ER Episodes

1994, TV Show

ER Episode: "And in the End... Part 1"

Season 15, Episode 22
Episode Synopsis: Part 1 of 2. In the series finale, old friends from County show up to support Carter as he opens a new medical facility for Chicago's less fortunate. Meanwhile, Gates treats a teen suffering from alcohol poisoning as a result of a drinking game; and an intern turns to Carter for help with a woman who has gone into labor with twins. Alexis Bledel and Ernest Borgnine guest star.
Original Air Date: Apr 2, 2009

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Season 15, Episode 22
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Length: 01:25:00
Aired: 4/2/2009
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ER Series Finale Recap: "And in the End..." Season 15, Episode 22

In the very last song of their very last album (and with all due respect to the fans who will point out that the last song is actually "Her Majesty") The Beatles summed it up best. "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." Like the musical jumble that characterizes Abbey Road's "Golden Slumbers" medley, the series finale of ER proved to be a fitting homage to the constant chaos that has transpired at County General over the last 15 years. It has been a glorious joy ride through everyday human drama and the lives and loves of the doctors and nurses who became more to us than just characters on a television show. They became a part of the fabric of our pop culture, grabbing hold of our imaginations, defining a genre and leaving a lasting imprint on our hearts and our collective consciousness.

For many fans, this one included, our attachment to the show has something to do with how it has related to our own changing lives. In September 1994, I was a twentysomething, still living at home with my parents. I remember watching the ER pilot with my mom, a neo-natal intensive care nurse. Here was a lady who knew first hand about the stressful life and death situations that were playing out on screen, and immediately, she was hooked. Together, we became part of that "must see" phenomenon. At that time, the biggest star on the show was Anthony Edwards (or "Goose" to those of us who came of age watching Top Gun.) That Clooney guy? He was the dude from The Facts of Life. Seriously.

"People come in here and they're sick, dying and bleeding and they need our help. And helping them is more important than how we feel."  From that very first episode, Mark Greene set the tone. We watched him guide Carter through those first years, and we became extraordinarily invested in the ups and downs that these people faced. Not every patient was saved and not every story had a happy ending. As viewers, sometimes the rug got pulled out from under us. Lucy died. Mark died.  Pratt died. Kerry Weaver lost the love of her life and Dr. Romano got flattened by a free-falling helicopter. (And yes, he died, along with countless others.) But sometimes they threw us a bone. Doug and Carol got their happy Seattle ending. Neela and Ray overcame lost limbs. Luka and Abby got over themselves. Looking back, it does seem as though the happy times outweighed the bad, but then isn't that how we usually feel as something is ending?

Given how this story started, it made perfect, poetic sense for Rachel Greene to return to County General as a wannabe medical student and to have Carter serve as her ad hoc mentor. (I have to give props to all the posters who called this one months ago.) It was hard to believe that this poised, eager young woman was the same bratty, melancholy child we remember from those days prior to Mark's death. I was also thrilled that we got a bigger dose of Alex Kingston tonight. Her throwaway appearance in that Neela dream episode did not do her justice.

Speaking of returning veterans, it was wonderful to see Laura Innes and Sherry Stringfield reprising their roles. Both had strong ties to Carter at different points and so it made perfect sense that they would be there for the opening of the Carter Center. Of course, the biggest thrill of the night for me was seeing Eriq La Salle as Peter Benton for one last time. I always loved the complexity and humanity that were present in that role and all the familiar "Peterisms" — his hunched over shoulders, his propensity for man-hugs with Carter — were a treat to see. I thought that last awkward conversation with Elizabeth was a perfect coda to their unusual relationship. How great, too, that they got the same young actor to play Reese. That was a really nice touch.  

Through it all, Jerry, Haleh, Frank, Chuny, Malik, Lydia and Lilly were our constants (that one's for you Lost fans) and most of them popped up again tonight. The nurses and clerks kept us anchored. It didn't matter if you missed an episode or two (or a season or two for that matter). As reliable as patients throwing up on crisply dressed interns, when you finally came back, there they were. These priceless recurring characters added depth and texture to the proceedings. Kudos to each and every one of them. As Jerry and Frank bickered playfully tonight, I was especially sad that we won't get to see more of that dynamic.

There are so many things I want to call out about the finale that, at this point, I must revert to bullet points:

 • My favorite returnee? The opening credits. I had a suspicion that we would get one last shot to see those credits that we loved so well and missed over the past three years. It literally gave me chills to see Peter's all-too-familiar fist pump.

