Written by Hombre Divertido
As the twelfth season of the classic hospital drama hit the shelves on January 12th, 2010, one could not help but be intrigued by packaging that, for the first time, displayed no pictures of any original cast members. With the virtual disappearance of Sherry Stringfield’s Doctor Susan Lewis (apparently if you leave a hit show a second time, it is without fanfare) and the departure of Noah Wiley’s Doctor John Carter (who does manage to make a few appearances in season twelve, but only as a special guest) the show embarks on a new season with the changing of the guard now complete.
Due to the eleventh-year ending with one of the weaker season finales in the history of the series, season twelve opens with a mess to clean up. The first episode ("Cañon City") accomplishes that, but Linda Cardellini’s performance as Sam the frantic mom in search of her runaway son is a bit tired, and stretches the competent actress beyond her abilities. On the bright side, the episode marks the beginning of the end for the relationship between Sam and Luka (Goran Visinjic). Said relationship struggled through season eleven almost as much as the audience struggled to watch the storyline.
Where season eleven faltered with writing for the series veterans, season twelve gives the audience more of what they want. Shane West as Dr. Ray Barnett and Scott Grimes as Dr. Archie Morris were underutilized in season eleven, but are given the opportunity to shine in season twelve. West’s Barnett brings a youthful energy to the series not seen in the ER in years, while Grimes’ Morris brings subtle humor to the show for the first time. Though Grimes would remain with the show through the final season, his comedic abilities remained unappreciated.
Along with Grimes and West, the more experienced members of the ER cast are certainly given their respective time to show what they can do. Most noticeable is the performance of Maura Tierney in episode eleven “If Not Now” where Abby ponders a life-changing decision. Let us also mention that though the packaging may not show their pictures, there are some cast members who have been around since season one and they are given some solid screen time in season twelve as well. Yvette Freeman gets some wonderful storylines as Haleh and does great work, and Abraham Benrubi as the endearing Jerry steals scenes in several episodes.
Where the regulars shine, the newcomers tend to come up short as continued attempts to add an antagonist fail. Kristen Johnston as Nurse Manager Eve Peyton certainly added an imposing female force to the cast, and the characters ability to be imposing yet less confrontational than Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes) was entertaining, but eventually there was little for her to do. Also added to the mix was new attending Doctor Victor Clemente portrayed by John Leguizamo. His performance was solid albeit limited in dimension, and ultimately, arrogant and screwed up have both been done better by previous characterizations.