May 16, 2013



As hard as it is to create a compelling, successful television series, it’s much harder to keep one going year after year, after cast changes and writer changes and timeslot changes and network management changes and all the other events that make a showrunner’s life a nonstop ulcer.  (Revenge, for one, barely managed to survive its second year.)  GREY’S ANATOMY concluded its 9th season tonight–that’s 72 seasons in dog TV–and it’s still rolling along, not the hottest show on the air anymore but a formidable success nonetheless.

Shonda Rhimes loves her big-time season finales–last year of Grey‘s, you’ll recall, ended with a fatal plane crash–and tonight’s episode, written by Co-Executive Producer Stacy McKee and directed by Rob Corn, featured a giant storm that blacked out what used to be Seattle Grace Hospital and as of this season is known as Grey-Sloan Memorial.  The twist was that although much of the cast was in mortal danger throughout the hour, it wasn’t until the very last shot of the season that one regular was (seemingly) dead.  Instead, the storms that counted were the emotional ones, as several of the season’s biggest storylines came to their head.  Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) and Callie (Sara Ramirez) are–for now, at least–broken up, the result of Arizona’s impulsive tryst with a visiting surgeon and, more importantly, her lingering bitterness over Callie’s having authorized the removal of her leg after the crash.  Cristina (Sandra Oh) and Owen (Kevin McKidd)?  Also broken up, and this one feels more permanent, not only because they’ve been shuttling together and apart for a long time now, but because the issue of his wanting a child and her not may have reached a turning point.  April (Sarah Drew), despite having gotten charmingly engaged in just the last episode, confessed her true love for Avery (Jesse Williams), and after more than a season of flirtation, lingering looks, mutual self-loathing and combustible hostility, Karev (Justin Chambers) and Jo (Camilla Luddington) are finally a couple.  While all this was going on, Bailey (Chandra Wilson) finally got over her fear of infecting more patients–just in time to save the life of Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), who was bleeding out from a ruptured spleen after her Caesarian, while Derek (Patrick Dempsey) unknowingly tended to their newborn son in the ICU.

Someone tell Nashville before it airs on Wednesday–this is how you do a soap season finale.

All Grey’s seasons are uneven, and this one was no exception.  The corporate shenanigans that finally led to a consortium of characters buying the hospital went on too long, and so has Arizona’s inability to forgive Callie about her amputation.  Cristina needs to have more going on with her character than her absolute, no-kidding, she-really-means-it refusal to have a child.  (It was too bad when the show killed off William Daniels as her mentor, a story that exposed a touching new side of her character.)  On the other hand, the season gave a showcase arc to Wilson, who was tremendous in the episodes where she realized she’d been responsible for the deaths of several patients.  And Rhimes has done a superb job of setting the groundwork for Grey’s 2.0, developing the interns–not just Jo, but eccentric Heather (Tina Majorino), uncertain Shane (Gaius Charles) and the others–so that they’re now a vested part of the show.  There are times when the series feels too crowded, but it won’t always be that way, as senior actors decide they want out, or price themselves out of the budget.  The interns will be able to step forward without the show undergoing a jarring transition.

Grey’s isn’t the ratings powerhouse it once was; with the arrival of Rhimes’s own Scandal, it’s not even ABC’s biggest soap.  But it’s still a very strong audience draw, and it should benefit from the network’s announced 2013-14 strategy of airing episodes uninterrupted in two mini-seasons, instead of being interspersed with preemptions and repeats.  Is Webber (James Pickens, Jr) really dead?  Will Arizona and Callie stay apart?  Will April and Jackson end up together?  Millions of viewers will be back in the fall to find out, and Grey’s Anatomy will reliably check them in for another season of superior TV medicine.


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."