Complications

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Complications TV Poster Image
Gritty, complex drama has intense violence and menace.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Characters are generally well-meaning people who make grievous mistakes. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are complicated -- sometimes noble, sometimes brutal. 

Violence

Guns are brandished. Characters' lives are in danger, and menace is amped up with music, lighting, camera angles. Fisticuffs, gang violence with weapons. A main character has lost a child and the loss is referred to visually and in dialogue. Main character works at a hospital with desperate and gruesome cases. A young child is terribly injured; we see gory wounds and blood. 

Sex

Sex is referred to; a married couple makes out in bed. 

Language

Unbleeped four-letter words: "bat-s--t crazy," "bitch."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke cigarettes on-screen. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Complications is a gritty drama about a man who unwittingly stumbles into a street-gang conflict. Violence is frequent and intense, including shootings, young children with gory injuries, hospital patients, dead animals, blood, fights with weapons. Wounds, stitches, and bruises are shown. A main character has lost a young child, which is referred to often. Characters are frequently in mortal danger. Unbleeped cursing includes "bats--t crazy" and "bitch." Expect references to domestic violence, and characters smoke cigarettes on-screen.

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What's the story?

When ER doctor John Ellison (Jason O'Mara) accidentally stumbles upon the scene of a gang shooting and saves the life of a child who turns out to belong to a highly placed gang member, his actions bring on COMPLICATIONS he hadn't anticipated. For one thing, in the process of saving the child, he shoots and kills one of his attackers. Having lost his 8-year-old daughter last year, he and his wife Samantha (Beth Riesgraf) are barely hanging on as it is. Disillusioned with his work, feuding with colleagues, and miserable at home, Ellison is a powder keg, and the street gang he just got mixed up in might have a match.   

Is it any good?

USA is clearly going after Breaking Bad territory: Regular dad goes rogue when caught in the fell clutch of circumstances. And it actually does a creditable job within the genre. Jason O'Mara has beady-eyed intensity, and there are some handy writers at work here. The plot ticks along nicely, with lots of medical messes keeping things lively between plot points concerned with the big bad gang guys. 

But there's an archaic quality to the proceedings that makes Complications not quite top-drawer. We've seen the medical scenes before; we know their beats intimately. Similarly, any police scenes have a clichéd air: A detective investigating Ellison's role in the a gang battle tells him he's free to leave the station -- but just as he gets to the door, he says, "Just one more thing." Sigh. If you're going to write a dark drama, you can do better than sub-Law & Order dialogue. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Why are hospitals such a frequent setting for dramas? What dramatic possibilities do they offer that, for instance, a restaurant or an office might not? 

  • Is the audience supposed to like Dr. John Ellison? How can you tell? What clues does the show give you through dialogue, costumes, and setting? 

TV details

For kids who love crime drama

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