I can’t begin to describe my excitement when I saw NBC’s ER on Hulu. ER offers viewers everything they could want in a medical drama. Catastrophes? Check. Unrecognizable (to laymen!) medical jargon? Check. Gorgeous doctors? Check. Romance? Double check! ER certainly had its share of romances….and love triangles. Some were more subtle – such as Carla, Benton, and Cleo (Carla didn’t stand a chance!) while others were more obvious. An ER love triangle ran the gamut of casual to the more serious. And they certainly gave fans something to talk about.

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of love triangles; however, ER was quite good at creating a believable love triangle. In fact, I found myself falling into one particularly good ER love triangle. I’m talking really good. The kind of love triangle you love….and hate….at the same time. First, what makes for a good love triangle? The characters, story, and last, but certainly not least, chemistry. These attributes (plus more!) get fans invested in this ER love triangle.

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When Hulu added every single wonderful (and not so wonderful!) season of ER to its line-up, a new generation of fans – and “shippers” – were born. With social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, these fans have a variety of forums to passionately “discuss” why their choice is the best. Perhaps the best, and most debated ER love triangle is the unusual one between John Carter (Noah Wyle), Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney), and Luka Kovac (Goran Višnjic).

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Abby and Luka in ER, Episode 7×19, “Sailing Away.”

But why, you ask, is it an unusual love triangle? Because it’s Carter and Luka! Two very different men vying for the attention of one incredible woman. And yet, despite their difference, Carter and Luka are very similar. Strong ties to family, dedication to their careers, a desire to do good beyond their corner of the world, and, perhaps most importantly, their capacity to love deeply and fiercely.  While their approaches to life are vastly different, it’s this similarity in values that made the ER love triangle between Carter, Abby, and Luka so darn good! Let’s explore!

The Sexy, Yet Flawed Luka Kovac

Part one of this particular ER love triangle is Dr. Luka Kovac. When Luka joined the staff of exceedingly charming doctors at County General, there was an audible sigh of delight. Luka was the personification of tall, dark and handsome. His brooding intensity was captivating. On top of that, he was genuinely kind. A protector of sorts, especially for battered women and children. Despite the slow, sexy smiles and gorgeous green eyes, Luka was a man in pain. He lost his family to a horrific bombing. And yet, here was Luka, in Chicago, seemingly living the ideal life. It’s no wonder he suffered from survivor’s guilt.

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A brooding Luka Kovac in ER, Episode 8×16, “Secrets and Lies.”

Yes, Luka is “a catch.” But, he was not without issues. His desire to protect often over-rode his common sense. His first date with Abby ended when he killed a mugger while protecting her. When Abby was struggling with her mother, Luka did not so much as help but rather attempt to make decisions for Abby. Then, there was the jealousy. At times unfounded, there is really nothing attractive about petty jealousy. However, his heart was always there, hidden beneath the cavalier attitude.

The Surprisingly Soulful John Carter

The second ingredient to this delicious ER love triangle is Dr. John Carter. Carter first appeared on the scene as an innocent, medical student. Over the years, Carter became more worldly; however, he never lost his earnest nature. He is boyishly charming with a smile that sneaks under your skin and steals into your heart. He’s endearing and with his dreamy brown eyes, irresistible. Beard or not, Carter’s beautiful. Inside and out. He has a soul that sees the good in others, accepts the bad, and always believes people can be (do!) better. His faith in humanity, while often tested, never faulted.

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The charming John Carter in ER, Episode 8×16, “Secrets and Lies.”

If Carter has a flaw, it’s his feelings of jealousy. Unlike Luka, Carter’s jealousy was not petty. It’s how he handled that jealousy that was frustrating. He would act out of character, bluster, or pull from his family background of wealth and privilege. That could, and sometimes did make Carter unlikable. Or, look ridiculous.  Still, it’s easy to see why Abby fell for Carter. They were friends long before they became lovers. Abby and Carter established a relationship built on trust. There weren’t any secrets. They knew each other’s weaknesses and strengths. In the end, it was that knowledge that twisted into something that pushed them apart.  

An ER Love Triangle You’ll Love and Hate

Warning – if you are still watching ER for the first time, spoiler below!

All the twists and turns in Carter, Abby, and Luka’s lives made this ER love triangle fascinating to watch. It was so good to see how these characters pushed each other away while pulling each other close. It’s hard to choose between Carter and Luka. And it should be. Well-developed characters like these two rarely come along. 

On top of that, the third part of the love triangle is incredible. Abby is a phenomenal character. She is strong yet vulnerable. She is complex – in both heart and mind. Life, even daily life, was never easy for Abby. Yet, she persevered. That made her a character worth rooting for. At the end of the day, Carter was my pick for Abby. There was just something about Carter that tipped him over the edge for me.

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Carter and Abby in ER, Episode 9×13, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.”

Ultimately, Abby ended up with Luka. Their second chance together never felt right to me. I never felt like that was Abby’s true story. For me, Carter and Abby remained unfinished. I think this was because the writers and showrunners made a switch midway through as a result of Noah Wyle leaving the show for extended periods (pure conjecture on my part). Still, I like to think that Abby and Carter’s unwritten happily ever after would have been just that….happily ever after.

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So ER fans, who was your favorite pairing in this dynamic ER love triangle? Carter and Abby or Luka and Abby? Drop me a line down below!


Photos credit: NBC

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