In June 2016, euthanasia (assisted suicide) became legal in Canada. Fast forward to January 2017 when Global TV in Canada premiered a six-episode special Mary Kills People, a series about two doctors illegal aiding their patients in consented suicide. With its premiere on Lifetime on April 23rd, you ought to prepare yourself for how not to put ethical issues on screen, as the debate of euthanasia takes a back seat to unneeded plot lines and clear cut endings.
Dr. Mary Harris (Caroline Dhavernas) is a single mother and an ER doctor who has no difficulty balancing life between work and home. Until her side business makes a mistake. Along with her partner, Des (Richard Short), a former plastic surgeon, Mary assists patients who want to die on their own terms. Between Des’s drug addiction, the suspicions of Mary’s daughter, Jess (Abigail Winter), that her mother is dealing drugs, and the police chasing their operation – Mary starts to develop feelings for Joel (Jay Ryan), a potently patient with terminal cancer.
“I believe we should be in control of our life and death. That’s liberty.”
When you only have six episodes to lay out a diverse collection of opinions about euthanasia, the writing has to be precise. There’s no room for unnecessary plot lines. Now, some plot lines may not seem necessary, but they build characters. There’s Jess’s belief that her mother’s a drug dealer, or Mary’s involvement with her own mother’s death. These subplot lines reveal Mary’s past and her abilities as a mother. Still, there are plenty of unneeded plot lines in Mary Kills People. The worst is Mary’s romantic relationship with Joel. It’s needlessly complex and has no purpose. Worst of all, it doesn’t end. It’s left unfinished. If you have a serious message on a serious topic, you can’t cloud it up with something that diminishes the impact of the series.
When a series deals with an ethical issue, it’s okay to leave the ending open. It gives the audience room to think and to deliberate what they just saw. It helps the audience see different, if not opposing sides of the same debate, and even come to their own conclusion. But Mary Kills People doesn’t do that. Yes, it shows different opinions, but it feels more like a personal vendetta against Mary and Des instead of an opposition to euthanasia. Because of this motive, that view is resolved, ruining the audience’s chance to come to their own conclusion. Unfortunately, as discussed earlier, other unnecessary plots are left open, veering the audience’s focus towards the wrong thing.
“Nothing like staring death in the face to make you feel alive.”
Overall, Mary Kills People doesn’t offer the right treatment for an ethical issue like euthanasia. It could have and should have been treated better. There are some really interesting aspects to Mary Kills People. Caroline Dhavernas is amazing as Mary, as she is an extremely intriguing – although unlikeable – character. Despite my issues with the writing, for what they have, everything still comes together in the end. Unfortunately, the strong points of the series don’t outweigh the fact that the serious tone is wasted away.
My Rating: 5.5/10