TV Review - Coma (2012)

Lauren Ambrose (left) and
Steven Pasquale in "Coma" on A&E
There are a lot of talented actors, but they are all wasted in this effort, which by the end doesn't even strive to be anything beyond a run-of-the-mill thriller. It descends into just being a girl running away from a creepy killer, as he chases her for what feels like a half-hour of screen time, time that could have been spent developing the characters of the top-notch cast.

That cast includes Oscar-winners Geena Davis, Richard Dreyfuss and Ellen Burstyn, as well as two-time Oscar nominee James Woods. Aside from Woods in one scene, those great actors get nothing to do. I suppose they add gravitas to the whole affair and make the two-part miniseries, four hours in total, seem more important than it ultimately is. The sad thing is that the movie could have been more important. With Obamacare as a political topic of late, this show could have addressed it, or just commented on the state of healthcare.

Instead, it stays pretty faithful to Robin Cook's novel on which it's based, except it butchers the ending. Ellen Burstyn comes across as a mad scientist, cooking up the next Frankenstein or something, which possibly was a fun role for her to play but ends up looking rather ridiculous.

Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) stars as Susan Wheeler, a medical student at Lindbergh University who is doing her residency at Memorial Hospital in Boston. Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me) co-stars as Dr. Mark Bellows, a surgeon who mentors Susan after saving her life in a swimming pool accident. Susan hits her head and falls into the water nearly drowning. Head trauma or lack of oxygen can lead to coma, but luckily Susan survives thanks to Mark's help.

When I first saw this, I thought Susan's character might go into a mini-coma and then that would be her hook into this story. Her hook instead is less personal and therefore less powerful. The movie alternatively begins in a suicide. This is of course after a title card reading "In Memory of Tony Scott" is put on screen. Being that Tony Scott in real life committed suicide, I wonder if it might have been better to edit out the movie's suicide, just to avoid that awkward connection because honestly, that scene adds little to nothing.

That scene is like a lot of things in this movie that go nowhere. The series introduces a group of medical students along side Susan and does nothing to develop them. They're all forgettable with the exception of Brian J. Smith who plays Paul, a particularly ambitious student who decides sleeping his way to the top is how he'll succeed.

Paul has an affair, or what we assume is an affair with Dr. Lindquist, played by Geena Davis, who is also having an affair with Mark, but, again, all of this doesn't go anywhere. Does Paul's affair get him any further? Is Lindquist a slut? Does she have any feelings for these men or is she just unscrupulous? We don't know and don't ever find out because John J. McLaughlin's screenplay doesn't care to explore that. The Lindquist affairs are basically thrown in because someone thought this movie needed sex, which it didn't.

This show had people in comas being carried around by robotic machines on a conveyor belt. The image of that alone is enough to sustain interest in this show, but the producers here thought the wonder and intrigue of it was only worth a few seconds of screen time. Meanwhile, they waste precious minutes following Susan as she crawls through an air shaft. It's a key point to see what she finds, but the amount of time dedicated to it is unnecessary.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DLSV.
Running Time: 2 hrs. (2 parts)
Available on A&E on Demand
Streaming on


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