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Review: Do No Harm: Season One

Do No Harm offers little in the way of innovation to the exhausted Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde formula.

Do No Harm: Season One
Photo: NBC

At 8:25 p.m. every night, clean-cut superstar surgeon Dr. Jason Cole (Steven Pasquale) literally loses his mind, transforming into tempestuous bad-boy firebrand Ian Price, whose sole mission is to destroy Jason’s reputation and ultimately his life. Do No Harm uses the Jason/Ian dynamic as a metaphor for Jason’s habitual distancing from those he loves. Ian’s physical recklessness fleshes out Jason’s innermost fears of severed human connection, treating his acquaintances like disposable playthings and wreaking havoc on Jason’s body via cigarettes, booze, fights, and so on.

Unfortunately, Do No Harm offers little in the way of innovation to the exhausted Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde formula. The show’s elementary, mundane message is clear: Confronting one’s demons head-on rather than implementing temporary fixes is the only manner in which to exile them permanently. Yet Jason, frequently displaying more incessant stubbornness than his evil counterpart, rarely learns from his progressively harebrained mistakes, avoiding sincere introspection, instead subconsciously giving Ian the opportunity to intensify his grip on his psyche. His efforts to quell Ian’s influence range from campy to totally implausible, like when he makes appearances at support groups for people with identity disorders, seeking sage advice from concerned counselor Will Hayes (John Carrol Lynch, sleepwalking through the role), who tells him that only in accepting Ian can he learn to control him. Obviously not taking Will’s recommendation to heart, Jason routinely commissions one of his colleagues, Dr. Eli Malak (Mousa Kraish), to brew anti-Ian serums, to which he quickly becomes immune.

Do No Harm is very busy and very dumb, lobbing ridiculous obstacles at Jason at full speed, both in the workplace (the onslaught of unidentifiable hospital jargon rivals House at its most ludicrous) and at home (Ian ostensibly shattered Jason’s marriage by beating his wife). The overarching turmoil, though, is an idiotic game of one-upmanship between Jason and Ian: As the two see what the other has done during their allotted 12 hours of the day by way of blurry flashbacks activated with touch-memory, they use the gathered intelligence as fodder to sabotage their alter ego’s plans. (In comparison to Ian’s tactics, Jason’s last-ditch defenses are child’s play, like when he laughably locks his wallet in a safe in an attempt to deprive Ian of his funds.)

Do No Harm seems to be saying something halfway interesting about how Jason is as inherently foolish as his immoral alter ego: He claims he’s had his unmanageable, instable affliction for as long as he can remember, and yet he still chose to become a surgeon, placing the lives of those in his care in danger on a daily basis. It’s a shame that message is buried beneath such ceaseless silliness.

Cast: Steven Pasquale, Alana de la Garza, Ruta Gedmintas, Phylicia Rashad, Mousa Kraish, Michael Esper, John Carroll Lynch, Samm Levine Network: NBC, Thursdays @ 10 p.m. Buy: Amazon

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