I hope I’m not jinxing this by saying Season 9 is off to a cracking start. A hands down, I love you, bring it on, cracking start. Two episodes in and it feels like Grey’s Anatomy has remembered why it’s so good and brought us back to darkness, drama and medicine. For the second episode in a row the writers have served up a treat taking us to a place we really didn’t know we wanted to go and screwing with our heartstrings along the way.
So far the writers have not allowed us to be comfortable. They are screwing with the format, putting characters in places they’ve never been to and turning our familiar view of Grey’s on it’s head. The format in 902 allowed us to see the stories of the doctors from the plane crash develop independent of each other. This was flash back but there were flash backs within flash backs. In episode one there were new doctors, new hospitals, it was cluttered and over-crowded, in 902 our doctors were the patients or the loved ones of the patients. I liked it. No, I loved it. I no longer want to go back to the standard format. I like being uncomfortable in this way.
The story of 902 revolved mainly around the crash victims, showing us the progression of their injuries and the fall out of the trauma.
|Looking at the bigger picture - since when did I have a head injury?|
Meredith escaped from the woods medically intact and remarkably stable. She has ridden this particular storm with maturity and a vision of the bigger picture. Is this right? Should this have been the case? Where was the Meredith who almost deliberately drowned herself, where was the one who willingly put her hand in a man’s abdomen to hold a bomb? Where was the Meredith who surrendered to Mrs Shepherd Snr and gave into her dark side? At the end of 902 we had a very good picture of the Meredith of today – she’s the one who chose to show a finger to the crap and be grateful for the good that has come from her time in Seattle and not suffer the ‘woe is me’ of the bad. We saw the emergence of a character that the writers have loved for 8 seasons enough to move her forward and grow, in character. Her voice-over at the end could have been an ‘end of Grey’s’ speech such was it’s message and tone. It wasn’t...fortunately. And where Cristina cut the umbilical cord between them at the end of last season, so Meredith repaired it. I’m looking forward to seeing Meredith this season, the mother, the wife, the mourning sister and finally the grown up doctor.
|Newly appointed Neuro prof|
Derek is just grateful to be alive. I was relieved with his perspective. Another Burke like God complex would have been unpleasant and repetitive. This way we get to see a more humble side to this surgeon who is finally remembering that his wife has a career of her own. After 8 seasons it will be hard to push Derek in new directions but it seems he’s already starting with a fledgling faith in and support of Callie, who let’s face it is going to need it over the coming episodes. He understands Callie’s talent and skill and he notices her bedside vigils for her wife and best friend. Last season Derek’s only real sustained interaction in the hospital was with Lexie which, for obvious reasons, was eventually wound down in order to prepare for her exit. His interaction with Callie gives us much hope that finally his character will expand beyond his relationship with Meredith.
|"Owen, the water's cold"|
Cristina has PTSD. Well, we already knew she had it, but sleep deprivation, stress, distress and dehydration sent her into a post traumatic catatonic state from which she was dragged eventually by Owen. So far only she, and to a lesser extent Arizona, has given us a flavor of the harsh reality of five (?) days in the woods. With a trademark brilliant Sandra Oh performance Cristina dictated to us the brutal truth of what went on. Like a scene from the film “Alive”, pre-cannibalism, we were treated to a sobering rendition of the trauma. The beauty of that bath scene lies not only in the compelling performance but also in it’s meaning. Cristina stayed awake for four nights trying to keep bugs out of Arizona’s leg so that it didn’t get infected and ultimately she failed. She tried to fight off the animals from feasting on Lexie’s corpse and failed. And she spent four nights reviving Mark from death and ultimately failed. That we take some comfort from the fact he was able to see his family and friends once more helps us but it remains to be seen whether and how Cristina over-comes her trauma. As Meredith finally calls her to explain her own truth we hear Cristina admit that she needs her BFF - “you are my person, you will always be my person.”
