September 28, 2012



GREY’S ANATOMY:  Thursday 9PM on ABC

WHERE WE WERE:  In a plane crash.  After a difficult year in which many of our characters had to pass their medical boards and then choose/be chosen by a hospital for a permanent position–Karev (Justin Chambers) to Johns Hopkins, Cristina (Sandra Oh) to the Mayo Clinic–a group of surgeons were on a short flight for an organ transplant procedure, when the plane crashed in the woods.  Lexie (Chyler Leigh) died on the spot, but the fates of the rest were left open.

WHERE WE ARE:  30 days have passed since the crash.  That’s a significant number, because the comatose Mark’s (Eric Dane) living will instructs that if his condition doesn’t show signs of improvement in that amount of time, he’s to be taken off life support.  The very grim Grey’s 9th season premiere, written by Co-Executive Producer Stacy McKee and directed by Rob Corn, revolves around his oncoming death.  Mark’s passing isn’t the only tragic news.  Derek (Patrick Dempsey) injured the muscles of his hand, and at least for now, he’s not capable of holding surgical instruments to operate.  We discover late in the episode that while Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) has survived, one of her legs had to be amputated.  And even those physically unscarred like Cristina and Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) are too terrified to get on an airplane.

Nor is the misery confined to the after-effects of the crash.  Cristina is having a miserable time in Minnesota, where she has to deal with the chatty ancient surgeon (William Daniels) from the medical boards, as well as a head of surgery (Steven Culp) who informs her that at the Mayo Clinic, it’s the patients and not the doctors who are superstars, news that comes as anathema to her.  Karev learns that the doctor (Philip Casnoff) taking over Arizona’s pediatric surgery post intends to gut Karev’s pet program that treats foreign children in need.  April (Sarah Drew), fired last season by Owen (Kevin McKidd) after she failed her boards, is working on a farm!  With a pig!

There were a few mildly comic moments, as we found out that Meredith has inherited Bailey’s (Chandra Wilson) reputation as the mean attending (her nickname is “Medusa”), while Bailey’s new nickname is considerably bawdier.  We were also introduced to a number of new interns, who are all guest stars, so they may or may not stick, but who include such notables as Tina Majorino, Gaius Charles (Smash from Friday Night Lights) and Camilla Luddington (from True Blood and Californication).  But for the most part, a series has to be very confident to start off its season with such nearly unrelieved darkness, even when it’s portrayed as intelligently, and in the case of Mark’s death heartbreakingly, as it was here.

There’s reason for such confidence.  Even after 8 seasons, and despite the departure of major chunks of the original cast (Katherine Heigl, Isiah Washington, T.R. Knight), Grey’s was the highest rated drama on broadcast television last season in the 18-49 demo.  The series shows little sign of flagging, although since one of its narrative engines has always been the competitive progress of its protagonists as they progressed from callow interns to more experienced physicians, it’ll be interesting to see how the show copes with the fact that the leads are now all officially surgeons.  Doubtless it will come up with more challenges to pit them against one another.

When Grey’s first came on the air, it was dismissed as being less serious and more soapy than ER, but its compelling storylines and always first-rate casting, all under the supervision of creator Shonda Rhimes, have kept it going.  While no longer a blockbuster, it regularly wins its hour, and as long as the creative team and a core cast stay in place, it should stay in good health for seasons to come.

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."