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Is Dr. Archer Going to Be OK on Chicago Med?

Chicago Med's head of the ED isn't looking too good, and fans are concerned. 

By Jessica White
Archer, Cruz, Capp and Tony Free a Man Attached to an MRI Machine | Chicago Med | NBC

Just as fans were starting to warm up to Dr. Dean Archer (Steven Weber) on Chicago Med, Season 8 threw us an insane twist that no one expected. Our head of the ED is very sick — he has end-stage renal disease — and it's not looking good

How to Watch

Watch Chicago Med Wednesdays at 8/7c on NBC and next day on Peacock.

As soon as Archer made this heartbreaking confession to his closest confidante, Dr. Hannah Asher (Jessy Schram), it was clear he was running out of time. 

Archer's condition has been serious since he was injured earlier this season, and Season 8, Episode 18 ("I Could See the Writing on the Wall") was the first time Archer seemed to come to terms with his diagnosis. Despite experiencing worsening symptoms, Archer was hell-bent on toughing it out alone. 

As the lending ear of the season, Hannah has been the only one to see how much Archer has been struggling, sweetly reminding him to drink more water and hanging out with him during treatment. Frankly, it's been quite cute watching the jaded doctors grow closer. Archer has come to trust Hannah, reluctantly throwing down his walls to let her know he's on the transplant list for a new kidney. The development comes with a catch: Even if Archer makes the transplant list, finding a match will be incredibly difficult.

Archer and Dr. Song on Chicago Med

This comes at a horrible time, considering Archer has also been making strides in strengthening his relationship with his son, Sean Archer (Luigi Sottile). The Archer men were estranged for years due to Sean's struggles with addiction and subsequent imprisonment, but since Sean's release, Archer has been making up for lost time. But the clock is ticking, and Archer may not have much longer with Sean at all if he doesn't pull through.

As a former addict herself, Hannah has also grown close to Sean this season. She mentions to Archer that Sean would be his most viable match for a kidney. Hannah notes Sean has been behaving, is one year sober, and donating a kidney to his ailing father could be a "positive experience" for him.

Is Archer going to be OK on Chicago Med?

But like many parents, Archer isn't sold on the idea of his formerly-estranged son handing over one of his organs. That said, beggars can't be choosers, and Sean donating his kidney may be Archer's one-way ticket to wellness. Or worse, his only ticket. 

There might have been a time when Archer felt comfortable telling Sean how worse for wear he's become, but he has been too focused on emotionally healing their relationship than pitching potential organ donations. Hannah could tell Archer wouldn't budge about telling Sean, and after watching a sacrificial mother flatline due to self-neglect, she cracks. Hannah betrayed Archer's trust by going to Sean directly, heartbreakingly revealing that Archer's health is worsening.

But was that the right choice? Will Sean answer the call to action and lend a kidney when his father needs it most? How will the hot-headed Archer react to learning Hannah went behind his back?

Dr. Archer and Choi on Chicago Med

Luckily, Chi-Hards didn't have to wait long for answers. Season 8, Episode 19 ("Look Closely and You Might Hear the Truth") kicks off with Sean visiting his dad at home. Archer immediately clocks that something is on Sean's mind, and he asks for the "real" reason for his visit. 

Cut to Archer making a beeline for Hannah at the hospital. Archer comments on the strange coincidence of Sean showing up out of the blue to offer his kidney mere days after Archer told Hannah about his condition. Infuriated by the betrayal, Archer tells Hannah to stay out of his life, which is a sad departure from the camaraderie we've seen this season. 

But if there's anything Chicago Med excels at, it's using patient care to shine a spotlight on the doctors' inner turmoil. Archer is tasked with treating a mother with a rare stem cell disease while Hannah treats the woman's pregnant daughter. After the daughter reveals she intentionally got pregnant so that the baby could become a potential stem-cell donor, the parallels between Archer's situation and the patient's couldn't be more mind-boggling.

Next comes an episode-long game of tug-of-war between Hannah and Archer, who naturally have different schools of thought regarding the subject. Once Hannah realizes the daughter has an ectopic pregnancy, requiring the fetus to be removed, the stakes become even higher. Despite her life being on the line, the daughter wants to save the baby to save her mom. Meanwhile, the mother lies in a separate hospital room completely unaware of her daughter's condition, which is worsening with every minute. 

So what does Archer do? He goes to the mother and provides the details about her daughter's perilous pregnancy, an ironic choice considering he was hours previously touting the importance of trust. Ultimately, Archer understands that the mother and daughter need to be on the same page. After a successful surgery, Hannah saves the daughter, who shares a heartfelt moment with her mother once they're both stabilized.

After the intense day, Archer and Hannah reflect on how lucky both women are but realize they are talking about different patients. Archer feels the daughter is fortunate because she survived the ordeal, while Hannah views the mother as lucky because she has such a loving daughter that was generous enough to try to help. Hint, hint, Archer!

