It’s been 200 episodes. 200 episodes since we were introduced to a rampant group of surgical interns who blasted their way onto our screens entertaining us with drama, romance, sarcasm, sex and most importantly of all scalpels. What a ride! As a ferociously loyal fan of the show for the past ten years I can’t help but celebrate and be grateful for the fabulousness that is Grey’s Anatomy. To get to 200 episodes is a phenomenal feat that the vast majority of network shows rarely achieve.
Should I stop there? I should stop there. Right? Why spoil a nice moment with an episode review adding a ‘but’.
I was rather bored by episode 10.04, Puttin’ on the Ritz, number 200. An excuse to get the cast all decked out in their posh frocks and bow ties, this landmark episode had all the excitement of a snail beating a tortoise in the 100m dash. But this itself wasn’t a surprise to me because in truth my expectations were met perfectly well based on those expectations being pretty low in the first place. The stories are not strong enough to hold the excitement of the gala 200 event. It’s not always possible to start the season off the back of a major disaster like a shooting or an air crash but these events, while melodramatic, do allow us to explore the deeper aspects of our characters thoughts, actions and lives. Unfortunately the storm that raged through Seattle in the moment between seasons nine and ten has not provided enough drama to get us all hot and bothered by episode four. And so I was left, once again, for the second week running, rather dissatisfied. Does this bode well for the rest of season ten – yes, because it doesn’t matter. Season nine started great and then look what happened. We hit the weird court case and mid season turned entirely to crap. But second half things got better, went well and it was saved. So I am absolutely not writing off this rather slow start but at some point soon the Grey’s writers need to show up for work or they will find themselves with a vastly reduced audience and show that can’t justify it’s time slot and airtime.
There were moments of beauty in this episode though and it’s important to point them out because whilst there are not enough strong stories going on at the moment there are a couple worth some examination.
Callie and Arizona spent the entire episode apart, at odds. Their story is bubbling along nicely and though some may feel that it’s time they had a conversation, in my opinion the pace is completely appropriate. These ladies are at such opposing points in their thought process that conversation between them would be fruitless, despite Arizona’s desperate need for it to happen. On the one hand we see Callie continuously surrounded by her support network, she lives with Meredith and Derek, she’s friends with Cristina. She bitches about Arizona constantly and whether you think it justified or not this is her way of processing. She is externalizing her feelings. In contrast we see Arizona on her own, very isolated from almost everyone and this is confirmed when April takes pity on her and sits with her in the supply room drinking champagne. There was a lot going on with this couple in the episode though I must say it was a case of “blink and you’ll miss it.“ The painful flash of eye contact across the crowded room illustrated the raw power underneath this couple. The mood music helped but these two actors particularly, know how to express emotion through subtle and changing facial and body language. In a matter of seconds we get a novel’s worth of information from them. They are both still very much in love. They are both heart broken. But mostly they just broken.
And then Callie told her little white lie. I don’t blame her for doing it. After all metaphorically Arizona did die. Go back to 902 and the speech with Owen to realize that Arizona came back from the woods a changed woman. We know that it was the heart broken Callie that said it. We know that she came to regret saying it by the end of the episode. But mostly we know it’s going to bite her in the arse by season finale. Or possibly mid-season finale. I can hear it now...Arizona screaming “face it Callie, you wish I had actually died...”
Arizona meanwhile holed up in a cupboard with April where she descended into an abyss of self pity as well as provide a magical sequence of humour. This is the beginning of Arizona’s process and true to character it starts with introspection and pity for herself. She is still not seeing the bigger picture. But this is the real thing. We are seeing the real Arizona here and I am excited to see how they move her forward from this empathetically.
Callie’s lie is nothing compared to Arizona’s cheating but both actions hold huge truths.
The second moment of beauty was watching Cristina Yang realize that letting go of someone is much harder than she thought. I have never been a fan of Owen Hunt but watching this couple try to stay together and then realize that they have to be apart has been so very enjoyable to watch – not to see them part but to see the quality with which the writers treat the story. We see a situation that perhaps many people identify with being played out with total honesty. Cristina’s story so far has been about affirming who she really is. In 10.01/2 we were reminded that she was a brilliant junior/student surgeon. Bailey’s hug said it all really. In 10.03 she reminded us that she’s about the medicine and the surgery. She is not about the emotional argument or persuasion. And here in 10.04 Cristina recognizes herself in the interns, that there’s a place for being a shark. It’s okay to be the shark. And, on that note, she saw right through Shane as no one up until now has, but would she say the same if she knew that it was Ross’ ‘shark’ behavior that facilitated the events leading to Mousey’s death? I’m guessing that she would still be okay with that. Afterall, no matter what we (read: I) might think of Ross, he didn’t cause Brookes’ death.
Of course the writers took the opportunity of 200 episode special to give us a Meredith and Derek love-a-thon. Ten years of will they won’t they, dead not dead, married not married, pregnant not pregnant, and finally we see them ‘enjoying’ being new parents to their baby boy in their beautiful home and relive their passion of the prom. Okay, I melted. I love it. We’ve lived through tornadoes with those two so 43 minutes of soppiness is okay with me.
This is really where I stopped with the episode. Stories which I should care about are pushed too much to the back of my mind because of execution. After an extraordinary speech to Gary Clarke at the end of season six, then a quite wonderful moment supporting Mark in his dying moments beginning of season nine, one round later and we see Richard being a complete arse to Bailey, convinced he needs to/wants to/will die. It’s too unclear why he’s behaving this way but I feel that above all other stories I need an answer to this sooner rather than later for me to buy into it.
To layer on further dissatisfaction we get to experience Alex and Jackson dating teenagers. Finally, finally, finally Alex’s past will catch up with him, but what do we get? ‘Juvenile Jo’ spilling the beans on his DNA test. She’s a (insert expletive here) child. Does the woman have any brain cells? And Jackson? Poor fella had to deal with the “I’m mad at you but I expect you to guess why I’m mad at you” crap from Stephanie. I almost believed in her in the Pit but that fleeting moment is fades when I hear her moaning about not being invited to the party.
The problem with the interns is not that they are interns, nor that they are new characters. The problem is that none of them are fundamentally likable (at the moment). Leah has potential mainly because she is a “what you see is what you get” kind of person and rather snarky funny but the writers need to work harder. I did enjoy this though...Arizona, who has to hide in a cupboard to preserve her dignity just wiped it all out with the “you’re adorable” moment. An intern inadvertently put firmly back in her place. Patronizingly funny.
It’s not great when I go into an episode with low expectations. I think it means I’ve probably watched too many and ‘think’ I know what’s coming. Sadly in this respect my instinct was correct. I no longer wait for specials with any kind of excitement. This episode is reminiscent – Alex and his past, Meredith & Derek happy story, Callie & Arizona yearning, due to 200 but really this season is reminiscent, and that’s due to Yang. I hope that for the rest of season 10 Shonda et al just stick with the formula and find the ‘special’ in telling quality stories rather than selling glitz and glamour at the Ritz.
Yang-isms of the week:
“You're a shark.... it's a good thing. All great surgeons are sharks. You see what you want. Do whatever it takes to get it like me. Don't ever apologize. Sharks never apologize.”
“Prison's changed you.”
“Use the same skills you would if you were picking someone up at a bar. I know you know how to do that”
~~Written by Maxine (Brouhaha) aka @pipmaxine
Max Conte will be here soon with a 200 episode feature.
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