Rush (USA) Series Premiere 2014 Review “Pilot”

Rush (USA) Series Premiere Pilot (6)

Does the world need another show about a bad boy physician who can heal everyone but himself? No. Does the world need another show about a bad boy physician played by Tom Ellis (Miranda, Once Upon a Time) who can heal everyone but himself? It turns out the answer is yes.

Fans of British television know Ellis can do just about anything that is asked of him. I’ve never seen Ellis play a character quite as troubled as William Rush, but his performance is not only on par with what I would expect from him, but it is also like a much needed shock to the system. Rush continues USA’s theme of moving away from their gentle, Blue Skies dramas into darker territory by opening the series with Rush snorting cocaine with a woman who OD’s. He quickly breaks out his defibrillator paddles and brings her back to life. I cannot remember the last time a character was so concisely introduced. The opening scene tells us everything we need to know (for the moment) about the kind of man Rush is: he is a drug addict, a doctor who is unflappable, but eschews the traditional methods of medicine and a decent guy who spends a lot of time pretending he does not care.

The pilot moves along briskly from the opening scene, introducing us to Rush’s best friend Alex, who refuses to turn his back on Rush even though he has a family and career of his own to think about, his assistant Eve, an exception to Rush’s not getting involved in his patient’s lives rule (a story left for another day), and Sarah, Rush’s past love, who he is way too messed up to ever keep in his life. Throughout the hour, Rush makes enough questionable decisions to force us, the audience, to ask why we should invest in this man. Rush’s ethics begin and end with he will treat who pays, offer complete discretion and never judge. In practice, this means he treats a woman beaten by a baseball player without uttering a word of protest. Later, he ends up involved in a situation when his drug dealer calls him to perform surgery in a dirty warehouse.

In between, Rush attempts to be a functioning human being, but his addictions mean he is always the guy no one wants at their party. He shows up high to his godson’s, Alex’s child, birthday and runs into his ex, Sarah, for the first time in years. His cockiness instantly drops, and therein lies the show’s hook. Rush is not simply a cocky, drug addict. He does care. He wants everyone to believe he doesn’t because he is constantly teetering on the brink of self destruction. Alex and Eve are there both to help and enable Rush on some level, but Sarah represents everything he cannot have if he stays on his current path.

Later, Rush calls Alex to request blood to help the gang member bleeding out in the warehouse, but when Alex refuses to leave Rush, Rush immediately forces his friend out with a harsh reminder that Alex has a family who needs him. It is a selfless act of a man who does not believe his life is worth much when compared to others. Rush’s humanity shows up again when the baseball player calls him back to the house to care for his girlfriend who has nearly been beaten to death, Rush waits until the girlfriend and Eve are safely in an ambulance before taking a baseball bat and breaking the player’s hand.

Ellis is riveting throughout; always displaying multiple sides of Rush at once. The character can be cold and ruthless, snarky and lovable, and completely screwed up– possibly pass the point of no return. Instead of offering up an hour full of exposition, the pilot drops us right into the thick of this dark, character drama with no apologies. As a result, USA serves up a series that could become the best “dark skies” drama in their stable of new shows.

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