Season five was a season of comings and goings in the venerable Thursday night NBC drama. Despite the second major cast member checking out in two years, the show continued to be strong and the foundations of one relationship that would continue on for a number of years was set in place at the end of season five.
Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) and Doug Ross (George Clooney) haven't always agreed on the way they practice medicine or how to deal with authorities, but they are both great doctors and despite their differences, are also pretty good friends. Season five sees Greene trying to walk the fine line of friend and manager as he copes to deal with Ross' basic disregard for authority. The pediatrician finally goes over the line with one terminally sick boy, breaking every protocal, which eventually leads to his departure from the Cook County General emergency department.
Clooney was quickly becoming a big star on the big screen and a burgeoning movie career was pulling him away from his weekly television series, so when the time came to go, he left. This was a pretty big blow to the cast, the second original member to leave in two years (Sherry Stringfield's Dr. Susan Lewis left in season three), but as has been the case, the show continued on with great additions to the cast to take the place of Clooney.
Before he left though, Clooney fought for and got a pediatric ER approved, with himself as the attending. His relationship with nurse Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) continued to grow stronger, as the two planned their future together. As the season drew to a close, Hathaway discovered she was pregnant with his twins, but when she told him the news, he couldn't return, leaving her to face the pregnancy alone.
Greene got a good dose of being a manager, as he and Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes) managed to work the ER through a number of problems. Greene also dealt with his wife being remarried and his daughter having to live far away. He does get to spend some time with her early in the season. He also treats a hospital janitor (guest star Djimon Hounsou)with a horrible history of abuse and helps him to overcome his fears and confront everything going on in his life. Greene also strikes up a friendship with British surgeon Elizabeth Corday (Alex Kingston) and as the season ends they begin a relationship that would eventually lead to their marriage.
Corday begins her second year in Chicago starting over as an intern. When she turns down Dr. Romano's (guest star and future regular Paul McCrane) advances, he cancels her fellowship and she is forced to start over again. Her relationship with Dr. Peter Benton (Eriq LaSalle) eventually ends and as the year comes to a close, in addition to her relationship with Greene, she is going back to Romano looking for another fellowship to extend her stay in Chicago.
Dr. Weaver begins a search for her birth mother, a search that leads her to someone who isn't her mother thanks to a private investigator. She applies for the job as head of the ER, but is passed over in favor of Dr. Amanda Lee (guest star Mare Winningham), who turns out to actually not be a doctor at all. After the Dr. Lee fiasco, Weaver doesn't put her name back in an the temporary reins are turned over to Dr. Romano, much to the disdain of the entire ER staff.
PA Jeannie Boulet, already positive for HIV, comes down with Hepatitis C and is also involved in a car accident with Ross, which puts her in the hospital for a while. She also is a key part of the pediatric ER with Ross.
Hathaway, as mentioned, continues to grow in her relationship with Ross. She also opens a clinic in the ER, catering to the poor of the area. Her clinic is a great success until she is forced to step down after Ross uses her and the clinic to get the machine that ultimately kills his final patient. The season ends as she begins what will be one of her finest arcs on the show, her pregnancy with twins. The storyline is also one that will eventually introduce viewers to Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) who is now a regular on the show.
Benton continues to deal with his son's deafness, going to great lengths to learn all he can. He is hurt when he learns that his son's mother is moving to Germany with her new husband and basically kidnaps his son in the season's final episode. Benton also had a "highlight" episode in the season, as he journeyed to Mississippi to fill in at a doctor's office there and had to deal with the racial tensions and also had to find his bedside manner, as he stepped away from being a surgeon for two weeks.
Dr. John Carter (Noah Wyle) had an interesting year. He began the year as an RA in the medical students' dorm, but lost his job when the students threw a party that resulted in an overdose. He eventually moved into Weaver's basement. He also has a relationship with insurance saleswoman Roxanne (guest star Julie Bowen), but breaks that off in the final few episodes of the season. His tryst with his medical student Lucy Knight (the oh-so-adorable Kellie Martin) is a highlight of the season, although it only happened in one episode.
Knight is the new kid on the block in this season, the eager medical student with a good brain, but a lack of actual skills. She and Carter seem to have a love-hate relationship that comes to full tilt when she accidently kicks him in the chest and helps nurse him back to health.
The highlight of this season was the two-part episode "The Storm," possibly the best two-part episode the show has ever done. In the episode, Jeannie and Doug get in a car accident on the way to help at a horrific accident involving a school bus, where Dr. Greene is a hero for saving the kids. Additionally, Carter and Knight have their tryst in one of the hospital's rooms and eventually Ross calls it quits. The two hours were filled with great drama and it is truly a highlight in ER's run.
The only thing lacking on this set is extras. There are a lot of deleted scenes and a great gag reel, but no commentaries or other extras. That is a little disappointing. I enjoy getting whatever access I can to my absolute favorite television show and this set doesn't provide anything substantial to that regard.
Despite that, this was a great season, truly one of the best they did. The cast was able to move past Clooney's departure and pull together in the final few episodes. All in all, a fine effort for one of television's best dramas.