by Chris Lovato
“The brain is the ultimate mystery.”
Humans have explored the depths of the oceans and the vast reaches of outer space, but one of the toughest puzzles we’ve been faced for centuries is one very close to home: the human brain and mind. Although neuroscience and psychology have come a long way in the last century, doctors still deal with stymieing neural cases every day and sometimes, even have to deal with it themselves. ABC gives us a peek into the world of one such doctor in its midseason venture, Black Box.
Catherine Black is no stranger to the inner workings of the brain; as a top neuroscientist, she’s wowed the medical community with her insight into unconventional psychological cases. Though successful, she treads a delicate balance while she deals with manic-depressive disorder (AKA bipolar disorder), and the struggle’s made more difficult by her occasional tendency to go off of her meds.
Despite all of this, Catherine tries to form meaningful relationships with people (like her boyfriend, Will, who would like to be more than that) and preserve the tenuous ones she already has. Outside of herself, though, her family is hardest hit, especially since the Blacks have a history of mental disorders. Add to this a few secrets of Catherine’s, and you have a powder keg waiting to be lit by the doctor herself. Did I mention that she goes to therapy?
Kelly Reilly (Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey, Jr., Flight) is Dr. Black, and her performance in Black Box is almost surreal. The difference between when she’s on and off her meds is stark, and definitely enough to keep things interesting for viewers; the thing that shines through most, however, is the raw humanity she brings to the character.
David Ajala (The Dark Knight Rises, Fast & Furious 6) is Will Renseller, the man who wants to marry Catherine and shows us what can happen to someone who wants to be in a relationship with someone like her. David Chisum (One Life to Live), Siobhan Williams (My Friend Flicka, Radio Rebel), and Laura Fraser (A Knight’s Tale) play Josh, Esme, and Regan, respectively, and they bear the brunt of Catherine’s actions when she goes off her meds; you can almost taste the strain Catherine puts on their relationships. Ali Wong (Are You There, Chelsea?) is Dr. Lina Lark, a colleague of Catherine’s and a fresh face to the ABC lineup, and most notably, Vanessa Redgrave (Deep Impact, Mission: Impossible) is Dr. Hartramph, Catherine’s therapist.
Although it takes the issue of living with a mental disorder head on, it highlights some very important understanding the field has gained in the last few decades; namely, regarding medication. Black Box shows us that it doesn’t work like we’d like it to all the time, and that people can choose to stop taking it for different reasons. One could also call her the House, M.D. of neuroscience, because she’s the kind of doctor that has a knack for finding more unconventional remedies to complex cases.
As the fan favorites on ABC come to a close for the season, it’s definitely worth taking a look into the raw and cerebral Black Box.
You can catch Black Box on ABC Fridays at 10pm/9pm Central. You can also see episodes on the show website.
Check out other TV reviews in out TV section.