May 16, 2014

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


For the most part, Shonda Rhimes and the Season 10 finale of GREY’S ANATOMY kept its Cristina Yang Farewell Extravaganza confined to a 20-minute chunk in the second half.  The opening half of the hour, written by Co-Executive Producer William Harper and directed by Tony Phelan, was concerned with an explosion at a shopping mall that, after some panic at the idea of a terrorist bomb, turned out to be a simple gas leak.  There was a brief attempt to hype things up with the possibility that Yang (Sandra Oh) had been at that mall, shopping in advance of her departure for Switzerland, but it was quickly made clear that she was fine.

Once the explosion patients were dealt with, it was time for Yang to make her hurried goodbyes (she was already late to leave for the airport).  It was, as befit Yang’s character and Oh’s performance through all these years, a crisp series of farewells, and along the way she even paused to poach–at his urgent request–intern and ex-lover Shane (Gaius Charles, also exiting the series), prompting Bailey (Chandra Wilson) to tartly ask if she’d also like to take a CT machine on her way out.  The only real stretch of sentimentality was her final scene with her “person” Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), where in a nod to the olden days of the series, the two danced it out with some slow-motion lyricism.  After that, there was a final wish-fulfillment scene in her new Swiss office suite, Yang was given the hour’s concluding voice-over, and the Sandra Oh era of Grey’s was over.  (It’s worth noting that the episode also found a moment for a nice send-off to the other departing regular, Tessa Ferrer’s intern Murphy.)

After 10 seasons, Grey’s Anatomy is a smoothly running engine, and no sooner had Yang made her exit than the show was setting things up for Season 11, as Meredith, prompted by Cristina’s parting words, suddenly refused to move to DC with Derek (Patrick Dempsey) for his job–a decision that would have had more impact if it weren’t widely known that Pompeo and Dempsey had both re-upped their deals on the show, so clearly the Greys weren’t going anywhere.  As another parting gesture, Cristina had left her shares in the hospital and seat on the board to Alex (Justin Chambers), setting up a plotline for the fall, since Webber (James Pickens, Jr) had already offered that seat to Bailey.  It’s still not clear whether Derek’s sister Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) will be in Seattle next season, although it seemed likely, since otherwise there hadn’t been much purpose to her visit these last few episodes.  Clearly the character that viewers will definitely be seeing a lot more of is the hospital’s new head of cardiac Margaret Pierce (Kelly McCreary), thanks to the almost casual ending revelation that she was given up for adoption by Ellis Grey, making her Meredith’s half-sister and presumably Webber’s daughter.  (It was certainly a Shonda Rhimes moment, but also a little odd that Pierce had taken the job at the hospital partly because it was her mother’s, and had already worked there for 2 weeks, without ever having figured out who Meredith was–but whatever.)

The back half of Season 10 wasn’t the strongest stretch of Grey’s.  After episodes early in the season that had featured trenchant storylines about Webber’s gradual recovery from an accident and Meredith and Cristina at odds, Cristina’s Swiss dream job was pure wish-fulfillment, and Meredith’s bickering with Derek about his super-important brain-mapping government job got monotonous.  A plot that had Bailey illicitly curing a boy’s immune system by injecting modified HIV into him without his parents’ consent was played more for gimmicks than for substance.  The marriage between Avery (Jesse Williams) and Kepner (Sarah Drew) has yet to yield a convincing scene.

Even when it’s not at its best, though, Grey’s is a well-tooled piece of network TV drama.  It balances its many characters smoothly, the sharp pace finds time to linger on key emotional moments, and the cast is uniformly first-rate.  The ratings, of course, aren’t what they once were–it’s lost 60% of the audience it had in its heyday–but nothing on network TV (except football) is close to its ratings of a decade ago.  The show is still a solid hit, and although next season it’ll have to face NFL football during the first 2 months of the season, and The Big Bang Theory after that, there’s every reason to think that it still has multiple seasons left in it.  The series has survived the loss of quite a few cast members over the years, and although Sandra Oh was an integral part of its success, the hospital will go on seeing patients without her.

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."