Grey’s Anatomy Continues To Reinvent Itself With A Major Lawsuit And Some Shower Shouting
By Alex Cranz
Remember the end of the sixth season? They killed off some red shirts and everyone was horrified and when the seventh season started we were promised an honest look at a group of people overcoming a shared tragedy? Only it was all boring except for Cristina’s ill-advised marriage and maybe the whole Callie/Arizona thing if you like a study in how to break a couple up in the most ridiculous way possible and then put them back together with soft rock hits from 2006 and then throw them in the ugliest dresses imaginable.
I won’t say the season was “the worst” but it was far from “the best” and part of that was because the characters all allegedly shared a tragedy but really it was business as usual only with a few more crying jags and that one episode where they watched a candle light show and cuddled.
That’s not the case this season. The shared tragedy is limited to a small group of people and the effects of it are for more significant. The stakes are higher. It wasn’t redshirts but core characters and people weren’t left with scars and some memories that faded with time. Derek can’t do surgery and he and Meredith can’t sleep with the lights off. Cristina fled to another state and can’t relate to others and finds herself sitting alone on a bench crying for no other reason than the world sucks. And Callie and Arizona are at the center of a maelstrom of anger and depression that doesn’t show signs of abating–nor should it if they want to “keep it real.”
That’s the difference between this season and previous ones. Before the show would look at the big series altering stories and they’d get up close. They’d throw Callie through a window and rehabilitate her in an episode or put Cristina into a near catatonic state and fix her with one big surgery. It was easy fixes to not so easy problems and there was no permanence.
There’s permanence now. There’s the “realism” usually reserved for cable shows. Look back at season one of Grey’s and tell me you’d one day find yourself watching a season where a body left in the woods for four days is devoured and a beloved central character pisses herself because she can’t make it to the bathroom. The drama is being earned finally and the set ups are being followed to their logical conclusions. There are no shortcuts but a focused and wonderfully measured pace through a story made all the richer because we’ve spent so long with these characters.
Like Callie–whom we met as a girl in love with dorky George, who found her own McDreamy and got married and had it all shattered in the finale. This was Callie’s episode despite the framing of a group decision to settle or wage war with a major airplane manufacturer. Meredith and Owen (as Cristina’s proxy) couldn’t care what they did. They were willing to go with whomever felt stronger on the matter. Arizona couldn’t pull herself out of her wrathful state to consider it and Derek spent the episode squinting into the distance and reliving the past and wondering how he could fix something.
So it was left to Callie to really decide. To face head on the overwhelming loss her family suffered and decide whether it was better to give up, take some money and wait for a better day, or fight back through the only outlet she had available to her. Sara Ramirez nailed Callie’s arc this episode. From the wary timidity of her early scenes with Arizona to the desperate desire for joy that spawned itself as funny moments with Alex and the intern that will totally end up being Alex’s one true love and we all know it so let’s not argue the matter. To that cracker jack scene in the shower where her horror and ultimately her anger and grief finally shot through the cyclical depression and ignominy Arizona was clearly wrestling with.
Callie isn’t a saint. We all knew that from the moment she showed up on the show. Often times she and Meredith run in parallels. They’re our romantic heroines looking for love and happiness and they do stupid and cruel things in the process. They’re imperfect. Callie snapping at Arizona, berating her as she dragged her into the shower and then promptly breaking down in tears wasn’t heroic. But it worked all the better. This show even a year ago wouldn’t have dared put these characters or the audience in this situation. Arizona would have just had a weak leg and Callie would have given some impassioned speech and then they would have made out. Instead now they’re trusting that the audience won’t run as both women tear each other down the way only those that truly love one another can.
While much of this episode was given over to Callie reaching her breaking point it didn’t occur in a vacuum. Her tale fed into Alex’s attempt to stop sleeping with coworkers and into the collective lawsuit. And that lawsuit took up all of Meredith and Derek’s thoughts while also feed into Cristina’s struggles in Minnesota–where she was finally saved a little by a burgeoning friendship with Mr. Feeney and decided to cut ties with her Seattle life. Heck they even all seemed to find themselves converging in Bailey’s minor issue with looking for someone to parent after her son starts pre-school and Jackson and April’s attempts to work together after being apart!
This show is a different beast from what it was a year or two ago. The trappings seem the same on the surface: Jackson and April’s “revirginizing” plot and Alex and his intern and Bailey looking for clarity in her home and work life. But there are real stakes and real consequences and honest explorations of it all. For the first time in a very long time Grey’s Anatomy feels exciting.
- Jackson and April have never been my favorites even if I adore the actors–but framing them as the sexy will they won’t they couple of the season is just perfect. Also they make out really really well.
- Ellen Pompeo killed it with the comedy in this episode. She’s also aged Meredith up and in the process creating a truly dynamic heroine on a medical procedural–not an easy task.
- I’m no “MerDer” fanatic but they were beyond adorable this episode. I wanted to squeeze their cheeks and coo.
- Mr. Feeney went from the worst character to the best in the span of forty-five minutes. Bravo sir. That way Cristina actually cracked a smile after his joke about cigarettes was just perfect.
- I could talk about the Callie/Arizona scenes for days. The way Arizona throws Mark in Callie’s face and how her face flickers with anger at the mention of his name. Her utter humiliation when found by Callie–Callie’s sympathetic humiliation in the same moment. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be the actors getting these scenes. They most be ecstatic–it certainly seems that way in the episode as both actresses are doing tremendous work.
- Seriously, Capshaw brings such nuance to what could be very one note rage and Ramirez is feeding off of that.
- Justin Timberlake Jesus is my new favorite Jesus and I adore that they aren’t shying away from April’s likely very Evangelical Christina roots. I hope they keep her religious just because I’d like to see a religious, non-Catholic Christian on television who doesn’t turn to zealotry.
- Next Week: Arizona meets her prosthetist and it is ETHAN EMBRY GUYS. In double checking it was Ethan Embry–who held my heart in 1997–I learned that That Thing You Do has a director’s cut on DVD. I’ll buy it and let you know. Oh and Jackson and Avery bang. And Owen is sad that his wife is moving on and Cristina bangs possibly her boss? I don’t know. It should be awesome.