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SpoilerTV - TV Spoilers


The Night Shift - Land of the Free - Review: "We Get the Job Done"

As I write this, "Immigrants, We Get the Job Done" is playing on loop on my computer. It's not my typical writing music, but this wasn't a typical episode of The Night Shift. The few of you who read my reviews every week know that a) I love The Night Shift's attempts at social commentary and b) I missed my review for last week's R3B00T (don't sue me, I was on vacation and the gods at SpoilerTV allowed me to miss a week). In a way, "Land of the Free" was the perfect episode for me; it was The Night Shift's most politically packed episode yet, and the way it happened to air after my writing break allowed me to see it with better eyes. After viewing the episode with fresh eyes, I can say with confidence that The Night Shift is one of the summer's most important dramas.

As always with The Night Shift, the stories are made up and the continuity barely matters. In last week's "R3B00T", the hospital was under cyberattack from a group of hackers demanding a ten million dollar ransom, Shannon (Tanaya Beatty) struggled with the peoples' perceptions of her, TC (Eoin Macken) began working on SWAT raids and had to deal with the fallout of a failed mission,  Jordan (Jill Flint) proposes creating a school for combat medicine at San Antonio Memorial Hospital, Kenny (JR Lemon) dates Bella (Erica Tazel), Drew (Brendan Fehr) expresses his desires to join the rangers, and Julian (James McDaniel) admits that the Cummings Medical Group isn't as financially prosperous as everyone thinks. The newly introduced Shannon/Jordan tension from "R3B00T" is practically ignored, and something so important as the financial state of the Cummings Medical Group isn't even mentioned in "Land of the Free". However, The Night Shift's looser play with continuity served to be beneficial instead of annoying this episode, as it allowed complete focus on what it really means to be in the "Land of the Free".

The episode starts with a standoff at an immigration detention facility. After detainee Romero (Luis Moncada) injures the present law enforcement, he tries to escape in a cop car... which he subsequently crashes. Due to his injuries, he is rushed to San Antonio Memorial Hospital. Elsewhere at the immigration detention facility, a Mexican ICE officer (Carlos Sanz) suffers from stab wounds inflicted by Romero. While his colleagues treat the officer, TC is called upon by a young boy in order to help his sick mother. TC quickly diagnoses the mother with diabetic ketoacidosis, and realizes that the rest of the detainees at the facility are all suffering medically. He lies to one of the other ICE officers, saying that all of the detainees have the measles in order to get all of them admitted into San Antonio Memorial Hospital.

In the episode, ICE is seen as the enemy. The one prominent white ICE officer (Greg Cromer) is portrayed as a complete asshole. He worries more about himself possibly catching measles than the true people suffering around him. The main cast of The Night Shift, the audience's moral stand-ins, treat the officer with disdain as he asks them to move the show along so he can get back to doing his job, which is deporting people. The white ICE officer is turned into a symbol for the American justice system, and the injustice that permeates a society preaching "liberty and justice for all".

"Land of the Free" doesn't end the message there. Through the actions of its heroes, The Night Shift displays what true allyship means in the time of Trump. Instead of leaving the Mexican immigrants to stay sick and get deported, TC, a white man, brings them all to the hospital. There, Scott (Scott Wolf), another white man, does not turn them away, even though it would be more convenient to do so. Instead, he and the rest of the hospital staff accept the immigrants with open arms. It is an important reminder that justice should not only be fought for when it is convenient, but all the time.

After the initial processing of patients into the hospital, "Land of the Free" becomes a story structured around three Mexican immigrantsthe criminal, the ICE officer, and the childin order to comment on the position of Mexican immigrants in American society.

The criminal, Romero, has the kind of storyline that is most typical of Mexicans in American media (both fictional and real life). He attacks doctors and nurses, he escapes his restraints and wreaks havoc on the hospital, and he injures and kills many innocents in an attempt to escape justice. His storyline is does not revolve around his injuries, but the way he injures others. He is only brought down after an altercation with TC, who could have really easily been seen as the white savior/knight if there was no balance. Luckily, Romero's stereotypical storyline is balanced out by the other, more sympathetic, Mexican characters at the forefront of "Land of the Free". With the balance, Romero's plot becomes more exciting and less offensive.

In contrast to Romero's villain storyline, Max the ICE officer portrays an anti-hero. At first, he has tension with Paul (Robert Bailey Jr.), a Black doctor whose support is more towards the soon-to-be deported immigrants than with the American justice system. However, as the episode goes on and Paul treats Max, Max reveals that he does not enjoy his job. He says that his family had immigrated to America from Mexico after a wait several years long (during which he got sick and had a botched operation that destroyed his kidney). He says that he joined the job because he wanted to put the bad guys away and make American truly the "Land of the Free", for both natural citizens and immigrants. However, the job changed, and Max was forced to arrest innocent people in fear of getting arrested. He has to stay on the job, or else he won't be able to survive and provide for his family.

