Well, here we are at the end – the last episode ever of PURE GENIUS.
I wish I could say it ended with a bang, but it was really more of a “meh.” Which kind of sums up the show as a whole, so who knows, maybe it was intentional.
After our episode starts out with its latest case-of-the-week – a patient with a clotting disorder – we get to our main conflict: Bell tells Dr. Wallace that he’s been giving Louis Keating the unauthorized treatment for his GSS.
Dr. Wallace is understandably pretty angry, but his anger is undercut by his own hypocrisy – he was fired from his last job for giving a child an experimental cancer treatment. Dr. Wallace has every right to be angry, but he doesn’t come out looking all that righteous, either. And now he has a dilemma: should he tell his wife, Julianna, who is also the FDA official who chose not to approve the treatment?
The relationship between Bell and Dr. Wallace has always been tenuous. It’s meant to be the heart of the show, yet the characters never really clicked, as colleagues or as friends. Though Bell showed signs of personal growth, he’s still too selfish and all over the place for Dr. Wallace to really respect him; likewise, Dr. Wallace is so unflappable, traditional, and just so darn professional Bell doesn’t know how to relate. They clash rather than bringing out the best in each other, and that’s a shame; if the writers had managed to find that meeting point for the characters to really understand each other, I think the show could have turned out differently. As it is, the show has no core relationship and thus no momentum to push it forward.
Meanwhile, the best plot line of the episode involves the character we’ve seen the least of this season, Angie. Her mother has cervical cancer, and Angie wants her to be treated at Bunker Hill. Mrs. Cheng is skeptical and afraid of all the new technology, though, and resists, bringing out all the old wounds between them, in another relationship where the characters have never really understood each other.
This relationship works, though, because in the end they learn to reach out to each other. In the best and most touching scene of the episode, Angie, who doesn’t cook or speak Mandarin, tries her best to cook traditional Chinese dishes for her mother and fumbles her way through an apology in Mandarin. It’s so sweet, and the speech Angie gives after shows just how much Brenda Song’s been wasted being left on the sidelines most of the season.
In fact, why didn’t the writers use Angie more? Why wasn’t she a main character? Later on in the episode, Bell even says, “We couldn’t do half the things we do here without [Angie],” so why did it so often feel like they just took advantage of the technology she created without actually acknowledging her?
It’s really too bad; Song’s proved over and over that she can do both comedy and drama, and her character felt the most real out of the whole Bunker Hill staff. I know when a show is starting out, the writers don’t always know what character is going to work the best; I wonder if they had a do-over if they would have focused on Angie more.
Another relationship I want to mention is between Angie and Dr. Strauss. He’s always there when her mother comes in, helping Angie try to understand her and, of course, helping to allay her mother’s fears by speaking to her in Mandarin. It’s been an interesting element of the past season watching Angie fall for him, and she finally goes for it and kisses him after he helps convince her mother to stay at Bunker Hill. I love the moment of quiet after that kiss, like “So where do we go from here?” Sadly, we’ll never know what could have been for the tech genius and the priest.
The episode ends with Julianna finding out about Louis Keating. In an unexpected move, Dr. Wallace takes the fall for Bell, saying he was the one who gave Keating the treatment. I’m not entirely sure why he chooses to do this; he obviously resents Bell for his decision – is he trying to save Bunker Hill? Will the hospital be shut down if the FDA finds out about the treatment? Whatever the reason, it sends Dr. Wallace’s life into shambles, as Julianna lays into him for his lies and risking everything again like he did before.
Dr. Wallace confronts Bell in an uncharacteristic rage, but Bell refuses to discontinue the treatment. We’re left with an odd final shot: the staff’s action figures on the shelves of Bell’s office.
It was a strangely sober and bizarrely open-ended way to end Pure Genius. What was the purpose of the shot of the action figures? To show they wanted to be heroes, but that it was all pure ideals and not quite possible in the end? What an oddly depressing and anticlimactic way to end the series, especially one that usually leaves its audience on a positive note. I’m also not sure why they didn’t give us more closure; an average audience of five million isn’t shabby, but I wouldn’t think this show popular enough to be continued by another network or a streaming service.
Pure Genius was an intriguing concept, but took too long into its first season to really find its footing. I guess we’ll see what show Jason Katims creates next, and whether he learned anything from making this one.
Season 1, Episode 13 (S01E13)
Pure Genius airs Thursdays at 10PM on CBS
Read all of our reviews of Pure Genius here.
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Cailin is a screenwriter and an aspiring TV writer. When not writing, she’s busy convincing random passersby that Firefly was the best show ever, converting her co-workers into Whovians, and waiting for the next season of Sherlock.
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Cailin Coane | Contributor