• The scene with Lydia and Morris at the beginning was an exact recreation of the pilot where Lydia made a similar wake-up call for Mark. Also clever that she explained her absence to Tony by mentioning that she had been working nights.

• For anyone who lived through "Love's Labor Lost," the storyline with the mother and the twins certainly had me on edge. A gentle reminder to all of us about how things can go terribly wrong for no good reason — an ER fact of life. (No pun intended, George.)

• Loved, loved, loved Alexis Bledel as new intern, Rory Gilmore. Okay, not really, though the intelligence and confidence with which she tackled her tough first day were certainly reminiscent of a certain Stars Hollow escapee. It left me wishing to learn more about how things turn out for her. (In my version of the spin-off, she and Brenner get together, but only after a long, stormy romance that has him fleeing his turbulent, one-night-stand past. Wait a minute — that storyline sounds familiar...)

• I was pleasantly surprised that we got to see Neela one last time. Good to know she is happily ensconced in the Bayou with Ray.

• Some people I was really hoping to see one more time included Dubenko, Dr. Anspaugh, Dr. Coburn and Luka (Hello! We all saw that Goran Visnjic dropped by during the retrospective. He couldn't have thrown on a lab coat and taped a scene?)

• Ernest Borgnine just about broke my heart in his portrayal of a man saying goodbye to his partner of 72 years. That one had me crying buckets.

• Some folks didn't get their stories tied up in a bow, but I think some assumptions are safe — Brenner will be ok; Banfield will adopt the baby; Tony and Sam will reconcile. Archie will be seeing a cardiologist at 40 and still regularly tormenting Frank. It was also fitting that we were left hanging with some patients as tidy endings weren't always part of the deal.

• I was not happy that we did not get to see Carter get his happy ending. I guess we are left to assume that he and Kem will work things out, but I felt a little let down at her return. Why bring her back and then give them no resolution? That was probably the one disappointment for me with the episode.

• Loved the basketball scene at the end with the old guard and the new — Carter and Gates. It took me right back to the days when Mark and Doug would talk about their problems over a pick-up game.

• Ending the series with an incoming trauma and watching the staff galvanize in that familiar way, waiting to see what comes around the corner. Carter calling out, "Are you coming Dr. Greene?" was another chill-inducing moment for me.

About that ending, I thought it was a perfectly fitting wrap to a series that always reveled in the day-to-day action of, as Susan so eloquently put it, an "under-funded, over-utilized insane asylum that passes for an urban medical center." Fifteen years ago, we were dropped into the middle of things — just like the numerous interns, residents and attendings who have followed. We exit the same way, better for having had the chance to experience the gamut of emotions that were offered up week after week. As series creator John Wells mentioned in the retrospective, it was unusually poignant that Michael Crichton passed away during this the final season, but what a legacy to leave behind. It is my hope that somewhere in that big living room in the sky he and my mom (his show's biggest fan) were enjoying the finale together, reminiscing about the old times with Doug, Peter, Carol, Susan and Mark. Cheers to that.

Was the shark jumped at some point? Probably. Do I care? Not in the least. A show doesn't last this long without jumping a couple sharks. A show doesn't last this long without breaking your heart and then reaching in, grabbing it and breaking it again. Time and time again, ER could be counted on for tears, laughs and most importantly, consistently compelling, well-crafted story-telling. It will long be remembered as not just one of the great medical dramas, but one of the great shows. Period. I will miss watching it, I will miss writing about it and I will miss all of you who have been along for this crazy ride.

Need more ER, STAT? Check out the Online Video Guide for interviews and clips.

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In the very last song of their very last album (and with all due respect to the fans who will point out that the last song is actually "Her Majesty") The Beatles summed it up best. "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." Like the musical jumble that characterizes Abbey Road's "Golden Slumbers" medley, the series finale of ER proved to be a fitting homage to the constant chaos that has transpired at County General over the last 15 years. It has been a glorious joy ride through everyday human drama and the lives and loves of the doctors and nurses who became more to us than just characters on a television show. They became a part of the fabric of our pop culture, grabbing hold of our imaginations, defining a genre and leaving a lasting imprint on our hearts and our collective consciousness. read more

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Premiered: September 19, 1994, on NBC
Rating: TV-14
User Rating: (455 ratings)
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Premise: The riveting medical drama that redefined the genre for the 1990s and into the 21st century. Created by author Michael Crichton and set in a Chicago ER, the series chronicles the lives of its harried staff in staccato, realistic scenes of lives saved and lost.

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