|*crying my eyes out*|
Mark died again and this is where the episode became extraordinary. Because if a show can successfully and realistically kill off the same character twice in two successive episodes and tear our hearts out both times then we know that the show is a brilliant one. And this is exactly what happened. We knew how this was going to end because this was a flash back episode but the beauty of it was the way it was handled, again with sensitivity and respect for the character. Where there was hope in the faces of his loved ones, Callie, Derek and even Jackson, there was also realism and concern in Richard. We now know what the Surge is. We know that if you have it you will enjoy a newfound energy in your final days “Torres! Where you been?” as Callie experienced. His epiphanies and explanation of what really matters in life to Jackson Avery, perhaps the most in need of such advice, illustrated that at the end Mark still had something to give. Though Avery is not a favourite character of mine, I am pleased that the writers have already taken him on a journey in these first two episodes. His character is the most bereft of depth and if he is staying for the entire season then such a good start may mean we will more than tolerate him (I’m holding onto hope there like one finger grabbing at rope over a cliff face). But the best moment of this episode and I can’t see how it will be beaten this season are the scenes between Richard and Mark, most particularly writing his end of life wishes. If I were unfortunate enough to be in Mark’s position there is no one I would rather sit by me and see me through it than Richard Webber. Throughout the entire set of Mark vignettes he kept his head whilst those around him were overly optimistic. He was measured and calm, sensitive and profoundly compassionate. As Mark paid a final tribute to his best friend, seeing in her something she doesn't see in herself Richard Webber was on hand to reassure and comfort him in those final moments of consciousness. These scenes were perfectly written and directed. Sometimes it is the simplest of scenes that offers the most.
|"Can someone please get me a slice of the damn pizza?"|
Arizona’s leg was chopped off by her protégé at the instruction of her wife. Oh dear. This is not going to go down well when she wakes up. The inevitable happened and we now bear witness to the biggest Arizona storyline and struggle since her arrival at Seattle Grace Mercy West. There were moments in the arc where we saw Arizona's true character finally shine through. Having been dumbed down for most of season seven and eight it was good to see that the writers have remembered that she is a woman of strong will and spirit. She is also someone with a tendency to be a little self-centred. This has always been the case and was demonstrated as far back as season 5. Most people would wish that they could trade places with the other person, few would admit it to their face. She is not afraid to do this and did so with Alex. In addition she has finally lost her patience with him. For several years now she has been his biggest ally and now she’s had enough - do you remember “I’ll teach him how to be less of an ass but I don’t have to teach him how to care” way back in mid season 7? It’s taken her almost losing her leg in a plane crash, not of Alex’s making, to make her lose her temper with him finally and call him out. And I say thank you to her for that. Someone, not Meredith, has given him the talking down he deserves, and the inflection in this is of course that Arizona did this from the selfish point of view “I kept thinking about my wife and baby and how you had no wife and no baby”, which is entirely in character.
I found it curious that Alex’s apology was a non-apology and am looking forward to how this story plays out – "I'm sorry that this happened to you and I'm sorry that it made you hate me". Son, that ain’t no apology. Perhaps we will eventually see beneath the Alex surface this season.
Unfortunately during Arizona’s vignettes we see the worst scene of the episode where she is rather saccharinely flattering Callie. I thought that a bit contrived and over-acted but it was a small transgression in an otherwise great episode.
|"I always preferred the right leg myself"|
And what of Callie – she darted amongst all the stories and many of the characters proving to us that she will feature heavily in coming episodes. The most unexpected and touching moment presented when Meredith approached Callie in the OR, understanding that Callie was okay to continue. I am not sure I would be so calm in those circumstances, as Meredith is, were it my husband under the knife but it says a lot about the development of that relationship that there is significant trust now. We’ve seen a taste of what’s to come over Callie’s decision to cut off her wife’s leg but we have yet to see the fall out of Mark’s death on her, and on her relationship with Arizona. Interesting and exciting times ahead.
Bailey was relatively absent in 902, so much so that I had to do a wiki search to see if she actually directed the episode. She didn’t but I’m hopeful that as the season progresses we will see more of her.
And poor April didn’t get much of a look in either, though I loved her absolute self awareness during Cristina’s catatonic trance – “I, for one, find it refreshing. They say, if you don’t have anything nice to say...she never has anything nice to say. C’mon Yang..I’m wide open, just hit me...” Sarah Drew has a small role in this show but she does get some gems.
In case you hadn’t realized it by now I absolutely loved this episode. It felt true to Grey’s but at the same time illustrated that experimenting with format works well to shake things up. There are terabytes of drama to explore, new twists for the characters where the writers are not relying on repeated stories and a reduced regular cast to concentrate on.
Again I say, bring it on.
But finally I leave the last words of my review to my favourite character who died, not once, but twice, twisting my heart and shattering it into a million pieces. Showing that underneath he is, and always has been, a sensitive, decent guy Mark Sloan delivers some sage advice to Jackson Avery...
|"I know, that's right, my legacy is the Sloan Method"|
“You tell her she’s beautiful just the way she is and if she believes you you’ve saved someone unnecessary surgical procedure.....No, but it’s how you talk to a woman Avery. We’re in the business of making people feel better about themselves”