A few words on the subject of ER, the cornerstone of NBC's Thursday night lineup for a decade and a half and the late Michael Crichton's greatest contribution to pop culture.
When a show has been around as long and gone through as many iterations as ER there's no way to really do a series finale that can encompass everything the show has meant to fans. I liked the much-hyped tactic of bringing back old cast members for a final bow all season long (I haven't watched the show regularly in years), but for the two-hour finale writer John Wells made the smartest choice.
"And In The End" salutes the strengths of classic ER. There's an acknowledgment of the impossible hours the ER staff works, with an homage to the iconic moment from the pilot where Anthony Edwards is awakened by a nurse and a callback to George Clooney's "When did it stop raining?" line. Of course it wouldn't be ER without a doctor reassuring a younger doctor in crisis; here the young doctor is played by Alexis Bledel - doesn't it seem entirely plausible that Rory Gilmore would become a doctor? Finally, the show derives some of its greatest drama from the beginning and the end of life as a mother delivering twins goes into crisis and a elderly man (Ernest Borgnine) facing the loss of his wife.
I could have done without the flabby scenes of Carter, Benton, Lewis, and Weaver sitting around reminiscing and the meaning of the whole Carter-Thandie Newton relationship was largely lost on me, but as the one-hour look back special pointed out a constant theme of the show has been the relationship between teacher and student. How fitting then that the last teaching scene is between Carter and Rachel Greene (Hallee Hirsh), the now-grown daughter of Anthony Edwards's Mark Greene who now seems destined for a career in medicine. ER may be coming to a close, but the finale makes clear that for these characters the work will go on.