It’s a long one. I’m ranting. And rambling.
What a terrible episode. Who wrote this shocker? (No, don’t tell me, because I don’t want to be put off when this person writes another episode). We find ourselves at episode 8, Two Against One in the tenth season of Grey’s where angst continues to pour out of our television screens and tears are only ever seconds away.
Now I know I owe you reviews from 10.06 and 10.07 and I started to write a combined review for 6 and 7 but never finished or posted (sorry to those who asked, really, but the week just caught up with me). So here we go with a triad review.... Which is better for all of us really because if I was just reviewing 10.08 you would probably shout at me to stop whining and tell me never to watch the show again. To help explain why 10.08 was so terrible I will use 10.06 and 10.07 to compare. See, this is what I intended to do all along....really....honest.... In doing this I’ve done some research of previous good episodes (read: indulging in old episodes of Grey’s).
Firstly I need to make something clear - I like most of the story arcs going through these three episodes. This maybe an unpopular opinion but I do think they are necessary and evolutionary. We are seeing a slow yet potent build up to major conclusions, including at least one character exit (and there maybe more). The writers must take us out of our comfort zones. My main complaint is that during 10.08 the execution (mostly the writing) is so poor that it fails both the actors and the viewers. And by poor I mean that I came away feeling like I had watched a high school version of Greys’s Anatomy, I cringed through a number of scenes, I balked at the way the interns spoke to their seniors, and my favourite attendings, which is most of them, behaved like petulant teenagers....and these guys are on the board of directors and own the hospital!
10.08 was poor and compared to 10.06, which was beautifully crafted and 10.07, holding it’s own, the execution of the key plots in 8 was exactly that – an execution. Braveheart style – hung, drawn and quartered.
Let’s start with the first of the volcanic story lines for season 10. Meredith and Cristina are at a crossroads. Through the last three episodes we’ve seen the fall out of Cristina fronting Meredith with some home truths about the choices she has made in her life. These are not bad choices, says Cristina, but they affect your ability to be a GREAT surgeon. Meredith is driven to be great. Firstly because being told she can’t be is going to drive her forward but mainly because she lives in the shadow of her mother who was a great surgeon, but a truly appalling mother. Bobbing along beside this is the evolution of a friendship born some eight (?) years ago of two young doctors brought together by things they have in common. At some point it can be inevitable that a friendship starts to drift apart when the things that pulled them together hold less of a gravitational pull. Although we are being served up a character/actor led plot with the known departure of Sandra Oh this story is actually a very natural path for these two characters to take. This happens in real life as we make big life choices. It’s happened to me and it will happen to you dear reader and your besties. And you may or may not come through it as friends. Some have said the writers are ruining the characters, that this is forcing the drama but this is simply not the case. At this point in their lives, this kind of conflict is inevitable.
We are not even at half season and Meredith and Cristina’s friendship is going down fast and this is good because it means with the next sixteen further episodes to go we have plenty of time to see a strong natural conclusion. However for all the good story telling we saw in numbers 6 and 7 it was woeful in 8.
During 10.06 and 10.07 we experienced the genuine confusion between the two as they try to navigate this changing dynamic. Meredith is defensive, protective of her space and choices, determined to prove she is in control and the super-hero (though we actually see that the real super hero in this story is Derek). The progression through choosing a research project and the Halloween party built the tension whilst at the same time allowed us to see how much Derek has changed from the ambitious slightly too arrogant neurosurgeon into modern day uber supportive husband and super-dad ...
Sorry, I’m just pausing to remember the scene with Derek and Ben and their headsets fixing butterfly wings like it’s life saving neurosurgery. And Ben came back to be with Bailey – oh my. How lovely. I’m dying with the cuteness and romance.
Back to the girls. Cristina, on the other hand, is losing everything and her logical brain is unable to figure out why her attitude towards Meredith about making choices has hit their friendship so hard. Her attempts to carry on as normal are thwarted at every step. She is confused. Cristina is able to separate her personal and professional feelings, Meredith is not, which leads us to Cristina leaving the cup cakes in her own home and heading for the bar (and Shane, but really I can’t deal with that thought right now). So by the end of 10.07 we see this relationship fractured but still dealt with in a mature way by the writers.
