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Series / Black Box

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Black Box is a Medical Drama television series that aired for one season (2014) on ABC. It stars Kelly Reilly as Dr. Catherine "Kate" Black, a brilliant neurologist who hides her bipolar disorder and auditory hallucinations in order to keep her job. The series focuses on her professional life, her romantic and family life, and her meetings with her psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hartramph (Vanessa Redgrave). The series takes its name from Kate's surname as well as "the Cube", the New York City hospital where she and her assistants work.

One major storyline involves Kate's "niece", Esme... who is actually her biological daughter, adopted by Kate's brother in order to give the girl a more normal life. This stems from the fact that Kate and her brother grew up with their bipolar mother, whose manic episodes tortured the kids before their mother's eventual suicide.

The series is notable for having a fairly realistic portrayal of someone with an extreme case of bipolar disorder and how it affects a person's life. In an oddly fitting fashion, the show goes through major Mood Whiplash — going from quirky, comedic cases (such as the episode about a girl with Exploding Head Syndrome and a man who can't get a jingle out of his head) to dramatic and dark storylines (such as Kate being unable to save a woman's child, or a man who nearly kills dozens of people due to a brain tumor.)

Due to the show's abrupt cancellation, its viewers were Left Hanging after a cliffhanger finale.


  • Abusive Parents: Will's father was abusive towards him before his death. Kate's mom was also one to her and her brother, albeit unintentionally.
  • Amicable Exes: Kate and the guy who knocked her up pre-series. When he returns for the finale, they're able to get along and share a drink together.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: A patient suffers a brain tumor that causes him to hear horrible voices in his head that tell him to kill. Aside from killing his mother, he also attempted to take out several people. Once the tumor is removed, he has no memory of anything he's done...leaving him to ask the doctors about his mother and learn that he'll be in police custody.
  • Bittersweet Ending: After having a major breakdown in the penultimate episode, Kate has started to recover. Her boss is now aware of her condition, and is willing to lat her work so long as she doesn't keep her medical secrets hidden from the hospital anymore. Esme is upset to learn about her parentage, but is still willing to to undergo an operation to save her father. And while Kate's relationship with Will is still ruined, they can at start to see each other as friends.
    • Downer Ending: ...Until a nurse reveals that Kate has been stealing drugs from the hospital for herself, and Kate is promptly fired.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Kate, who regularly goes off her medication because she feels it enhances her skills and thought.
  • Disappeared Dad: Kate and Josh's dad. The reason why he disappeared varies between them; Kate believes he simply abandoned his family after his wife's death, while Josh believes his father left to find a stable career, and would send money to help them out. It's ultimately never explained which of the two was right, although Kate and her dad are able to make peace by series' end.
    • Esme's biological dad, although he shows up in the finale because he needs a transplant, and Esme is the only one who can give it to him.
  • Freak Out: A suplot in the last few episodes deals with Kate slowly succumbing to the pressures of her cases, going off her medication, hallucinations, and a medical dissertation. The penultimate episode has her breakdown, and the start of the finale deals with the aftermath.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dr. Bickman, a brilliant neurosurgeon. Generally, each episode follows an accidental formula for him: he'll be rude to someone and offend Kate, prove his nobility during a surgery, and then ends episode with being in Kate's good graces.
  • Like Mother, Like Daughter: Esme takes a lot after Kate. Regan, Esme's adoptive mother, starts to resent Kate for this; she feels that Esme loves Kate more.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Esme doesn't know she is Kate's daughter, and Will is likewise oblivious. When Esme finds out in the finale, she is rightfully pissed.
  • Married to the Job: Kate and Bickman, which prevents the former from having a relationship with Will. Later, Kate and Bickman also find themselves unable to maintain a relationship because they're both so into their work.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Kate starts the series engaged to Will Van Renseller, who is very kind, stable, and supportive of her despite her condition. It later becomes a problem when Kate realizes that she is Married to the Job and that Will can't have the caring and normal wife he and his family are expecting.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Kate.