Five Days at Memorial Review

REVIEW: Five Days at Memorial

Apple TV+’s miniseries, Five Days at Memorial, tells the story of Memorial Hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and the events that followed. After sustaining relatively minor damage during the hurricane, the hospital did not evacuate, not knowing the levy would fail, leading to widespread flooding. The hospital staff do their best to care for patients while trapped by the water and with no electricity.

The series uses non-linear storytelling, splitting time between the investigation after and during those five days. The investigation after the fact mainly focuses on the inordinate number of patients found deceased in the chapel. The central figure in the story is Dr Anna Pou (Vera Farmiga), who seems to be the primary physician making the life-or-death decisions.

Five Days at Memorial Review

I didn’t intend to binge-watch the entire thing on a Saturday. I was interested in the show mainly because I had a roommate during my freshman year of college that was an evacuee from Loyola University. It was also one of those things that I remember watching on television while it was happening. The first episode heavily used news footage, and it was as upsetting watching it seventeen years later as it was at the time. While it was unnerving to watch again, it was a very compelling choice to make an emotional connection with the audience.

Five Days at Memorial Review

Now, to the event itself, the atmosphere created, which was probably exactly like the actual events, was post-apocalyptical. The lack of communication and the governmental response was crazy and unbelievable, but they all happened. The nurses and doctors are shown as doing whatever they can to make the patients more comfortable. Now, the definition of “comfortable” varies between medical personnel. This is where ambiguity comes into play. Dr Pou’s definition of comfort was pumping ill patients full of morphine at first. Then, as the evacuation started, she was the lead physician performing euthanasia, sorry, I mean, providing “comfort.”  The moral ambiguity of the events grabbed me in the last few episodes when patients were essentially put down like animals.

On the one hand, yes, she was providing comfort to terminally ill patients by doing this, but on the other hand, the patients didn’t consent to it, so it was kind of like murder. Most of the medical community supported the doctor making these choices, but ultimately, it seemed wrong. These conflicting viewpoints, and the ambiguity, made for a memorable show. I always know I’ve found a good series if I want to watch all the episodes back-to-back. It was insanely watchable and wasn’t a bad way to spend a Saturday.

Five Days at Memorial | August 12, 2022 (United Kingdom) 7.9


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