How Chicago Med missed the mark with Connor’s exit

CHICAGO MED -- "Never Going Back To Normal" Episode 501 -- Pictured: Colin Donnell as Dr. Connor Rhodes, Ato Essandoh as Dr. Isidore Latham -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Sisson/NBC)
CHICAGO MED -- "Never Going Back To Normal" Episode 501 -- Pictured: Colin Donnell as Dr. Connor Rhodes, Ato Essandoh as Dr. Isidore Latham -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Sisson/NBC) /

Chicago Med gave Connor Rhodes a sendoff in the Chicago Med season 5 premiere, but it was a flawed goodbye for Colin Donnell’s character.

When Chicago Med confirmed that Colin Donnell was returning in Wednesday’s season premiere, One Chicago viewers were hopeful that Dr. Connor Rhodes would get the proper goodbye that he didn’t in the season 4 finale.

Connor did indeed get a sendoff at the beginning of Chicago Med season 5, but it was a swan song that had room for improvement, and wasn’t entirely what he or Colin Donnell deserved.

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for the Chicago Med season 5 premiere.

In “Never Going Back To Normal” audiences learned that Connor was suspected of murdering his father Cornelius Rhodes (D.W. Moffett)—because the actual killer, his ex-girlfriend Dr. Ava Bekker (Norma Kuhling), was trying to get back at him for spurning her advances again.

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When Ava found out that the evidence pointed squarely to her, she slashed her carotid artery in front of a shocked Connor, who tried to save her on the operating table.

But after Ava died despite his best efforts, a now-vindicated Dr. Rhodes decided he needed to leave the hospital where so much drama had happened for him.

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He wanted to find a place where he could be “just another doctor,” and after two goodbyes with now ex-bosses Dr. Isidore Latham (Ato Essandoh) and Sharon Goodwin (S. Epatha Merkerson), Connor was last seen looking back as he walked away from Chicago Med. According to showrunner Diane Frolov, the implication is he took the position at the Mayo Clinic that he had accepted, and then backed out of, at the beginning of season 4.

But his final episode left a lot of One Chicago viewers cold, and it’s not hard to understand why.

This has nothing to do with the prior issues regarding the Connor and Ava storyline that started back in season 4—we’ve already gone over the problems with that storyline here. What happened in season 5 had its own flaws.

The biggest issue with Connor Rhodes’ departure was the way it was handled. This being the season premiere, it required the Chicago Med writers to balance Connor’s endgame with resolving three other cliffhangers, and introducing a new character (Dr. Crockett Marcel, played by Dominic Rains).

That was too much to happen in any one episode, but it also meant that Connor’s storyline felt like it was fourth or fifth priority. Which shouldn’t happen when we’re talking about a character who is one of the show’s most popular, has been there since the series premiere, and is such a major part of the hospital.

It would have been better to set aside more time to fully tell Connor’s story in this episode, and to push back other things to episode 2. Instead, the majority of the premiere revolved around Marcel, who not only was involved in the Manstead storyline but got a whole other plotline with Dr. Daniel Charles (Oliver Platt).

That came across as Connor getting subjugated by the character replacing him, which was the second issue with the episode.

Marcel looks and feels like a direct replacement for Connor Rhodes. He’s a trauma surgeon (what Connor originally was when he came to Chicago Med), he displays an outspoken personality (like Connor had), and the two even look somewhat similar. It’s one thing to have Connor get less time because of another character in his final episode, but it’s even harder when that character is the one who’s pretty much taking his spot.

Which brings us to the third issue with how Connor Rhodes left Chicago Med: the overall writing of his exit storyline. It’s easy to see what the writers were going for—having Connor suspected of his father’s murder is certainly dramatic, and so is Ava’s suicide.

But it came with a healthy dose of skepticism. People who had known Connor for years and were his friends were so quick to judge and/or doubt him. Kevin Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins) hears from Ava and then considered Connor a suspect; Latham only heard part of Connor and Ava’s fight and he chastized Connor. No one gave him the benefit of the doubt or even any kind of empathy.

And why were they so quick to suspect Connor and believe Ava? Particularly Atwater—he mentioned the autopsy report, so he’s seen at least some hospital documentation on Cornelius’ death. You’d think there would be other paperwork showing which doctors were handling his case before that. If anything, Ava should have been the prime suspect since she performed his surgery and was working on him when he died—unless no one bothered to look/document that far.

Let’s assume there’s no paper trail, such as it is. Connor gave an alibi that should have been easy to verify; all Atwater had to do was call Carlotta, right? Instead, Chicago Med had Dr. Rhodes still on the hot seat until Latham turned up with forensic evidence.

Though Connor was ultimately vindicated, nobody apologized for not hearing him out. Nor did he get to say goodbye to anyone but Goodwin and Latham. Those farewells were good, but given how much the character and Colin Donnell brought to the show, it would have meant something for him to be allotted a proper goodbye with more of the main cast.

Yes, maybe it was too hard for Connor and he probably didn’t want to pile on with everything else going around the hospital at the moment. But more of a goodbye would have meant so much to the fans, even if it was just letting him spend a few more moments in the ED as he walked out, or even telling us he was going to the Mayo Clinic and not leaving viewers to guess.

It wasn’t just the characters’ chance to say goodbye; it would have been carthartic for the viewers, as well. Ava died, Dr. Sarah Reese (Rachel DiPillo) was quickly forgotten, it would have mattered to see that Connor got that big goodbye scene and know for sure that he was going to someplace better.

Colin Donnell gave a lot to Chicago Med, both on and off-screen, right up until the very end. He and the character he portrayed that fans loved deserved more than a dramatic but incomplete ending while the show gave more time and care to Connor’s replacement. Hopefully, we’ll get an update in a future line of dialogue that confirms he’s still out there and doing well—because his last day at Chicago Med, while entertaining, could have been so much more.

Next. Chicago Med producers explain Connor's exit. dark

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