‘Code Black’ Season 2, Episode 15 Recap and Review: ‘The Devil’s Workshop’


CBS’s ‘Code Black’ begins its two-part Season 2 finale event with an episode that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. How can this show not come back?

The end of the season is now for CBS‘s Code Black. Season 2 is closing out with a two-part, two-week finale, and if part one is any indication then this show may be continuing to somehow top itself as well as set the bar for what audiences should expect from their hospital dramas.

“The Devil’s Workshop” begins two days after “Vertigo” left off, with Dr. Leanne Rorish (Marcia Gay Harden) finding out just what happened to Ariel (Emily Alyn Lind) after the pilot. Rorish has taken Ariel in and is determined not to let her fall by the wayside again, whether in a group home or by her running off to Oregon. She persuades Ariel to stay at the hospital for the day, but it’s going to be one heck of a day.

Dr. Rollie Guthrie (William Allen Young) and Dr. Malaya Pineda (Melanie Chandra) treat Bill (Ron Perkins), who was trying to bond with his future son-in-law before he ended up in the ER with heart failure. Will he make it to the wedding?

Dr. Mario Savetti (Benjamin Hollingsworth) lands hotshot basketball player Russell (Tom Williamson), but Russell refuses to take anything seriously. Dr. Noa Kean (Emily Tyra), who brought him into Angels to begin with thanks to her new job, refuses to take Russell’s crap or Mario’s opinion.

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And Col. Ethan Willis (Rob Lowe), Dr. Angus Leighton (Harry Ford) and Dr. Elliot Dixon (Noah Gray-Cabey) are riding in the ambulance this week. Where is it taking them? Try to an exorcism gone wrong in the back of a local market. Could somebody page Ben Daniels? (Come to think of it, a Rob Lowe-Ben Daniels team-up would be pretty awesome.)

They bring Yolanda (Gabriela Banus) back to the hospital, which proves to be a dangerous choice. She bites Dr. Heather Pinckney (Jillian Murray), and that’s just the start of the havoc. It’s not Satan and it’s not rabies – welcome to an outbreak of hemorraghic fever.

Working with the CDC, in the persons of Dr. Kerr (Caitlin FitzGerald from Masters of Sex) and Deputy Director Reddick (Patrick Fischler from Mob City), the Angels Memorial team tries to handle its biggest crisis yet without starting a panic. And each case is affected by the disaster in different ways, on top of the problems they came in with.

Noa gets Russell to admit he’s been intentionally overdosing on Zoloft, while Campbell breaks his tough-guy mold in breaking the bad news to his ex-girlfriend Heather. “I’m not giving up,” he assures her, and it’s probably as close to sweet as either of these two will ever get. Speaking of cute, Angus’s would-be girlfriend Kelly (Meg Steedle) is among those stuck in the hospital thanks to the quarantine. Well, this is an awkward first date.

Yolanda dies from the fever, which doesn’t bode well for her also-exposed friend Alicia (Alicia Urizar) or Heather, as Willis and Kerr go back to the market to trace the outbreak to its source. All they need is the creepy horror movie-type music as they wander around in the darkness, finding the rest of the people who were involved in the exorcism. Two are dead and one dies shortly after making it to the hospital. But Campbell is not going to give up, dammit.

Especially when Dr. Kerr says that other members of the Angels team have also tested positive and will need to be quarantined. Mario, Malaya and Elliot get to be dragged on the other side of the plastic wall, and the law of large numbers indicates that with four major characters in the red, not all of them will make it out alive. “What do we do now?” Mario wonders, to which Malaya replies, “We do our job.” And it’s moments like that which make Code Black great.

Bill’s future son-in-law Jeremy (Mark Famiglietti) collapses in the waiting room and is added to the list of victims, just as Heather takes a last-act turn for the worse. And then Reddick walks in to be the resident jerk taking over the situation because He Knows Better. The one time we all want Campbell to be as itinerant as possible, he, Willis and Leanne leave everything in the hands of the CDC – including Ariel, who’s the last revealed patient.

At least Bill and his daughter get to share a dance together – to Nashville singer-songwriter Caitlin Canty’s cover of “Stand By Me” – but everything else looks pretty bleak. Like Heather finally crashing and Campbell not wanting her to die alone. You know, This Is Us has the reputation for being the tear-jerking show, but we’d argue Code Black does it just as well and just as much. At least Jillian Murray gets a great final voice-over.

Oh, and Patient Zero’s out roaming the streets, which is a wonderful place to leave this.

“The Devil’s Workshop” is a very interesting exercise for Code Black. This is a show that’s had ongoing story arcs, but not an actual two-part episode like this, and not every series is capable of such a thing. Many shows just stretch one part of story with a helping of filler and call it two parts. This one is legitimately a two-part installment and proves that the show can tell more involved stories. Then again, if you’ve seen any other episode of this series before, you’re probably not surprised.

This series always tells involved, well thought-out, emotionally provoking stories. All it did this week was take that to another level. The decision to kill off Heather will likely be a subject of debate among fans, but you can’t really argue with it. Jillian Murray did a fantastic job taking her from the character we loved to hate in Season 1 to someone we cared about in Season 2. Who’d have thought, considering how Season 1 ended, that we’d see Campbell so heartbroken over Heather? But that’s a testimony to how much the character evolved over these 15 episodes.

Having said that, if you put several of your series regulars in jeopardy and don’t kill somebody, especially when you’re playing with something as severe at this, it would be a cop-out. All TV shows should learn not to stick a regular character in the line of fire unless you really mean it. And of the ones involved – Heather, Malaya, Mario and Elliot – Heather is one of the two more fitting choices.

She’s a great character, but she’s not as central to the show as Malaya or Mario, and she has had a very complete arc this season. Plus, putting her at risk allows the Campbell character to be written in a more vulnerable way and for him to grow, which is a good thing for him considering how he often has to play the bad guy himself. As harsh as it is to say, from a long-term future of the show perspective, it’s easier for her to be written out.

But beware – there are still three more doctors at risk and if you’re a fan of Elliot’s, we suggest you not get comfortable either, given that one other resident was already killed earlier this season.

There’s very little to complain about in “The Devil’s Workshop,” except for perhaps the usual but necessary trope of an outside group (in this case the CDC) coming in and taking over. We see that all the time and it’s always more irritating than anything else, even though Patrick Fischler is a fine choice for the role of head honcho. He would’ve made an awesome doctor on staff, perhaps a la Brennan Brown on Chicago Med, or a hospital lawyer. And speaking of this show and its closest companion, this is another moment where we’re lamenting the absence of Jeff Hephner, because we could definitely use Ed Harbert to help us come to grips with this situation.

But perhaps the biggest question about this episode is what’s going to happen in the next one? How is the finale going to set up for Season 3? It doesn’t get much bigger than this, so where will Code Black be able to take its storylines after it’s gone this far out on the limb? It might be hard to top this. Then again, this show has just given us a crane rescue, a submarine, and a haunted house so the writers’ room will be able to think of something.

Until then we’ll just be getting more Kleenex and pouring one out for Heather.

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Part one of the Code Black season finale definitely leaves plenty up in the air for next Wednesday’s part two. But hopefully that won’t be the last we see of this series, because to cancel it after all it has put into the medical genre would be the biggest shocker of all.

The Code Black season finale airs next Wednesday at 10/9c on CBS.