In the opening scene of This will hurt, OB-GYN Adam Kay is awakened by a phone call advising him that he will be late for his shift in the maternity ward. The good, if alarming, news is that he is in the car park of the London Public Hospital where he works after falling asleep in his car the night before. Before he can enter the building, he encounters a woman gasping and moaning outside. She needs an emergency c-section; the baby’s hand, which is not supposed to come out first, has already come out of the birth canal. So he shoves her into a doorless maintenance elevator, dumps her onto a stretcher that speeds towards the delivery room, and pulls the crying newborn out of her womb all the while joking.
Watching all of this, you might think Adam (the wonderful Ben Whishaw) is the kind of badass loner that television brings out in crowds. But he’s not Gregory House or Cristina Yang. Nor is he incompetent. Based on a widely read 2017 memoir by real-life doctor Adam Kay that sparked an international conversation about healthcare, he’s a more-or-less regular guy struggling to pursue a sustainable career in the United States’ inspiring but underfunded National Health Service build kingdom. pain is the best medical drama in years because, instead of celebrating idealized superhuman doctors, it watches how broken systems force real doctors to perform superhumanly. And it weighs the impact that failure to establish public health programs has on both providers and patients.
Ben Whishaw in This Is Gonna Hurt
Anika Molnar/Sister Pictures/BBC Studios/AMC
Adapted by Kay and premiered in the US June 2 on AMC+ and Sundance Now, pain begins as a compelling character study. Privately and professionally, Adam is in a transition phase. He is beholden to an ethically dodgy supervisor, Mr. Lockhart (Alex Jennings of The crown), but also responsible for training a nervous young doctor, Shruti (played with sensibility by relative newcomer Ambika Mod). The pace at which he has to slit open abs and sever umbilical cords while attending to all sorts of gynecological emergencies is grueling. Any small mistake could prove fatal, potentially for two patients. More often than not, Adam comes home after a long shift only to be rushed back in because the station is so understaffed.
None of this does anything to shift his relationship with his significant other, Harry (Rory Fleck Byrne), toward marriage. Neither is Adam’s compartmentalized existence. He’s not in the hospital or with his upper class parents nagging him to get a job in private medicine and settle down with a nice girl. Meanwhile, Harry is frustrated by his partner’s inability to open up about his often traumatic job. Alienated from his peers by his secret, from his posh childhood friends by their snobbery and straightforwardness, and from Harry and Harry’s hardline queer friends by his own blue-blooded oppression, Adam is rarely alone, yet palpably lonely. He covers it, badly, with an endless supply of devilishly funny jokes. (“Nobody cares if I die,” a troubled elderly patient tells him. “Oh, I don’t know, you’ll probably miss the lion and the wardrobe,” he replies dead.) Whishaw offers one for us viewers, too Show off quirky sides to the camera.
Ambika Mod as Shruti in This Is Gonna Hurt
Anika Molnar/Sister Pictures/BBC Studios/AMC
Then something goes very, very wrong. Adam’s crooked mask begins to slip, and almost every problem he’s been hiding behind it escalates to crisis levels. while he twirls pain keeps expanding the scope to reveal the inner workings of his peers. Shruti, who spends every second of her precious free time cramming for a crucial exam, needs a gentler, more patient mentor than Adam currently has the emotional resources. Head midwife Tracy (Michele Austin) devotes so much energy to her patients that she rarely sees her own children. What they all have in common is that no one in their life really understands what they go through every day at work. Yet the stress and chaos and finger pointing at the inevitable accidents keep them from forming the supportive workplace relationships that are another hallmark of shows like this.
What’s radical about that? pain– and what makes it ring louder these days than the exploits of Chicago Med or Grey’s anatomy, even in a country with a very different healthcare landscape – is a recognition that for doctors who can cope with impossible pressures, being good at their job isn’t always enough to avert disaster. The series is astute in its depiction of the dichotomy between public and private medical care in Britain, using Adam’s background and the class, racial and ethnic differences between hospital staff and patients to illustrate how inequalities in care are rooted in ancient prejudices and hierarchies . If it’s a bit preachy about this stuff, its criticism in recent episodes is at least a harsh one that’s rarely articulated on TV.
The only reason the argument hits so hard is that it’s based on the struggles of distinctive, authentic characters – not just Adam, but Shruti, Tracy, Harry. Framed as a dramedy, but more accurately described as a dark drama with witty dialogue, This will hurt delivers on its title promise, in both predictable and unpredictable ways. But like childbirth (so I’ve heard) the result more than justifies the pain.
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