Oh, Jackie Peyton, RN, let me count the ways. (TS Eliot and St. Augustine? Somebody's been reading my eHarmony profile.) Profane, autonomous to a fault, hardcore, darkly humorous, and religious in the most compromised ways imaginable. She's also one of the best nurses I've ever seen on TV, and maybe one of the best people. Which is interesting due mostly to how many thousands of ways she is totally effed up: a number that gives Nancy Botwin and Celia Hodes' combined score a run for its money.
Jackie's first case is a bike messenger with a skull bleed, who dies on the table thanks to an arrogant doctor (Peter Facinelli, probably too worried about Jasper Hale to notice much else). She forges Bike Guy's signature on a donor card, but is flummoxed as to how best to help his young, pregnant girlfriend. Enter patients Two and Three: a hacked-up hooker and the Libyan attaché whose ear she cut off in the scuffle. Jackie steals an annoying doctor's Uggs and the attaché's wallet for Pregnant Girl, and flushes the jerk's ear down the toilet. This is Jackie justice, and it's beyond satisfying to watch.
Meanwhile, Jackie ditches annoying/adorable student nurse Zoey Brakow long enough to: have lunch and save a life with snarky doctor BFF Elenor, hang out in the hospital chapel with charming fellow nurse Mohammad, hook up with her boyfriend/pharmacist Eddie, try on some Blahniks, smartmouth indulgent hospital administrator Gloria Akalitus, and get her boob grabbed by Facinelli's Dr. Fitch Cooper, who acts out with inappropriate sexual touching when nervous. All of this is made easier by the self-prescribed painkillers she snorts throughout her double shift, which she parcels out grain by grain to the sound of the Valley Of The Dolls theme: "What do you call a nurse with a bad back? Unemployed!"
So is it good? Yes, it is very good. It's neither Weeds nor House, in tone or intention, but visually and in certain shallow ways it seems like it might suffer, if only by proximity and aesthetic concerns. But then, I'm partial to fucked-up genius drug addicts with religious issues (between Saving Grace and The Cleaner the summer was already like my favorite time of year), I like the literary echoes of lines and themes and images that draw the disparate parts of Jackie's compartmentalized life together, and I like the brutally honest, self-conscious way Jackie continually addresses her essential inability to reconcile Doing Good and Being Good. "I think you're a saint," Zoey tells her; one gets the feeling she just hasn't reached that on her to-do list just yet. It's fulfilling, in a human way, to see someone cite Augustine while following his lead: saving the world, one tiny ungrateful little piece at a time.
Falco is of course a joy to watch, with her harsh haircut and wise beauty, her terribly sad eyes; her various friends and coworkers are all interesting and complex in their own rights. Not sure of the arc just yet, but honestly I'd be happy to see the same basic structure every week: Jackie is tired, Jackie gets appalled by something, Jackie enacts vicious justice. It's incredibly promising to know that's not the case. But between clever Elenor, ebullient and zany Zoey, strong and tender Mo-Mo, and the begrudging respect between Jackie and Facinelli's complexly sweet/douchbaggy Coop, the show would still succeed. Such a richly imagined, realistic world is lucky to have people like this in it -- but not as lucky as we are. Highly recommended.
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It is white, hard white. The sirens get louder and louder and there's crashing, terrible noise, and then there's something in the white, and everything's getting softer, and the theme from Valley Of The Dolls starts. It's like ducking your head under a wave. "Let us go then, you and I / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table..."
Jackie Peyton's spread out on the floor, looking up at a white ceiling, thinking about TS Eliot, and about Catholic school, and St. Augustine; letting it wander. The nun who taught Jackie to recite Eliot also taught her that the people with the greatest capacity for good at the ones with the greatest capacity for evil. "Smart fucking nun," Jackie thinks. She's like Guido and Dante at the beginning of the poem, like "you and I" at the beginning of the poem: telling herself a story nobody ever needs to hear. I wouldn't be surprised if the Eliot came back at the end of the season. Who's she talking to? There's gum on the bottom of her shoe, and a bottle of pills in her hand. The gum's been worn very thin.
"All right, I got one for ya. What do you call a nurse with a bad back? Unemployed!" She shakes the bottle; there's a single Percocet left. You could get the feeling she's very alone but she's not; she's got awesome friends in this place. Right now she's alone. She blinks up at the sky, like a patient on the table; she is beautiful, smiling. "Sixteen grains," she says, as they rain in slow motion down in the white light: bright red, falling from the capsule. "No more no less." A real addict would pop the capsule, not count the grains. "Just a little bump to get me up and running." She scrapes them together with her hospital badge, and snorts them, and it hits like lightning.
Then it's later, she's walking a bloody patient on a gurney, and then it's later, she's staring down at a patient. Peter Michael Donovan, very young, very cute; a bike messenger. She's worried about him. Dr. Fitch Cooper MD -- Peter Facinelli, who tragically seems to be hiding a case of Benjamin Button disease and not very well -- comes in, douchebagging it up on his BT about St. Barts and absentmindedly sanitizing and absentmindedly shoving her out of the way with his hip. She tells him what's going on with the kid, and he palpates something and Jackie tries to get in there to do it instead; she talks to him like a person. He ignores her, trying to get the alpha's attention, talking about iPhones and whatever. She checks Peter's pupils while Dr. Cooper plays with his phone.