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The Night Shift - Recoil - Review: "Look Beyond"

Coming off of an already strong third season, the season four premiere of The Night Shift was downright explosive. Long gone are the days of employee rooftop parties and fun coworker pranks. This time around, the writers wasted no time dropping the audience back into action with the kind of fast-paced, heart-stopping episode usually reserved for getting shows over the hump. At San Antonio Memorial Hospital, there's no time to waste, as the understaffed ER struggles under the weight of new management. Luckily, Nurse Cain (Mark Consuelos) has joined the crew. As a fan of Pitch while it was still airing, it was great to see Mark Consuelos back on my screen in such a fresh, charismatic role. His more relaxed personality (in contrast with the hospital chaos) was slightly reminiscent of season two's recurring Dr. Joey Chavez. However, Consuelos brings a certain charisma to his role that sets him apart and makes him a great foil to Dr. Shannon Rivera (Tanaya Beatty).

After the staff walkout during the finale of season three, Beatty's Dr. Shannon Rivera was one of the the only ones to stay on, as San Antonia Memorial Hospital was practically her only option. During season three, Shannon more often than not played the secondary, the assisting and less-experienced protege to her former colleagues. The character was one of the brightest spots of season three, and it was great to see her become a leader in the new situation. Unfortunately, her leadership moment was slightly shafted in favor of introducing Nurse Cain. While treating a patient, Shannon and Cain differed on their approaches. Shannon, stuck in her old ways and clearly stressed out under the pressure, couldn't look beyond the facts. Cain, however, treating with his heart rather than his head, could. Despite some initial arguments, Cain opened Shannon's eyes, leading to a really adorable moment in which they help their patient with a cello audition. It was also really great to see how Cain subtly gave Shannon a little bit of hope in the chaos. Shannon's usually so stoic, and seeing her smile is one of the greatest things in the world.

In less hopeful news, leading man TC Callahan (Eoin Macken) was still stuck in Syria. He's alive, but injured after a bombing and without knowledge of where fellow doctor Syd (Jennifer Beals) is. For an episode that has a heavy emphasis on ER staff's love for former ER chief Topher (Ken Leung) and their familial bond, it kind of sucks to see the leading man so far removed from the family. And TC's the one that's arguably the closest with Topher. They were in the same unit as Afghanistan, they were ride or die, but they were barely addressed. Now that's not to say that the Syria storyline isn't extremely interesting. It provided more depth to TC. It showed us his loyalty to his friends in how he was willing to save someone who attacked him just so he could find Syd. It also gave us a fictionalized look into the wreckage in Syria. I'm no authority on Syrian politics, so I can't say anything about that, but I can commend The Night Shift for being brave enough to write about it. I can also commend it on the introduction of the introduction of Amira (Rana Roy), a doctor on the ground in Syria. She's sassy, she's smart, and she's another example of the amazing female characters that The Night Shift consistently brings to the table.

Back in San Antonio, Jordan (Jill Flint) strikes a deal with Julian Cummings (James McDaniel): perform an op to save her friend, and she'll reunite the ER family At first, it's a bluff. Jordan initially has no plans to come back on, but after a talk with Dr. Cummings, she changes her tune. Their discussion about who gets to be saved was one of the most riveting parts of the episode, as Dr. Cummings pulled out and read a letter from a little girl asking him to save her mother. It was deeply moving, yet also deeply important. It was one of many moments The Night Shift uses as social commentary on how the American healthcare system is supremely messed up. This show has this amazing way of balancing medical drama with social commentary without seeming preachy. Instead, everything seems real. We empathize with these doctors and nurses and patients. In them, we see little pieces of ourselves and our world.

Sadly, in the real world, we know that Ken Leung has left The Night Shift, and with him goes beloved Dr. Topher Zia. The Night Shift hasn't been historically great about actors leaving the show (their preferred method of goodbye is just to ship the characters off with no explanation or mention of them ever again). But this time, it feels a little bit like Topher stayed. He stays because the characters that stay repeat his words, echo his ideals. Jordan calls her one of her closest friends. She and Paul (Robert Bailey Jr.) and the rest of the staff consistently refer to him and say that he was great, that he deserved better, that they're not coming back unless he comes back. If I didn't know better, I wouldn't think that this was a post send-off episode. I would have thought that Topher would come back in the next episode, and that everything would be okay. It's so beautiful, the impact that Topher still has even when he's not here, but it's also going to be so all the more heartbreaking when he doesn't come back. Only The Night Shift can make you sad about a character you haven't seen in months.

In true The Night Shift fashion, heartbreak is balanced out by pure adrenaline. At the end of the episode, Dr. Drew Alister (Brendan Fehr) tries to rescue two girls stuck on top of a roller coaster. As he pulls one girl to safety, away from her cart, the other girl clings onto him instead of falling safely to a mat on the ground below her, endangering Drew, her friend, and the integrity of the contraption that lifted Drew up and enabled the roller coaster rescue in the first place. The episode ends on a cliffhanger, as the girl literally hangs from a contraption, too afraid to let go.

To be honest, I would have one hundred percent preferred just a simple, group-hug ending between all of my favorite doctors and nurses. After last season's cliffhanger, my heart cannot handle the stress. But, I cannot deny that this was a really could way to keep viewers hanging on. The Night Shift is a darn good show, one that really knows how to play with the heartstrings, and I know that I'm going to watch season four until the very end.

What did you think of this week's episode of The Night Shift? When do you think TC will come home? How do you think the family dynamic will change now with Topher gone and the ER restructured? Share your answers in the comments below!

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