When I was a kid, my favorite way to start out a story was with the line: “It was a dark and stormy night.” There’s just something timeless about an ominous evening that really sets the scene, and I stand by that to this day. So I was quite pleased when the pilot of Complications opened up with a wide shot on a house. At night. In the pouring rain.
A car pulls up to the house. Inside, there’s a couple in bed, but the dude is woken up by their barking dog. He gets up to check it out, and hears someone else in the house. He comes back and tells the woman to lock herself in the room no matter what. Uh, maybe call 911, you dummies? The man heads downstairs, and he pulls a gun(?!) out of his medical bag. What happened to “do no harm,” bro!
10 Hours Earlier
That same gun-toting doctor is now standing in a psychiatrist’s office. “I don’t believe in violence,” he says, but I’m not inclined to believe him knowing that he will pull a gun on someone less than half a day later. He muses a bit about how people don’t actually die in the hospital—they really die out there on the street. The psychiatrist gets the session started and asks him why he thinks he’s here. He spouts off some psychological conditions that he remembers “from his psych rotation” and my first impression is that he’s a bit of a dick.
She tells him that she just wants to understand what happened, and we see flashbacks of him: running down the hospital hall, knocking shit down, breaking a window, beating the crap out of some dudes in a waiting room. During these flashbacks, he’s tells the psychiatrist that it’s up to her to decide what happened, why he did what he did.
The psychiatrist decides to back up a little bit and asks the doctor, John, about his family. He has a wife, Sam, a son, Oliver, and a daughter, Becky, who died last year. He’s been working in emergency medicine for ten years. He asks the psychiatrist if they can skip all this, but she’s like, “Sir, you went completely crazy on a room full of people, so… no.” She asks him to tell her what happened last Sunday.
John is at work in the hospital, where he helps a colleague move some patients around to make room. (Bed tetris!) He finds a nurse, Gretchen, smoking in an empty room. She is sassy and I immediately love her.
They are treating a guy with diabetes, Henry, who hasn’t been taking his insulin. He is in bad shape and very close to needing amputation, but, after Henry begs them not to take his foot, John gives him one more chance. John’s co-worker, Dr. Bridget, thinks they should just cut off the foot, because it’s basically been gone for weeks now. John still wants to give it one more shot.
John gets home and plays with his son and dog, Zeke. Zeke has barked one time and I already am very emotionally invested in his wellbeing. John is tired and stressed, so his wife gives him a massage. She’s like, “Hey baby, you know what would really relax you? A hand job.” Thankfully, Zeke is a goddamn American hero—he starts barking and saves us from heterosexual content. Zeke, however, did attack a squirrel, which John finds and stitches up. John’s wife starts crying because she thinks of how their daughter, Becky, liked chasing squirrels in the yard.
The squirrel (I had named him Simon) dies on the way to the animal hospital (RIP Simon), and John has a bit of a freakout in the car. While he’s sitting there he hears gunshots. Someone is calling out for help, so John runs over. There’s a man in the street, he’s hovering over a boy who was been shot. John tells the dude to call 911… but the other guy runs away, and drops his gun, when he sees the car coming back. John decides to pick up the gun and fire at the car. He must hit the driver, because the car swerves off the road.
There’s a detective talking to John, telling him he’s very lucky: the driver of the car is dead, and the passenger ran away. The detective tells him the driver got hit with multiple gunshot wounds to the torso, which was likely the cause of death. John wants to know if they brought the boy to Samaritan Hospital, because he works there. They did, in fact, take the boy there. The detective is very impressed that John was able to hit a moving target at that range.
The psychiatrist asks John what he was feeling when he pulled the trigger. John tells her that he didn’t really think, he just wanted to save the kid. She asks how he feels about the guy he shot. John feels angry that the guy put him in the position to do that. The psychiatrist pushes him a little and John bites back, wondering what perfect combination of guilt and dissociation would be the right answer for her. John’s being a dick again, basically.
Back at the police station, the detective shows John a few headshots of gang members (from feuding gangs) and asks if he recognizes any of them. John does not. The detective also asks John if he’s planning on talking to the media and playing the big damn hero. John tells the detective that’s not who he is, and goes out to hug his wife.
Back at home, Sam gets off the phone with her friend in the DA’s office. She didn’t get a lot of extra information, but she has a couple of names: The boy in the hospital is Antoine Tyler and the boy John shot was Raul Mendoza, a known gang associate. Sam asks how John is doing. John says he feels better, like he can breathe. He actually wants to go to work.
The next day, John stops at a gun range after dropping his son off at school. For his rental, he chooses the same gun he used to shoot the driver yesterday. As it turns out, John is a pretty terrible shot. Sam calls and asks John where he is. John lies, and then Sam tells him that his father is coming over. John looks like he needs a nap.
John’s dad came over because he was worried. John’s dad casually references ‘Nam, so John asks him if he was good at war. John’s dad says yeah, because he did what he was told. He tells a story about his first firefight, assuring his son that things will get better with time, and then pulls out a gun. John doesn’t want to take it at first, but, finally, he does.
That night, John has a nightmare about the shooting. First, he’s the passenger in the car, and then he’s himself. He wakes up and Sam is worried because he was thrashing. He assures her that it was just a dream, but then lies and tells her that he doesn’t remember what it was about.