Previously on A Young Doctor’s Notebook: Pelagaya’s death brought out the absolute worst in Dan, disgusting his elder self.
In 1935, the train stops and Jon informs his traveling companion that they’ve reached his stop. He apologises for all the crying, and tells the man he’s right about the opera: it’s garbage. But unfortunately BumBuddy’s totally dead, and Jon failed to notice. He’s a terrible doctor.
In 1918, the staffers are gathered around Pel’s body, while Jon weeps in the background. Anna says Pel was like a sister to her and Feldcher pats her on the shoulder and says ‘daughter’ would be more accurate. Natasha steps in, appropriately dressed in sober black, and Anna invites Dan to say a few words. He kind of tries, but fails miserably, mostly just succeeding in excusing his own behavior by saying that none of them come have done more. Anna’s eyebrows say ‘are you kidding me?’ and even Natasha seems to realize that this is turning into an enormous clusterf***. Jon tells Dan that Pel deserves better than this half-assed eulogy, so Dan offers to recite some poetry. Bloc, of course, despite the fact that Pel hated him.
Dan, Feldcher, Anna, and someone else shoulder the body and prepare to take it out for burial, but General comes in and informs them the ground’s frozen solid and no grave could be dug. Feldcher says they’ll have to burn her, like they did back in the day. Dan, horribly, suggests they just burn her inside somehow, since it’s so cold out and they’re low on firewood. Jesus, Dan, just putting aside how selfish and disrespectful you’re being, can you imagine what that smell would be like? Jon sharply reminds him that Pel saw him at his worst and still stood by him, so some respect wouldn’t go amiss. Dan finally agrees to go out to burn the body, and Feldcher says they’ll need lots of kindling. General nods towards Leopold’s portrait, but Anna tells them to leave it and lets them take Dan’s self-portrait instead. Heh. Dan can’t hold up his corner of the bier anymore, so Jon shoves him aside, takes his place, and spits that he’s tried hard to like, love, or even look at his younger self, but now he’s done trying and Dan can just go rot in hell.
Dan goes to Natasha’s room and asks how she thought the funeral went. She politely tells him he spoke beautifully and there’s some chat about Bloc that gets so awkward even Dan realises it, but he excuses himself by saying that he’s totally worn out. She agrees that grief is a great burden to carry, because she’s an actual feeling human being, but Dan was a bit more hung up on being tired from the physical burden of Pel’s body. I’m out of eyerolls for this guy. The burial crew returns, just as there’s a massive explosion in the distance. Feldcher explains that he put Pel’s favourite perfume on her. What the hell kind of perfume was it, Premium Unleaded by ExxonMobile?
Natasha invites Dan in and says they’ve both recently lost someone they care about, so they’ve got that in common. Dan invites her to sit and the lighting immediately goes rosy, so we know we’re in a dream sequence. An sure enough, Dan suddenly starts speaking French and she starts undoing her top…
…and then we’re back in reality, with her inviting him in and asking about her wounded brother, the reason they stopped at the hospital to begin with. Dan says he’s fully recovered, and she asks if he’s fine to travel, but Dan immediately says they all need to stay put indefinitely. There’s another explosion from outside and Natasha wonders how much perfume they put on the poor woman.
But it’s not perfume, it’s the Bolsheviks, closing in. Natasha and the others have to leave immediately, travelling so light they can’t even take Natasha’s harp. She hurriedly tells Dan that there’s a supply train leaving that they can catch and go to Paris. Dan, desperate, tells her to stay and pretend to be Pel, or pretend to be his wife, or be his wife. She turns him down, reminding him that she recently lost her fiancé, and for some reason Dan fesses up to having lied about that. Horrified and enraged, she asks him what the hell is wrong with him and why he told such a horrible lie. His response is to call her beautiful, so she slaps him and stomps off.
With Natasha and the others gone, Dan takes to drink and slovenly dressing while Jon looks sadly at a stuffed toy of Pel’s. Feldcher, also sad, paces around, smoking a pipe, but Anna’s happy to have the hospital back to themselves. She goes on at length about how much she hated Natasha because Natasha seemed to look down on her. Dan heads off to bed, but not before growling at Anna that she’s a miserable creature with a face of ash.
When he wakes, it’s to the unwelcome sight of a Bolshevik soldier demanding medical supplies. Dan says they have none, because he was forced to give it to the White Guard. He insists he’s a Bolshevik at heart and the soldier roughly asks where they all went. Dan says they’re on their way to Petrovka, but they have a good head start, and by the next day they’ll be on a train out of town. They ask about this train and he admits it’s a supply train. Medical supplies, apparently. The figure the train will be passing close by and ask for a map. Dan tells them Feldcher has one. What a loser this guy is.
A little later, Dan finally gets downstairs and finds Feldcher beaten to a pulp because he wouldn’t give them his map. He gasps that he has to go and warn the train. Dan wimpily says it’s too dangerous, but Feldcher says a very good friend of his is in terrible danger, and he has to do what he can to help him. He urges Dan to come with him, and Dan finally feels guilty enough to go along.
