Grey’s Anatomy Embarks On Incredibly Dark Stories While Closing Others With Tears In The Premiere
By Alex Cranz
I’ll confess to being in shock last season. I didn’t even know I was in shock. I tried to talk about the show with friends and family and could muster little more than a weak “can you believe it?!”
It felt like Grey’s had gone off the rails. They’d reached the point where they were no longer just content doing crazy storylines and they wanted to do things that were a little mean and nasty. Where most finales give us a measure of hope to cling to over the summer while laying the foundation for future stories Grey’s only shattered our hopes and left us with nothing but a cold sense of dread.
Lexie was dead and others were dying and people were leaving and it was all so very very awful. There was a finality in that last montage of the weary and dying countered by their love ones who had no idea what all they’d just lost.
Coming back it made sense they’d do a time jump. You can’t just suddenly stick people back in the despair and expect it to work. We had three months to chew over that finale so they put us forward three months on the show. We and the characters are all in similar places of acceptance. The shock has worn off.
Season seven, on of the show’s most experimental and often most disastrous seasons, was about the characters being stripped bare and rebuilt by the tragedy of season six. This time it’s about the character’s we’ve come to know over nine years processing and moving past a tragedy few can contemplate. It’s about grieving the significant losses and suffering and not always moving forward.
Because sometimes people die and we move on as we must and sometimes death is too devastating. Tragedy too constant and cumulative to simply move past. Sometimes bad things happen and they scar us forever.
Callie, Derek and Arizona bear the worst scars. Callie wasn’t even there and her entire life had been devastated because of it. To the point that she walks on eggshells at work and tries hard to be the woman still sitting on a bed with body paints. (You never forget body paints once they’re mentioned guys. EVER.) Derek’s surgical career is in the toilet and his best friend–his brother–is gone and he has to work through it. And Arizona. She’s lost the father of her child. She’s lost her support system (she’s notable for being the one character on the show who didn’t have much of one to begin with). And she’s lost her leg.
We so rarely see a show outside of action, sci-fi and fantasy handle amputations. We’re comfortable with characters losing children and parents and getting cancer or getting in a car accident or developing some terminal illness or quirky tick. But an amputation? It just isn’t something that a show drives toward. It can’t be miraculously and prettily healed. There’s no surgery or procedure that can return that person to a status quo. It’s a final sort of injury and one everyone handles differently. I’ve met people who end up being turned into inspirational posters because of how they handled their injury and I’ve seen people who never move past it and fall into a pit of anger and grief that’s seems insurmountable.
Grey’s has thrown Arizona headlong into that pit and Callie’s standing up top exhausted by all the grief and scrabbling to hold onto that one last piece of the past. Their arc for the season is outlined and I couldn’t be more excited. Recovery isn’t clean and finding love in such anger isn’t easy. It’s dark and mean and not the show that’s been treading water creatively for a while now.
The darkness as a whole made this episode exciting. In its early seasons Grey’s had an edge unlike anything else on television. The characters were selfish and made bad decisions and said things that were wildly inappropriate. That edge was on display tonight in amongst Derek’s histrionics and Owen’s hilarious jaunt to rescue April from a pig. (Can I say that struck me as romantic and I kind of want them to hook up? They need to get their exes out of their systems anyways.) Over eight years we watched Meredith and Alex and even Callie grow up and be healed of the emotional traumas they’ve suffered and now all of them are back on the ground floor again in a Sisyphean cycle of drama made all the more engaging because we know them now.
We knew Medusa when she was Little Grey’s sister and that intern banging the attending. We knew Booty Call Bailey (hilarious) when she was the Nazi. We knew Alex Karev when he was married and Callie when she was confident and happy and Derek when he was a golden god of the hospital. Because we’ve been on the journey with these characters for so long it makes these massive pilot episode like changes all the more compelling.
Out of the malaise and nastiness of the finale has spun a whole new series of stories that feel…exciting.
But it’s tempered by the departures. Kim Ravers and Chyler Leigh both left abruptly last year and the ranks of the cast grew smaller, but Eric Dane’s departure also marks a chapter in the show closing and is as critical as that of T.R. Knight’s departure back in season five. McSteamy was part of the pop culture lexicon of the 2000s so it makes sense that Stacy McKee’s script would approach Mark’s with loads of the show’s traditional medical melodrama (no show makes turning off a machine while soft rock plays so heartbreaking) and an ample amount of gentility and grace.
It was an ode to a character that made this show famous and a final chance for Dane to show us just how good Mark could be.
- Poor Avery. He spent the whole episode quietly coming in and being sad about his mentor.
- Love that Meredith stayed in Seattle because she thought she’d be less alone there.
- Owen is on a mission to make me love him again. McKidd was fantastic in the scene where he tried to console an intern and changed his mind when she talked about how they were stuck in the woods for a week.
- They weren’t really stuck in the woods a week were they? That’s some Survivor/Gilligan’s Isle stuff right there.
- For a tear jerker of an hour there were still some fun moments. Booty Call Bailey and April’s giant pig. I DON’T EVEN GUYS.
- Tina Majorino was getting down and dirty with Karev. Who wants to take bets on a love triangle between him, her and Camilla Luddington? MAKE IT HAPPEN SHONDA. I need regular doses of Majorino or I have to sink back into 1994 and just watch Andre and Corrina, Corrina over and over again.
- Cristina can’t last long in the cold north with Mr. Feeney. But its a testament to how badly she’s been broken that she’s suffering up there as long as she is. That chica needs a break.
- Sara Ramirez is clearly feeling that she’s tired of seeing The Good Wife compete with cable dramas and Maggie Smith for Best Supporting Actress Emmys. GOD SPEED SARA RAMIREZ. If she wins it she’s one more award towards an EGOT!
- I love that Callie and Derek are developing a friendship. It felt incredibly organic and I hope it lasts for more than this one episode.
- I don’t even know how they’ll explore Arizona’s story. The character is so damn insular and on a show where people do nothing but talk about their feelings. Woman needs an acting partner in addition to Sara Ramirez STAT.
- Next Week We see what happened after the crash. Was that intern right and they were stuck out there for a ridiculous WEEK or was she just an idiot who can’t do an appy? Will Jessica Capshaw ever wear make up again? Will the show ever stop mining Cristina’s PTSD? STAY TUNED.