Five Days at Memorial is the latest series to hit Apple TV+, which is assembling quite a library of original films and series. It also reminds us how truly awful Hurricane Katrina was. I was in middle school at the time, so I didn’t have a full understanding of everything that happened. That made watching this series truly eye opening for me, from the story itself of 45 dead patients to the use of actual news footage of the destruction caused by the hurricane. There’s a lot about Hurricane Katrina we don’t know about, and this series helps shed some much needed light on this tragedy.
This review for Five Days at Memorial will focus on the first three episodes that will debut on 8/12/22, though I have seen the whole series.
We start off the series with an introduction to Memorial Medical Center and Life Care (a separate hospital on the seventh floor) in New Orleans just as Hurricane Katrina is beginning to intensify. The staff is preparing their patients for the storm while also accepting citizens of the city for shelter. They try their best to downplay the storm, even though it is expected to make landfall as a Category 5 hurricane. Susan Muldarek (Cherry Jones) is the nurse in charge of the Hurricane Response Team; she discovers though that the hospital doesn’t have an official hurricane response plan, specifically in the event of flooding.
Vera Farmiga is always great in everything she’s in (check out Bates Motel if you haven’t yet), and her role as Dr. Anna Pou is no exception. Cherry Jones is also terrific as Susan Mulderick, the nurse in charge of the Hurricane Response; she tries her best to keep everyone in line and make the best of a horrible situation. Another standout performance is Cornelius Smith Jr. as Dr. Bryant King, who has a different perspective compared to the rest of the staff as the only Black doctor.
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I can’t stress enough how truly heartbreaking it is to see what the staff at Memorial Medical Center goes through during Hurricane Katrina. I didn’t realize at the time how traumatic it was. There was a racial component and bureaucracy behind the scenes in terms of response, which I had always assumed but seeing it on screen made me angry. The disaster was handled so poorly from top to bottom but there were some truly good people that did their best in the circumstances, like Dr. Horace Baltz (Robert Pine) and Diane Robichaux (Julie Ann Emery) of Life Center.
I’ve seen the whole series, but I’m not going to focus on that since after the three episode premiere, it will be a weekly series. After watching the series, it’s not one that I would want to binge watch again because of how intense it can get. Five Days at Memorial will benefit from a weekly release schedule moving forward (which is my preferred viewing method anyway). It will also benefit being a limited series, because once it was over it’s not something I’d want to watch again because of the topic, not the quality of the series.
Overall, the series is a difficult but educational watch, with some great dramatic moments and performances. I really appreciated the use of actual news footage throughout the series, featuring some familiar faces from various news programs. It’s a series that everyone should watch and stick with to learn more of the truth behind Hurricane Katrina. It’s one of our nation’s greatest disasters that New Orleans is still dealing with to some degree; the city and its people are strong, but it’s not something the people who experienced it will ever recover from.