Just like previous seasons of ER, as well as those of most typical television series, season 12 had its high points and low points. Probably the most criticized low point of this season are the Dr. Carter (Noah Wyle) focused "Africa" episodes. When Wyle left after the season 11 finale (in plot terms, he went to Africa to offer medical aid), it was announced that he would be appearing in several episodes of season 12. The concept sounded great on paper, but it feels like the writers just didn't execute it effectively. Much of Dr. Carter's screen time feels like a re-hash of previous plot elements that adds nothing to the plot and exists solely to bring the popular character back into the show. Thankfully, there are some other redeeming factors in season 12, but sadly the Dr. Carter "Africa" plot arc tends to weigh down the quality of the season a little too much for me.
Another big "controversy" in season 12 was the finale, "21 Guns." This became a seriously polarizing episode for ER fans, and left a good part of the fan population waiting on the edge of the their seats for season 13, while the others stopped watching completely. I admit that I was somewhere in the middle of this. The plot kept me riveted to the TV, and once the credits rolled, I was hungry for more. While the plot does revolve around yet another gunfight in the ER, it feels like a fresher approach to a tired plot line. However, the episode pushed the possibilities of reality even further than most other episodes in the ER series (okay, so many popular shows are even less believable than "21 Guns," but part of the appeal of ER to me is its realism and believable nature) and felt like a little too much fiction for ER.
Some of the redeeming factors, to me, were some of the fabulous patient plot arcs. "Body and Soul" for example, which features James Woods as a former teacher of Abby's with ALS, was my favorite episode of the season. The emotions felt completely real and the acting was amazing. Woods even received a well-deserved Emmy nomination for the episode. Scott Grimes (Dr. Archie Morris) even became a full-time cast member. Though he had a somewhat rocky start, he later developed into one of the best characters of the entire series.
The bonus features for season 12 pretty much follow the standard for previous seasons. Features include outtakes and deleted scenes that were never aired, but the cast and crew interviews or recaps that appear on some previous seasons have been dropped. I was okay with this overall since I only really watch the outtakes and the deleted scenes, but more hard-core fans would see this as a little bit of a letdown.
ER season 12 also includes English and French subtitles in a gorgeous widescreen presentation. The overall look of the show has definitely been cleaned up from its time spent on television, but I was surprised at the lack of Spanish audio or even subtitles for Spanish-speaking fans.
While some episodes are better than others, season 12 is a decent watch overall, even though it's not my favorite season. I wouldn't discourage fans from adding it to their collections, but it may not be enjoyable enough to non-hardcore fans to make the investment.