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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hawthorne promises "For Better or Worse"

HawthoRNe: Season Two     TNT's Hawthorne begins season three tonight with "For Better or Worse." Christina (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Tom (Michael Vartan) barely get through their "I do's" before having to rush off to work because of a neighbor's car wreck. At the end of the day, Christina is beat up badly in the parking lot. Tom convinces Brenda (Anne Ramsay) to do multiple risky procedures to try to save their baby, though Cat (Lauren Velez, Dexter) refuses. The baby dies anyway, and Christina insists on pushing it out, rather than having it removed. Nick (Marc Anthony, now a series regular) hunts, and eventually finds, her attacker. With Christina down, Morrissey (James Morrison) immediately and permanently replaces her as CNO with Bobbie (Suleka Mathew). After learning Bobbie has accepted the position, Steve (Adam Rayner) decides not to propose to her, as he has planned on doing. Candy (Christina Moore) returns to the hospital and delivers her own baby.

     Given that Hawthorne begins as a standard procedural, there is no reason to watch the beginning of the series. This episode, however, is excellent, and if it representative of what the show has become, then Hawthorne deserves another chance. The story may be somewhat self contained, but also plays on larger arcs about relationships and pregnancies. There is a real focus on the characters and their various bonds rather than on a case of the week. With the slew of medical series currently on the air, this is the way to distinguish a show from its peers.

     While Smith is perhaps not the best actress around, especially in the scene where she silently pushes out her dead baby, she is surrounded by a number of wonderful actors who will make viewers mostly forget her shortcomings, at least for this episode. Keeping her confined to a hospital bed likely helps. It remains to be seen whether being at the center of such a huge loss, speaking of the baby, will find Smith up to the task or not. Vartan, too, shows the limited range he demonstrates on Alias, but to his credit, it seems more a part of his character, rather than bad acting.

     The contrast between Christina and Candy is nicely played, milking emotional impact out of both births, which happen very differently, but at the same time. Candy choosing to name her baby after Christina also slightly dampens the pure grief that comes with losing a child so early. While much of this episode focuses on death, the new life helps brighten the mood, though not in a stereotypical, cheesy way.

     As for Steve and Bobbie, it's hard not to dwell on whether or not their relationship can weather such a disloyal move by Bobby. Morrissey's decision to choose a new CNO is understandable from a business perspective, though making it a permanent decision seems unduly harsh. Bobbie only accepts to keep the job from someone else. Perhaps she thinks she can give it back to Christina when the time is right, though others would not. Yet, it's easy to see why Steve interprets Bobbie's actions as blatant betrayal against a close friend. Will Steve come around to her way of thinking, or will they be soon splitting up?

     Hawthorne airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on TNT.

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     Click here to buy season one and two of Hawthorne on DVD.

Article first published as TV Review: Hawthorne - "For Better or Worse" on Blogcritics.

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