They walk through a snowstorm, Dan trailing behind, whining about his gunshot wound. Jon suggests he might find something for it on the train, after he rescues Natasha. Dan keeps whining, until finally he winds up on the sledge Feldcher’s pulling, making small talk about Feldcher’s real name. They hear the train, and then an explosion, and Feldcher freaks out and runs in the direction of the tracks. Jon invites Dan to go along with him, and Dan finally makes it into a glade where there’s some burning wreckage and the sound of guns being fired and men screaming. Dan finds the gramophone but no Feldcher. But someone else does call out to him, and he makes his way into a nearby boxcar, where he finds Natasha hurt and trapped. She’s surprised to see he came after her and he takes that and runs with it, saying he felt terrible about what he did and hoped they could be friends. She suggests they discuss this later and he hauls a crate off of her. She weakly jokes that this may be his chance to saw off yet another leg. He reassures her it’s not too bad and tries to find a splint. He dashes back outside, and what does he find? An entire crate of morphine that, despite being tossed from a crashing train, contains unbroken vials.
Jon slowly approaches him as Dan struggles to avoid the temptation, but when Dan turns to return to the boxcar, something near it catches fire and Dan starts to panic and lose his nerve. Jon urges him to get a move on, unless what he really wants is for Jon to hold him back, reassure him that there was nothing he could do. Inside the boxcar, Natasha begins calling for help. Dan looks back at the morphine, and then finally turns back to the crate and begins grabbing vials before turning in the other direction and running. Jon jeers him, reminding him to limp, as Dan tries to navigate through the snowy woods, which is a nice bookend to the last episode last year. A stray bullet catches him in the leg or something and he goes down, as the fire near the boxcar gets bigger. He pulls one of the morphine vials out, along with a syringe and tries loading it up, but Jon appears and drags him back to the boxcar, so he can hear Natasha now screaming in agony as she burns to death. And I don’t know what they had to do to that actress to get that sound out of her, but I hope nobody ever does it again, because it’s seriously one of the most horrible, piercing, agonized noises I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Jon forces him to look at what he’s done, telling him that all he is is morphine. Dan, horrified, admits that he’s an addict and there’s nothing he can do, and none of this is his fault. He continues that he can’t be the man Jon wants him to be, he doesn’t want love or forgiveness, he just wants drugs. Jon releases him and, weeping, Dan tries loading up the syringe again. He fails, and he falls sideways into the snow, shaking and crying. Jon gently asks if he’s in pain and Dan says he is. Jon loads the syringe, reassures him that this will help, and gives him what he wants.
The following winter, Dan finally gets the letter he’s been waiting for, summoning him back to Moscow for a job at the Moscow Institute for Venereal Diseases. We also learn that he’s apparently spun his two gunshot wounds into injuries received while trying to secure medical supplies for his fellow Bolsheviks. He happily packs up, and Anna rather tenderly sees him off while standing in front of Dan’s portrait (a much better one than his self-portrait), which has replaced that of Leopoooold Leopoldivich. I’d love to know how that came about. On his way out, Dan passes Pel’s grave, as well as that of Feldcher, who presumably died the day of the train crash. Aww, Feldcher! Dan barely gives them a second glance. He arrives at the office in Moscow where we first met Jon, unpacks that tooth he extracted last season, and looks at his morphine supplies while smoking contemplatively.
In 1935, Jon finally arrives at his destination: the hospital in Muryevo. He looks up at his own portrait, still on the wall, and then Anna comes in, amazingly still alive and kicking and quite surprised to see him. He goes to visit Pel’s grave, finding it overgrown with grass, the cross having been knocked over. He quietly apologises for being late.
Ok, I’m pretty sure that’s it for this show, because that felt quite final and very much like the closing of the circle. And though I feel this is an excellent, organic end to the show, I really do hate to see it go, because it was extraordinarily well done. It’s not easy at all to balance comedy, especially of the somewhat slapstick variety, with such harrowing themes as drug addiction and the absolute horrors of war, but this show was able to do it. And it was also a great vehicle for both Daniel Radcliffe’s and Jon Hamm’s comedic capabilities, which we don’t get to see very much of. Bravo to both of them for doing such an excellent job and clearly having a ton of fun with this. Jon Hamm especially seemed to be having a blast this season. The supporting cast deserves a round of applause as well: Anna’s sternness and outspokenness were great, Feldcher managed to be both annoying and endearing, and Pel, oh, poor Pel, really brought it home as a woman doing what she felt she had to to hang onto her man, but who clearly wasn’t prepared to be a doormat indefinitely. I’m glad she was able to go out on a somewhat snarky note, putting Dan in his place.
A great show all around. Yes, a couple of the jokes wore a teensy bit thin (yes, it’s cold, we get it), and some of the gore was a bit unnecessary (that one guy’s finger snapping off springs to mind), but this still gets high marks from me. Well done, everyone.