I didn't like this episode. I realize I'm in the minority, and that even people who hate what Mark Greene has become were caught tearing up as he inched toward death in this hour. I didn't hate the episode because I'm heartless, nor because I'm predisposed to dislike Mark; rather, I thought it was overdone, tried too hard to shove Rachel down our throats, and was generally an ill-fitting tribute to a character that was once an ER pivot. Mark had to beg for affection all season from his wife and daughter, and in the end, he still never got it. In trying to be wise and strong with Rachel, Mark ended up looking pathetic. He never got any dignity back. Instead, he got two uneven episodes, one of which further weakened and demeaned his character, and the other of which offered a few moving moments between his former colleagues, but mostly served the purpose of proving that both ER and the ER can replace him. Tossing him two Emmy scenes amid a morass of junk -- spit-shined and packaged as a Very Special Episode From the Pen of John Wells -- is a shoddy way to thank Anthony Edwards for eight years of work.
Previously on ER: Mark rifled through Rachel's backpack in search of drugs, but found cigarettes; when he confronted her, she seethed. Ella overdosed on Rachel's Ecstasy, and an enraged Elizabeth moved out because Mark wouldn't boot Rachel. Mark's tumor returned, he quit the chemo, and Carter announced Mark's death. So much for suspense. But maybe this episode will be like the movie Clue, and have a different ending wherein the tumor jumps out Mark's ear and into Rachel.
The episode picks up with the very end of "Orion in the Sky." You know, just in case the chronology hadn't already been julienned like so many helpless carrots. Dr. John "Hair" Carter and Dr. Mark "Nair" Greene are standing in the ambulance bay. "You set the tone, Carter," Mark tells him, turning to leave. Carter is as confused as he was the first time. Mark walks away and never looks back.
On the El Train, Mark sits placidly and stares at the teeming life all around him. He notices a young girl asleep on her father's lap, her head nestled on the man's shoulder; Mark smiles slightly. One assumes he's envying their closeness, but it's conceivable that he's snickering about the painful crick she'll have in her neck when she wakes up.