And then it goes all High School in 10.08 and I cringed throughout. The story itself works – the tension created by one doctor’s need for help saving a patient’s life and the other using their relationship to deny that help. It’s a very natural tension. While Alex quite rightly points out that Meredith was a bad doctor that day I might go as far and say that none of them (Meredith, Cristina and Shane) behaved in a way remotely befitting their status in the hospital – particularly the board. As an isolated incident I could believe that that two grown women could behave like teenagers when their friendship is stressed. But then this childish behavior ran all the way through the board members. The writer could have written this story so much more responsibly had she developed the patient storyline better through the episode, so that the viewers felt the emotion behind it, and then actually taken the decision to the board, which would really have shown Meredith’s poor decision in it’s true light. That itself would have deepened the wedge further and more dramatically yet more professionally and with more credibility for the viewer. Instead we were left with the childish conduct of an attending doctor led by an unpleasant and rather cold junior. This story seems to lead Meredith down the path of spiraling out of control (how many of our doctors are going out of control this season) and I’m not sure that’s the intention. Whatever the purpose the 10.08 version was unpleasant to watch.
Cristina is going through her own pain, which only serves to highlight Meredith’s blinkered actions. Cristina has to watch her beloved ex-husband dating a fellow doctor and seemingly moving on...everyone’s moving in a different direction to her. I love this story, and in 10.06 and 10.07 it is heartbreakingly beautiful. It is inevitable (sorry Crowens) that this couple will end season 10 apart permanently but it will not be without a great deal of story telling fulfillment. I am experiencing their pain with every scene, whether it’s watching Cristina introduce herself to Emma or when Owen spots the trick or treat organ reversal and gives it to his ex like it’s Cristina-candy. There is a poignancy, which is lacking throughout the other stories.
Staying with 10.06 for a moment...
One of the reasons why I loved it so much was that it so beautifully referenced the past without going over old territory or using it as a template. It highlighted the best of the Grey’s writing with the worst in 10.08. Written by William Harper the fellow Grey’s nerds among you might notice that he also wrote 5.14, Beat Your Heart Out and through deft story telling showed some strong parallels to season 10. This is wonderfully demonstrated in the courtship of Cristina and Owen through the season 5 episode which is chaste and loving and the music we hear at these key moments is period drama-esque. Little did we know this would be the start of a very committed relationship. Fast forward to 10.06 and we watch Cristina watching Owen and Emma to that same music. This moment is one of the best scenes of the season. Am I the only one who immediately had to dig out the 5.14 and watch it again.
In 5.14 Meredith’s mother’s diary features as catalyst between repairing Cristina and Meredith, taking us through the courtship of Owen and Cristina and teasing about THE MerDer proposal. In 10.06 it is used to develop the fracture between the two best friends.
In 5.14 we see the bathroom kiss, the beginning of Callie and Arizona and Callie lecturing Mark about getting on with his life - “let yourself be happy, before you find yourself alone, celibate.” In 10.06 Callie’s own life is falling apart and it takes a ‘talk’ by a patient for her to realize she needs to do things for herself not for others. This kind of writing is why I love watching this show.
So, now let’s deal with the second of the big volcanoes of season 10 – Callie and Arizona.
I have to get something off my chest, first. People need to get over the fact that Arizona is sleeping with Leah. This does not make her a whore (as I’ve read several times on this site and others). Yes she cheated and as I wrote in my last feature I believe this is where Arizona steps over the line but it is only that which takes her over. THEN she was dumped by her wife. She’s got every right to sleep with who ever she wants because Callie wants nothing to do with her. It seems that this is a difficult concept for people to grasp. Arizona’s way of dealing with this stuff is sex. We all know she’s avoiding, she’s not dealing with stuff. This is so abundantly clear. We are even told this at the start of 10.07 as Meredith’s voice over talks about the costumes we wear for Halloween, a direct reference to the costumes we wear in life. Leah is Arizona’s escape route, and from the look on Arizona’s face when she takes off her necklace, one that she really doesn’t actually want deep down. The clinginess, the ‘easy peasy’ and Leah’s tragic insecurity will be the sub plot which runs parallel to Callie and Arizona’s journey and will eventually come to bite Arizona on the backside.
Sometimes we forget the stories. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s going on THIS season, and THIS moment. But it’s to our DIS-credit that we don’t remember the development of these characters. We learnt something fundamental about Arizona in episode 8.18. She is a Mark Sloan. (It amuses me that Callie has a type in this way.) 8.18 is the episode where Callie quizzes Arizona about her past lovers in the hospital. Arizona wasn’t at Seattle Grace (as was then) that long before she got together with Callie so it’s clear that if she has ex-girlfriends at the hospital then she’s a fast worker – she likes the ladies. She’s resorted to type after breaking up with her wife. But really, in this way, is she any different from Callie. After all didn’t Callie go straight to Mark’s bed when she broke up with George, learnt the ‘Sloan method’ after she first slept with Erica and feasted on sorbet when Arizona left her for Africa.
