This review contains minor spoilers for SkyMed season two.
I can always trust Canada to come through with a heavy helping of queerness in their TV shows, and that remains true for the emergency medical procedural drama SkyMed, whose second season recently dropped on Paramount+.
SkyMed has the same procedural formula as shows like Station 19 or 9-1-1: There’s an emergency that isn’t as straightforward as it seems, the team has to solve the problem, and they (almost always) save the day — all while experiencing ever-changing interpersonal drama. SkyMed‘s twist is that it’s about pilots and nurses who have to take planes to various accident sites and keep patients alive and stable during the flight to the hospital. And it’s all taking place way up in remote Manitoba.
I watched season one in the week leading up to season two, because a little birdie told me season two would feature some queer women. (The second season aired in its entirety in Canada before dropping in the US…the birdie was a Canadian goose.) Season one had plenty of gay boys, which was a delightful surprise, since often a show will choose between gay men and gay women. But SkyMed just started with one and doubled down with the other. In season one, I clocked ambitious pilot Lexi (Mercedes Morris) as potentially queer, while also hoping my favorite character, loyal and dedicated Crystal (Morgan Holmstrom), would be too — she sometimes has vibes with newcomer Haley (Natasha Calis)!
Season two wasted no time giving me my answer. New flight nurse Stef (Sydney Kuhne) immediately starts making eyes at Lexi in the first episode. Apparently Lexi being bisexual is not a secret, because her gay best friend encourages her to go for it, saying her type is, lumberjack men and girls like Stef.
The deal is all but sealed when an emergency breaks out and Stef springs into action, whipping off Lexi’s belt to use as a tourniquet. Stef is a major flirt and it leaves Lexi flustered in a very relatable way. They do eventually connect with more sincerity, but Lexi is hesitant because she doesn’t want any distractions to get in the way of her becoming a flight captain. Alas, the heart wants what the heart wants and sometimes what the heart wants is a romantic entanglement.
Lexi and Stef’s storyline is a major arc of the second season, but they also didn’t pull back on the storylines of the two gay men who are main characters (along with the gay men in their periphery who are secondary characters). PLUS there is an entire other queer character introduced in an entirely separate plotline.
Crystal is a First Nations flight nurse (Cree/Métis, specifically) who wants to become a doctor so she can serve her community. While trying to balance her duties as a flight nurse with her residency, she finds a mentor in Doctor Yara (Nadine Whiteman). As a queer Black doctor, Yara understands some of the struggles Crystal is going to face as the only Indigenous person in her med school class, and tries to give her tools she can use to survive the program. They end up teaching each other a lot, and we even get to briefly meet Dr. Yara’s wife in one episode.
One thing I think SkyMed does better than similar shows is contextualize the emergencies to its setting. A lot of medical dramas could be set in any city, but SkyMed is richer for being Manitoba-specific. Serving the Indigenous population — and understanding what that means — is a vital and integral part of the stories they tell. There are also unique complications people face when living in a rural, Northern Canadian area that requires a medevac for anything from chest pains to freak accidents.
And on that note, SkyMed sure does have some fun freak accidents. After they run through some of the basics (broken arm from a fall that SURPRISE was caused by a stroke, etc.), the accidents get more and more extreme. Also the cold open always subverts expectations — sure, that man on the wobbly ladder is stressful, but joke’s on you because that’s not why the SkyMed team is going to be called in. For slightly twisted minds like mine, part of the fun of these shows is trying to guess what the real accident will be.
Another fun game in this show, specifically, is one I like to call Canadian Bingo, which is really just getting excited every time you recognize someone from another Canadian show. In the main cast, this happened to me with Praneet Akilla who was in Motherland: Fort Salem and Nancy Drew (which aren’t strictly Canadian shows but film in Canada), Patrick Kwok-Choon from Wynonna Earp, and, of course, Aaron Ashmore, from Killjoys, Warehouse 13, and so much more. (Is a show even Canadian if it doesn’t have an Ashmore twin in at least one episode?)
The second season was also fun for Canadian Bingo, specifically Queer Canadian Bingo, because one episode included Elise Bauman, and another Dani Kind.
With all of this diversity in the cast, and the specificity of storylines about being Indigenous, about being mixed race, being adopted, being queer, and more, creator Julie Puckrin ensures her writers’ room reflects that. For example, for an episode focusing on an Indigenous patient’s pain being overlooked by a white nurse, Puckrin ensured there were Indigenous writers working on the episode, as well as a consultant who liaised with a council of elders. Same for the queer storylines; queer story = queer writers in the room giving voice and feedback to it. Puckrin once said, “It was really important to me that, in the writing room, there was someone that could speak to every experience. So anyone you saw onscreen, there was someone in the writing room that knew what that experience was like.”
It sounds simple but it’s alarmingly rare — especially on a procedural. And, in my opinion, that care and detail really shows. In that same interview, Puckrin calls SkyMed “a kissing show with airplanes” — which is both hilarious and also not untrue. Because at the end of the day, this show isn’t necessarily new or groundbreaking, but the care they put into telling stories well and authentically is evident.
Sure, Lexi and Stef’s relationship runs the gamut in what seems like a short amount of time (especially if you binge the episodes like I did), but also I have to imagine working in high-adrenaline jobs does indeed heighten things and make relationships burn hotter and faster than others. And even if the timeline isn’t believable, the actual emotional beats of the story are honest, and that’s what matters most.
The storytelling of the first season allowed me to trust the writers to do Lexi and Stef’s story justice. I wasn’t watching with bated breath, afraid that an overplayed, negative trope was going to happen at any minute.
Instead I could sit back, relax, and enjoy positive tropes like “let me sexily tend to this wound.”
Both seasons of SkyMed are now streaming on Paramount+.