Dr. Archer on Chicago Med

Archer later visits Sean at work, and it seems he's experienced a change of heart. Archer highlights the many risks of Sean moving forward with the kidney transplant, making sure Sean knows what he's signing up to do. Sean takes it all in grace, leaving the ball in Archer's court as to what he'll decide. 

"If it turns out you're a match," Archer reluctantly agrees. "I won't say no."

Sean Archer gets his kidneys tested 

Time is not on Archer's side right now, so Sean promptly gets tested to see if he's a viable match for a kidney transplant in Episode 20 ("The Winds of Change Are Starting to Blow"). While catching up with Hannah, Sean voices his concerns over not being an organ match, but she reassures him they'll figure something else out if that's the case. Hannah and Sean have grown quite close recently, and their shared histories and effortless chemistry seem to be leading toward flirtation. 

Sean admits to Archer that he's had feelings for Hannah for a while, and Archer isn't exactly thrilled with this news. He tells Sean he's still acclimating to life and that he and Hannah are both still recovering. Archer doesn't want a relationship to get in the way of that.  

Sean reluctantly agrees with his father; however, things go south quickly after a misunderstanding unfolds between Hannah and Archer. In a harmless moment, Hannah pulls a prank on Archer, leading him to spill coffee on himself. Giggling, Hannah helps clean him up at the exact moment Sean decides to check in on his dad.

Sean is understandably upset by the romantic-seeming moment between Hannah and Archer, but it's a massive misinterpretation. The results of Sean's blood tests for the transplant are up in the air. Will this misunderstanding affect Archer's situation? 

Sean is a kidney match but is M.I.A. 

There was some good news and some bad news for Archer's pending procedure in Episode 21 ("Might Feel Like It's Time for a Change"). After not being able to get ahold of Sean at work, his doctors tell Archer that Sean's kidneys are a viable match for a transplant and he could theoretically have the surgery within the next month or sooner.

Sean Archer (Luigi Sottile) appears in Chicago Med.

It's a bittersweet pill to swallow for Archer; he needs the kidney to survive but has mixed feelings about allowing Sean to donate an organ. While giving Sharon Goodwin (S. Epatha Merkerson) a heads-up about being out of work, Archer admits he hoped Sean wasn't a match. Goodwin lends an ear and tells Archer that no one can ever trust cold feet and that Archer shouldn't sabotage "a good thing." 

Just as Archer seems to be in a good headspace, he gets a troubling visit from Sean's employer. Sean didn't show up for work and isn't answering any calls, echoing his doctor's seemingly harmless statement earlier in the day. Archer instantly jumps to the worst-case scenario (that Sean has potentially relapsed), but Hannah encourages him to not assume the worst. Sean is clearly distancing himself, but to what degree?

Dr. Archer's transplant is on pause

Despite Hannah's encouragement to avoid assuming the worst about Sean's whereabouts, Archer's worst suspicions are proven correct in the Chicago Med Season 8 finale when Sean is admitted to the hospital after overdosing. Sean is easily stabilized, but the guilt he feels for relapsing is palpable. Despite his history of flying off the handle, Archer approaches Sean with grace and understanding. 

Sean reveals the cause of his relapse (thinking Archer and Hannah were keeping a relationship hidden from him), and Hannah humorously clarifies nothing will ever happen between her and Archer. Hannah tells Sean she is touched by his feelings for her, and the group can peacefully move on. But beneath Archer's calm exterior, he and Hannah know that Sean's relapse has more repercussions than simple shame. 

Sean can't donate his kidney unless he is six months sober, and due to his recent slip-up, he won't be able to go through with the transplant for another half year. Archer and Hannah agree to avoid telling Sean about this development to prevent him from feeling worse, which Hannah points out could trigger additional relapses down the road.

Hannah and Archer on Chicago Med Episode 806

But Archer doesn't have the luxury of time right now. While performing a high-stakes operation, he is forced to sit and allow Hannah to continue the procedure. Archer's health is deteriorating quickly, and Hannah learns that due to several infections, he needs to escalate his dialysis treatments. Sean enters the room just as Archer receives this grim diagnosis, and insists that he and his dad quickly move forward with the transplant. 

Archer heartbreakingly reveals that their scheduled transplant is no longer an option due to Sean's relapse, which floors his son. Stepping into dad mode, Archer reassures Sean that everything will be okay; he'll do the dialysis treatments for six months until Sean is sober for long enough to do the transplant.

Sean has a big responsibility on his shoulders, and hopefully, both he and Archer will make it to that six-month mark to finally move forward with the procedure. Chi-Hards must wait for the Chicago Med Season 9 premiere this fall to check in on how Sean, Archer, and the other doctors are doing. Needless to say, it's tense in the waiting room. 

This story was originally published on May 18, 2023. It was updated on May 25, 2023.

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