Is it possible to overcome a life altering event without changing in the process? That was part of the premise behind the fifth season of USA's "Royal Pains," which one followed one man's journey after a major surgery changed everything for everyone in his life. Luckily, the rest of the season managed to clear up some potential early storyline problems and managed to create some new complications that won't be resolved until next season.
"Royal Pains" followed Dr. Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein) who was still recovering from brain surgery and he was struggling with a growing pain that made him turn to pain killers when nothing seemed to be working. He also got involved with his landlord/patient Boris (Campbell Scott) who faked his own death to find out who he wanted him dead. Hank's ability as a doctor was never questioned until he made one mistake that could nearly cost him everything if he wasn't too careful. Hank's brother Evan (Paulo Costanzo) was having a hard time balancing his political aspirations with trying to find time for his new wife Paige (Brooke D'Orsay) who had her own career goals. The newlyweds haven't really had a chance to even have a honeymoon yet because of Hank's condition. Hank's physician assistant Divya Katdare (Reshma Shetty) was prepared to have her first child as a single mother and she was understandably nervous about it. She had the unexpected support from her colleague Dr. Jeremiah Sacani (Ben Shenkman) who allowed her to move in with him when she had to vacate her apartment for maintenance work. Unfortunately, Divya was blissfully unaware that Jeremiah had feelings for her that made him learn to adjust to things that once terrified him. HankMed was also focusing on a potential change in leadership that could either be permanent or temporary if Hank wanted it to be. Will Hank want to return to his practice or will he stay away for good?
In terms of questions, the show managed to resolve most of its loose ends by the time the season finale rolled around. It was also a nice change of pace for the show to touch upon some familiar storylines without turning the episodes into a movie of the week type premise. The biggest story risk was having the usually trouble free Hank turn into a possible drug addict. Sure, the story helped to provide the show with enough of a dramatic weight that wasn't necessarily there before. Now, Feuerstein's Hank had a hint of trouble that was lurking beneath the surface that was ready to come out at any given moment. The show took another risk at resolving Hank's addiction storyline so quickly by saying that his post-surgical pain was actually real and not part of his imagination. Hopefully, the show will revisit the story at some point when Hank's plot needs to be thrown a curveball. The next season should also give Feuerstein's Hank a shot at a personal life, which was overlooked this season to focus on his medical demons. Sadly, the show's biggest story casualty was Costanzo's Evan deciding to run for political office that seemed to come out of nowhere and was driven by spite over a rival. Costanzo tried his best to make the story convincing and humorous, but it seemed far fetched that locals would vote for someone who had little experience in politics whatsoever. Fingers crossed that next season will wrap up that plot sooner rather than later.
As for breakout performances, Feuerstein and Shetty led the pack as their characters endured a series of challenges during their busiest time. Feuerstein's Hank was usually the romantic optimist, but it was a surprise twist that he was revealed to have a few flaws after his surgery. he embodied Hank with the right combination of strength, certainty and fear that he will never be the same again. Feuerstein's eyes lit up with extreme panic whenever trouble seemed to be hitting too close to home. His most memorable scenes often generated from when Hank was at the height of his problems, which came in the latter half of the season. During the intervention scene, Feuerstein revealed everything that he was hiding from his loved ones for most of the season and it turned out that he was right about his pain not going away. He had another scene where relief washed over his face in waves, but the character also looked worn out from everything and needed to live the Hamptons for a while. Shetty, on the other hand, had the challenging task of finding a unique way to portray motherhood and still be a comedic foil at the same time for Costanzo. She managed to convey Divya's shock, joy and pure terror over being a single mother for the first time when she thought that it wasn't possible to have kids. Let's hope that the show will continue to develop this storyline for season six and allow for Shetty's on-screen rapport with Shenkman to develop into something more, or at the very least something interesting. Only time will tell if that's the case.
"Royal Pains" aired its season finale on September 11th at 9:00 pm on USA. New episodes are slated to air next summer.
Verdict: The show managed to tell some strong emotional stories while trying to maintain a level of summer fun for it to last until next year.
TV Score: 3 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)