why we need it in our lives. It’s not just a TV show for entertainment value. It’s a TV show that actively makes us experience and question and start crying like small children, and those shows don’t come around very often. This series always aspires to more and as a result it’s become more. It’s in a complete class of its own.

Next: 'Colony' Stars Talk About Trying To Recover In Season 2

Code Black takes two weeks off now before returning for its final three episodes of Season 2. Make sure you’re tuned back in on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 10/9c on CBS.

Code Black airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS.