In my head, I’ve found that I mentally prepare for writing reviews by asking myself, “Where to begin?” Sometimes, that mental voice is excited. Other times, it’s exasperated. I think this is one of those times when the voice is more on the exasperated side.
The Mob Doctor stars Jordana Spiro as Dr. Grace Devlin, a thoracic surgeon who seems like she thinks she runs the hospital as well as its code of ethics. You’ll understand why I wrote this about her as you keep reading, but let me set up the overall story for you. Grace not only acts as a surgeon for regular patients, but she also has taken on her brother Nate’s (Jesse Lee Soffer) debt to a mobster by doing the mobster’s dirty work in the operating room. The draw of the show is supposed to be how she deals with both regular life and her life as a mob associate.
On paper, it sounds like it could be a good idea. The kicker is that while it’s already loose in theory, it really falls apart in practice. This pilot takes itself too seriously considering the plot it’s working with.
First of all, Grace acts like she runs the place, and it’s annoying. She’s not the head of surgery, since she does have a boss, Dr. Flanigan (David Pasquesi). However, she’s ordering her colleague, Dr. Olivia Watson (Jamie Lee Kirchner), not to do what he says and to follow her orders. (Olivia hates Grace, by the way, probably because Grace seems to think she’s the best, most idealistic doctor ever.) I know the characterization of Flanigan is that he makes bad decisions when it comes to medicine, but he’s also the boss; how many bad decisions could he have made to still become what I assume to be the head of surgery?
The other instance of bulldozing happens when she goes against protocol and the wishes of her boyfriend, Dr. Brett Robinson (Zach Gilford) and tells a young teenage girl’s father that she has a ruptured ovarian cyst instead of what’s really going on–a fluke pregnancy. We’re supposed to sympathize with Grace’s point of view of trying to save the girl’s chances at going to private school on her swimming scholarship, but in the real world, this would be an “Oh, well” moment. Things don’t always go the way you want them to, so why should this girl get a break? This sounds cold, but you can’t go against protocol because you’re over-empathizing. Basically, Grace’s actions are stupid. She’s every bit of Olivia’s description of her as “plucky;” Grace is plucky to a fault.
Secondly, if Grace is supposed to be a mob doctor, she’s obviously had to have killed someone before. When the series starts, we see her removing a screwdriver from a man’s head. We are led to believe that this guy has some dealings with the mob. Grace seems to be at peace to some degree with her new job, so if she’s relatively comfortable working with the mob, this means she’s done some tough, possibly terrible things, right?
Apparently not; apparently, the mob has only used her for flesh wounds. It’s not unreasonable to think that if she was in the mob’s debt, they would have asked her to kill someone by now. So when she’s presented with the job of killing off the rival mob boss, she chokes, as if she’s just recently been employed by the mob. By the way, in the beginning scene which establishes Grace’s double life as a mob doctor, she had an assistant with her. What the heck happened to that guy throughout the rest of the show?
Thirdly, the show seems disjointed. It wants to be a Hawthorne-esque medical drama, but it also wants to be a little like 24 due to the inexplicable car chase, usage of guns and criminal activity. Grace is too altruistic to have sold her soul to the mob, but she’s too reckless to be a successful doctor (in my eyes, anyway). Let’s not even start with her mobster friend Constantine Alexander (William Forsythe). We find out the most ridiculous plot twist ever about him.
As a kid, Grace found the body of her father in a field. Not only does she discover her fascination with bodies, but she also finds herself glad that her drunkard father is dead. Guess who killed him? Constantine did! So that‘s why he said she was like family to him! Ugh! And even though Constantine killed the mobster that was after Grace, Grace–for whatever reason–still seems to have some sort of debt to the mob. Isn’t her debt over? What’s going on here?!
The only good point I can give this show is the level of semi-realism with the surgeries. That point is also cancelled out by the usage of Bones-esque touch-screen computers. If hospitals actually do have this type of imaging technology, let me know in the comments section. In any case, the scene of Grace looking at a 3D-generated heart on the screen was a little pointless. We get that she’s supposed to be a smart doctor and expert surgeon, okay?
There are two many plot holes and too little time. For instance, how did the mob’s inside guy get to be an orderly? If he’s medically competent to set up the syringes, why didn’t he just kill the mob boss? And what did the brother even do to get in trouble with the mob? There are tons of questions, but no answers.
Overall, I’m not so sure about this show’s staying power. We’ll see how long it stays on, but I think it might be gone sooner than you might expect. Lie to Me was also promising, and we saw how long it lasted.