My pilot review highlighted the different meanings of the word trauma and how they applied to the show – both the action packed traumatic incidents the paramedics are called to and the emotional impact they have. There’s a third aspect that’s been introduced to the small number of us actually watching the show, the trauma of having the show cancelled after thirteen episodes, only to be picked up a couple of months later to see out the season. Now at the end of the season, after eighteen episodes, there’s no word on whether it will be back next season, but the odds aren’t looking particularly good.
All that is pretty disappointing as Trauma is actually one of my favourite shows of the year. I said of the pilot that I was intrigued, that the pace of the emergencies left me on the edge of my seat but that the emotional stuff was all a little too cliché. I don’t think anything really changed as the season went on, I just forgave the cheesy bits because I completely fell in love with the characters.
There’s a lot of ER in this show, the obvious similarities in subject, the “keep up or give up” approach to the fast paced medical talk but mostly the contrast in the characters. The medics in both ER and Trauma are hugely competent professionally: knowledgeable, decisive and passionate; while in their personal lives they’re bouncing haphazardly from one disaster to the next. But by having a strong ensemble, the ups and downs all smooth out, when one person is having a crisis they can rely on their partner (be it professional, platonic or romantic) to steady them along. The teamwork in Trauma is something I particularly loved, there’s a real sense that they’ve all been working together for a long time and complement each other well, integrating the new team members seamlessly into their family. The central relationship between Rabbit and Nancy is one of the best on television at the moment, they have a long and complicated history that is revealed and developed through the season, but even when they’re seemingly in conflict it’s still clear how much they care for each other.
Another plus is that it looks great. It’s wonderful to see a city other than New York or Miami and San Francisco’s steep streets, fog and Golden Gate Bridge add real colour and depth to the show. Most episodes have at least one big stunt, and they’re big, close up and exciting. A criticism I levelled at the Miami Medical pilot was that their car crash felt cgi’ed and over-processed. Trauma meanwhile feels visceral and real, the benefit of doing proper stunts on location. Of course the downside of that is that the show is expensive to make, not good when your ratings are less than stellar. But a few stunts can go a long way, and even when you just have the paramedics arrive at the scene after the event the music, direction and fast dialogue still manage to make everything exciting.
The only real problem with it (other than its poor ratings and expensive price tag) is that the cheese factor is pretty high at times. The parallels between the issues in the characters lives and the patients they meet are pretty unsubtle a lot of the time (although nowhere near as bad as House), and a couple of episodes veered perilously close to public service announcements on issues. The protracted saga of one of the team members coming out of the closet was particularly cheesy, which was a shame because the gay character in question is actually a really great, well rounded character.
I love Trauma because I love good characters and Trauma has some great characters. As a season it has a nice pace to it, with character and plot threads being introduced, developed and concluded; everything sort of undulates along nicely. Disappointingly the low point of the season was actually the final episode where I was waiting for a big end of season event that never really happened. I’m happy that we weren’t left with a cliff-hanger, that if that’s the end at least the series is self-contained. But I’m also quite sad that such a great show is just going to pass quietly into the night, with very few mourning its passing.