And then I find it deeply ironic that in the episode (8.18) where we can link Arizona’s current behavior with her past we also get this....Bailey’s speech to Owen:
A potent and a clear indication of the general perception the writers have of cheating in Grey’s -
“I won’t pretend to understand the thing that you and Cristina have going on but I do know that ...uh...affairs don’t happen in a vacuum. You’re human. You made a human mistake...You did a terrible thing, doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person”
Okay back to 10.08....it’s obvious Arizona needs to see a therapist double quick but for me the ‘problem’ with this story arc on her part is that we are not seeing enough of Arizona in the medical cases. Her sterile detachment there would help articulate where she is mentally and her ability to compartmentalize. It would reassure viewers of her story.
But 10.08 really failed Callie AND Sara Ramirez, on an epic scale. Again I applaud what they are trying to do with her that the essence of the story is she is desperately trying to understand herself and why her own relationship broke down. The chosen portal is through interfering with Owen and Emma. All this achieved was a cringe worthy interview which I actually had to mute in order to get through. Another illustration of how poorly the general pan-season “owners of the hospital” story is rolling out. Callie is another character on her way down, yet to reach the bottom. For me this makes sense because her world has crumbled around her, she’s trying to hold it together but at some point, just like her wife she will collapse.
The very best part of Callie’s story in these last three episodes is told through the paraplegic. I’m trying hard not to read too much into Micky’s speech but there’s a part of me that really believes this is a catalyst moment.
“so there I am, a pile of garbage, can’t move, can’t walk, can’t do anything except think about what I did to those families. I’ve got people tending to me, people feed me, and shave me and clean me, and I don’t deserve their time, I deserve to have died in that car. I wish I did everyday, for nine years. And when you asked me to do this, when I had a chance to do something, affecting someone in a good way, for the first time I thought I was worth having around. If I die, give my brain to science, and I still help. Let me help. Please.”
Is she hearing Arizona’s story? Is this Arizona’s story? Because fast forward to the end of 10.06 and as Derek removes Micky’s brain Callie recognizes one thing -
“He would be grateful. He did exactly what he wanted you to do”
Are we listening to Callie realize she didn’t do what Arizona wanted? I don’t know. Am I reading too much into it?
In 10.08, the preceding episode to her special next week I felt they did the character a disservice. Her interview with Emma is probably the most unprofessional thing I’ve seen. If it was an isolated incident in the episode I could believe that this was for character development but unfortunately this immaturity of story telling is in good company as it sits alongside Meredith and Cristina’s childish fighting over a machine, Shane’s contempt for anything other than his own ego, Stephanie’s utter disrespect for Webber, Jackson’s forced over-acted arrogance, Derek’s pimping surgeries – I am shuddering just thinking about it all. And really ...what IS WRONG WITH WEBBER? This last point being the worst executed storyline so far of season 10. I can’t watch this episode again.
Two things saved 10.08 - April & Matthew and Alex. In an episode that was blunt and cack-handed, the potential de-flowering of Matthew was mature and sensitive. And Alex came good, which frankly is not seen enough on this show. After a wonderful segment with his dad on 10.06 (and my, who didn’t think Alex jammin’ with pa the sexiest thing on Grey’s since Mark died?) he pulled it out of the bag by calling Meredith out on her behavior. Go Karev.
Before I finish I’ll take you back to 8.18 which I watched in it’s entirety before writing this review – ironically it’s the episode where we realize how differently Cristina behaved when Owen cheated because she kept it a secret, close to her heart, because to tell Meredith was to destroy the potential for forgiveness. 8.18 is the episode where Meredith steps up and is there for Cristina, just present, with no need to dissect her problems. She just shows up with ice cream. 8.18 was a nice antedote for me to 10.08 because it’s so well put together but I think what I’d forgotten was just how much Teddy was under-used and under-valued. In 8.18 she’s excellent and Kim Raver sets a good example to the new intern actors on how to come into an established show and give a great performance worthy of becoming a series regular.
The slick direction of 10.06 with it’s red cup and flowing segways was a joy to watch along with terrific story telling – though I do hope Shane’s “I don’t want to work with you – can I be more clear?” comes around to bite him eventually. 10.07 followed the usual format of a minor special episode but still allowed us to see the characters talking to us faithfully. 10.08 was more than forgettable as a huge bump in the road for the writers, but ultimately one which is recoverable from.
Okay I’ll stop now. I needed to get things off my chest this week so I’ve missed a few key stories (Bailey/Ben – is she ill? Alex/Jo – is this the real deal? Richard – why has he been in bed for three months? Ross’s guilt; Leah – single white female? Stephanie – is there a point to this character). In weeks to come I shall elaborate on these...actually maybe not Stephanie, I don’t think I have the will to tackle something so dull.
And finally finally, because it appeals to my very English humour, my favourite line of 10.08, because there was at least one funny moment, is when Alex says to Arizona:
“we’re not joking about this yet?”
Written by Maxine (Brouhaha) aka @pipmaxine
Follow me on Twitter