Hospital drama Monroe is headed back to the US to delight fans of the genre and actor James Nesbitt when its second and final series premieres next week.
The stateside arrival of Monroe: Series 2 has been a long time coming. Roughly two years, to be imprecise. And it has been well worth the wait. Starring James Nesbitt (Murphy’s Law, Jekyll, The Hobbit trilogy) as the titular Dr. Gabriel Monroe, a brilliant, confident, and quick-witted neurosurgeon, Monroe‘s character-driven stories are injected with plenty of drama to sink your teeth into and enough humor to let you catch your breath.
The second series begins 18 months after the Series 1 conclusion, and the staff of the (fictional) St. Matthew’s Hospital have experienced some life changes. Monroe is now divorced, while the tough and talented cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Jenny Bremner (Sarah Parish, Atlantis, Breathless), and (mostly) good-guy anesthetist, Dr. Lawrence Shepherd (Tom Riley, Da Vinci’s Demons, Lost in Austen), have stayed together and had baby Louis.
At the hospital there are some new faces, including the Acting Head of Clinical Services, Dr. Alistair Gillespie (Neil Pearson, Drop the Dead Donkey), and Clinical Nurse Specialist Lizzie Clapham (Tracy Ann Oberman, EastEnders). The latter provides support to patients and their families, and the former is a general surgeon turned administrator.
Gillespie wants to make his position permanent and ends up making things difficult for Monroe and Bremner. In the opener, he takes Bremner off surgical duties until she’s back in the swing of being back at work from maternity leave, and lets Sarah Witney (Christina Chong, Line of Duty), the now-promoted cardiac unit registrar, handle them. He also forces Monroe to choose between cocky Daniel Springer (Luke Allen-Gale, The Borgias) and humble Kitty Wilson (Michelle Asante, Law & Order: UK) for the neurology unit registrar.
As the series progresses, there are fewer poker games and less pontificating than before, and while many of the key storylines involve Monroe, they don’t necessarily revolve around him.
Cases run the gamut — from patients with brain cancer, tumors, and seizures, to those needing a heart transplant, bypass surgery, and a different perspective in order to allow a life-saving operation — and not all of them have happy endings. One procedure leaves the patient’s condition worse and the surgeon’s confidence shaken, another doesn’t render the desired outcome for the patient or family, and yet another ends early when the patient dies on the table.
Threading through the medical stories are the personal dramas, notably between Bremner and Shepherd, Shepherd and Witney, and Witney and Springer. Monroe has a few, too, but most are (uncharacteristically) less of his own making than by others.
Speaking of others, Lisa Millet (The Paradise) joins the cast as Ward Nurse Jill McHeath, and returning to the series are Susan Lynch (Ambassadors) as Monroe’s ex-wife Anna, Perry Millward (Casualty) as his son Nick, Andrew Gower (Being Human) as Dr. Andrew Mullery, and Thomas Morrison (Blackpool) as hospital porter Lee Bradley.
Series 1 of Monroe was fabulous and so is Series 2, the latter perhaps even more so, despite having less of the drama directly concerning the character of Monroe. The final series is delivered as a true emsemble cast drama rather than one with a lead and supporting cast, and this gives viewers a deeper, more engaging experience with Monroe‘s characters and their storylines.
You can catch Monroe: Series 2 starting Monday, the 1st of September 2014, when it premieres exclusively at Acorn TV.