Max's plot may be one of the most important parts of the episode. The fact that an ICE officer, a symbol of the system, condemns the system, reiterates the episode's message that the system is unjust. Additionally, his character portrays the sad reality faced by many people of color in America: a reality that means often means having to bend to your oppressors' whims to survive. The plot, as important as it is, wouldn't be anything without the talented acting of Carlos Sanz. He truly brings the character to life and makes the audience truly understand the nature of existing in America.

If Max's character is there to portray the complexities of race in America, then Angel's character is there to provide an innocent counterbalance to Romero's storyline, along with giving insight into the unfairness of the American immigration system. Angel is the kid that tells TC about his sick mother. As a meningitis outbreak occurs in the hospital, Angel gets a vaccine and is declared healthy. However, he overhears Cromer's ICE officer saying that he will deport all of the healthy people that night and all of the sick after the hospital discharges them, separating Angel and his mother. In an attempt to stay with his sick mom, Angel swallows pills stolen from an elderly patient. His desperate choice effectively portrays the despair felt by those separated from their family due to deportation. Thankfully, he is saved, and at the end of the episode, Angel and his mother get to stay in America. Max, the ICE officer who had arrested them in the first place, pays for his crimes by calling in and preventing their deportation.

Angel, like Max, portrays something bigger with his plot. His character provides an adequate stand-in for the "average" Mexican illegal immigrant. He is a child, completely innocent of anything other than a desire to live in the "Land of the Free". He also dreams of being a doctor; he is intelligent and full of potential to contribute to society. Even his name, Angel, tells us what side we should be on.

Even with the nice use of people as symbols, "Land of the Free" was best when it got overt. I loved when TC challenged anti-immigrant sentiment by telling an ICE officer that his family were Irish immigrants, and he ended up an intelligent doctor. I cheered at Paul's speech to Drew (Brendan Fehr) about white privilege and discrimination faced by people of color in America. The expert dialogue by Francesca Butler (the episode's writer) and the acting by Robert Bailey, Jr. made the speech pitch-perfect. It was a reminder of how great The Night Shift could truly be.

Of course, The Night Shift did things other than stick it to Donald Trump for a whole hour.
  • TC finally agreed to stay in San Antonio and lead the new school of combat medicine. Additionally, Amira has come from across the pond to be with TC and lead with him. I love Amira as a character, and I'm really glad she's staying. I just hope that TC and Amira stay strong, and we don't have to suffer through another love triangle.
  • Kenny proposed to Bella. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Kenny has had the longest string of heartbreaks and flings out of anyone at San Antonio Memorial Hospital. With the way things were set up in R3B00T, it seems like Bella is going to break his heart during their engagement. I do like the idea of Kenny having a committed love interest, and I hope that my instincts are wrong. He needs a stable storyline, something in his life that just doesn't apart. Seeing him lose his gym and all of his girlfriends is getting tiring.
  • Cain (Mark Consuelos) has left San Antonio Memorial, after getting tracked down by his past. He got very little screen-time in the episode, but what little he did left a sour taste in my mouth. I liked Cain, and I hoped that his exit from the show would be more peaceful. 
  • We found out that TC hired a private investigator to find Annie, but that she hasn't been found. As the season finale is coming next week, my standards are very low for what the show will do once Annie's fate has been revealed. Suicide is a touchy topic, and I don't know if the show will be able to handle it gracefully before the season ends, while still maintaining its structure of multiple plots per episode. If they make the wrong choice of pushing the fallout until next season (which has not yet been confirmed), then the narrative will suffer for lack of emotional impact, as a result of time jumps between seasons both in-show and out.
"Land of the Free" was a standout episode for The Night Shift. The script was tight, the acting was believable, and the episode was relevant without patting itself on the back for its own wokeness. It respectfully portrayed many immigrants from Mexico as people, equally deserving of treatment as  anyone else who comes through the hospital's doors, and equal to anyone else in America. It didn't hesitate to disparage the horrors of the American justice system or the horrors of man, but it didn't leave us without a smidge of optimism. In the time of Trump, The Night Shift is exactly what we need; it shows us that even though the world sucks, there are good people out there (even in Texas).

What did you think of this episode's The Night Shift? Did you agree with the episode's message on immigrants and deportation? How are you feeling about the combat medical school storyline? Share your answers in the comments below!