SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details about tonight’s series finale of Code Black.
CBS’ Code Black ended its run on CBS tonight with an action-packed Season 3 finale, which marks a series finale for the medical drama, canceled by the network in May. It gave all characters’ stories proper ending, especially lead Marcia Gay Harden’s Dr. Leanne Rorish, who reunited with her foster daughter Ariel (Emily Alyn Lind).
Created by Michael Seitzman based on Ryan McGarry’s feature documentary, Code Black defied conventions during its run, including revamping a portion of its cast every season to resemble real life at a hospital where residents graduate and move on and new ones come in every year. The series stayed true to form with an unconventional finale, in which the story was told out of order, starting with an airplane crashing into Angels Memorial then backtracking to the events leading up to that crash before getting to the ending.
In an interview with Deadline, Seitzman discusses the events in the finale and its structure. He also shares an idea he had for a fourth season of the series, starring Harden, Rob Lowe, Boris Kodjoe and Luis Guzman, and addresses the possibility for the show, co-produced by ABC Studios and CBS TV Studios, finding a new home elsewhere.
DEADLINE: You tweeted that the season three finale was written as a series ender because you suspected it would be the last season. Was this the finale you’d originally envisioned for the show?
SEITZMAN: I had an idea during the pilot of what I wanted to do conceptually, in terms of Leanne especially. She tells us in the pilot that she’s lost everyone, which we later learn was her family. The rebuilding of Leanne was the first North Star for me. We then brought back Ariel at the end of Season Two, the twelve-year-old girl Leanne first met in the pilot, who also lost everything. Ariel, played pitch-perfect by Emily Alyn Lind, gave us a destination for Leanne. We knew that the effort to adopt her would be the road we’d be riding on and I knew the end of this season (and likely the series) would take place in a courtroom, where Leanne would not only espouse her own philosophy of medicine, but also the creative philosophy of the show, that it isn’t enough to survive, you have to have something to survive for.
One of the things I always wanted to explore in the show is the nature of grief. I wanted to be honest about it, face it head on, and really explore how messy it is, how mysterious it is, and how miraculous it is when we finally see some light. The way we dealt with it for all three seasons, with our patients and our doctors, is something I’m very proud of, especially the way we delved into it with Rob Lowe’s Ethan Willis this season, in looking at his PTSD and the way his mind processed his grief and guilt when it came to his brother.
DEADLINE: What plans did you have for Season 4?
SEITZMAN: There’s an aspect to Ryan McGarry’s documentary, which inspired the show, which I always found interesting. When the staff was moving from the old LA County Medical Center to the new one. It shook them up in a very particular way. In a way, there were ghosts in that old building that they found they needed and those ghosts didn’t exist in the new building. It affected the way they approached their jobs and their patients and they wondered if they could still be as intimate with them in the new building. I always wanted to do that in Code Black, take our staff out of Angels Memorial and see what would happen if we moved them into a new building. Flying a plane into Angels seemed to make that an easy creative transition.
DEADLINE: You packed a lot into the finale – from the plane crash into Angels Memorial to Noa’s timely #MeToo storyline to Dr. Rorish’s relationship with Ariel — were these stories you were hoping to tell in Season 4 or did you just want the series go out with an epic bang?
SEITZMAN: We always pack a lot of stories into our episodes. It’s part of the conceit – at Angels, a Code Black literally means an influx of patients that overwhelms the staff. I wasn’t sure how much of these stories we would carry into next season, I just knew I wanted every character to have an explosive and emotional finale.
DEADLINE: What was behind the structure of the finale — starting from the midpoint and then showing the events leading up to that before the conclusion?
SEITZMAN: One of the central creative tenets of the show is to make the audience less of a witness and more of a participant. Telling the story non-linearly seemed to have the effect of disorienting them at the beginning of the episode, which would feel similar to the way the characters feel when the plane hits.
DEADLINE: Considering Code Black’s loyal fanbase, are you pursuing a streaming home for the series after the CBS cancellation?
SEITZMAN: The studio has reached out to all of the streaming services. To be honest, we haven’t heard back from them yet. We’re hopeful.
DEADLINE: If this indeed is the end, what would you miss the most about Code Black? What set it apart from other medical dramas?
SEITZMAN: The thing I hear most about the show from people sampling it for the first time is that it isn’t what they expected. What I hear the most from loyal viewers is that the show is intensely emotional for them week after week. We set out to make a show that would put the audience smack in the middle of an emergency room on its busiest nights, introduce them to characters with whom they would become so intimate, that they would feel something deeply at the end of every episode. I’m very proud of that and I’m going to miss the people who helped make that happen every week: The writers, the cast, the crew, and the incredibly passionate fans of the show.