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ER Fades Into That Good Night

Eriq  La Salle, Noah Wyle, E.R. Last Episode James Stenson/NBC

County General is no longer accepting emergency cases.

Fifteen seasons of ER came barreling to a close tonight in an episode that really embodied what the pioneering medical melodrama was all about—blood and guts (both literal and figurative), trauma and healing, loss and lessons learned, freak injuries (geriatric penile damage), and accidents small (wedding brawl) and large (explosion with mass casualties).

All of which was sprinkled with tender moments, such as Sam's (Linda Cardellini) son surprising her with a restored cherry-red Mustang convertible, a husband (Ernest Borgnine) saying a final goodbye to the wife he met in the sixth grade, and Noah Wyle's John Carter briefly reuniting with lost love Kem (Thandie Newton).

Former regulars Eriq La Salle, Sherry Stringfield, Laura Innes and Alex Kingston showed up to add to the finale feeling. But really, most of the story-closing action (a handful of character goodbyes, Carter's kidney transplant, the George Clooney appearance) had already occurred in previous episodes, so tonight's finale offered up more of a microcosm of the weekly action we've been watching for years.

Whether or not this episode did enough to rate among the top 10 finales of all time, ER chose the right time to end—It rolled out of our lives looking more or less the same as when it rolled in.

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