December 13, 2013

THE SKED Fall Finale Review: “Grey’s Anatomy”


GREY’S ANATOMY doesn’t get much attention these days, not even compared to its creator Shonda Rhimes’s shinier ScandalGrey’s is just a soap–but after 10 years, it still knows how to pull off a big episode.  The fall finale, written by Co-Executive Producer William Harper and directed by Tony Phelan, effectively kicked off a long hiatus that runs until February 27, detonating several long-simmering narrative bombs before it was done and leaving things in a high state of cliffhangerdom.

The bomb with the longest fuse was the by-now long-dormant romance between doctors Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) and April Kepner (Sarah Drew).  It was 2 seasons ago that they became a briefly torrid couple (he took the virginity she’d been keeping for religious reasons), then they broke up and got back together and broke up again; he started a relationship with intern Stephanie Edwards (Jerrika Hinton) and she became involved with paramedic Matt (Justin Breuning).  April got engaged to Matt–so nice a guy that he was doomed to be dumped eventually–and the front half of Season 10 was filled with preparations for the wedding, but Shonda Rhimes and co-showrunner Betsy Beers provided plenty of hints that the Jackson/April story wasn’t over, and in classic (not to say shameless) rom-com style, in the middle of April’s wedding, Jackson stood to profess his love.  (The episode ended before April could react.)  Was it heavy-handed, earlier in the episode, to have Jackson all but give the game away when he quoted the departed Mark Sloan on the subject of telling the person you love how you feel no matter what?  Sure, but it’s the kind of heavy-handedness Grey’s has never been shy about embracing.

The episode also featured the long-awaited implosion of Shane Ross (Gaius Charles), unintentionally responsible for the death of intern Heather Brooks (Tina Majorino) at the end of last season.  Shane was distressed at the season’s start, but then started an affair with Cristina (Sandra Oh) and seemed downright perky–a perkiness that had turned into mania lately, and resulted in his seizing the opportunity to operate on the drug-addict, heart-patient estranged father (guest star James Remar) of Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), perhaps killing him.  (Another cliffhanger.)

The most interesting decision Rhimes made this season was in the treatment of the departing Sandra Oh.  Rather than the expected sentimental victory lap, Oh’s major plotline has been her increasingly bitter and widening gulf from Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo).  Their friendship was always the emotional center of Grey’s (there must be a supercut somewhere online of all the times through the years where one of them called the other her “person”), and the show has strained that tie to the point of genuine unpleasantness.  Even though this episode had them finally speaking to each other again, it was with a sense that their friendship will never be the same.  Perhaps it’s been a strategic decision on Rhimes’s part to remove that pillar from the show before Oh’s exit forced it out, but the depiction of the distance between these two women, between Meredith’s surgery-and-family life and Cristina’s business-only one, and their inability to stay close, has been trenchant, and unusual on network television.

It’s been a rather dark season, all in all.  Aside from the Shane and Meredith/Cristina storylines, there’s been Bailey’s (Chandra Wilson) bout with OCD, the lengthy and difficult recuperation of Webber (James Pickens, Jr) from his near-electrocution at the end of last season, and the troubled marriage of Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw)–and that’s just the doctors.  Grey’s can often go over the top–in this episode alone, no less than the (unnamed) President of the United States called Derek (Patrick Dempsey) to service on some brain-mapping project, and Murphy’s (Tessa Ferrer) level of hysteria was enough to make one wonder whether she’d unintentionally killed someone too.

Nevertheless, it’s all still compellingly told, and while Oh’s absence will certainly be felt, Grey’s has done a solid job over the past couple of seasons in building up a younger generation of surgeon characters (Camilla Luddington, as Karev’s girlfriend, in addition to Charles, Ferrer, and Hinton), and the show’s well-oiled machine will keep rolling.  Ratings aren’t anywhere near where they used to be–although last night bounced back from the previous week’s series low, the numbers are still below last season’s (which was below the season before, and so on), in the mid-2s.  On the other hand, with the current state of network television, and of ABC in particular, that doesn’t look so bad at all.  Grey’s Anatomy still seems to have quite a few cliffhangers and life-and-death crises left in it.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."