Meredith Grey returned to our screens this week in a conflagration of jaw dropping violence and eerie uneasy silence, as Grey’s Anatomy finally resumed after its three-month winter hiatus. The writers pulled no punches. For 42 minutes we were slammed back to surgical reality, the cosy early season forgotten as life suddenly became difficult, traumatic, real. As a stand alone episode it was immense, even from behind the sofa where I had escaped to the moment Jackson suggested forcing open Meredith’s broken jaw. With the highly seasoned McKee at the writing helm and Oscar winner Denzel Washington directing the action The Sound of Silence was a worthy and effective mid season opener.
Poor Meredith. Is there a trauma that Shondaland won’t throw at her eventually? Tending to a patient she’d retrieved from the field Meredith calmly went about her work as all the other medics left the room. A silence descended as Lou, traumatised by injury, unknowingly batters her down, breaking and twisting her bones, punching her lungs open. While our imaginations are left to visualise the sheer brutality of the attack the rest of the Emergency Room went about their business calmly, until Penny, and it had to be Penny, stepped into the room. Thus began a silent yet overwhelming journey to recovery.
By now we are familiar with Meredith centric episodes. They are frequent. Most of us recognise that she is the fulcrum on which the entire show pivots. Even though we are presented with an ensemble cast, the show’s epicentre has remained stable for its entire eleven-twelve season run. And perhaps it should be going forward. However, on this particular occasion while The Sound of Silence was an excellent stand alone presentation, in context with Season 12 and Season 11 it showed our main protagonist lonely and isolated.
From a season perspective this isolation has highlighted a drift in the tectonic plates of the show. For the first time in one and a half seasons I genuinely missed Cristina. Don’t get me wrong…Ellen Pompeo did a frighteningly realistic job portraying the sheer horror of attack and a cruel recovery. Justin Chambers put in perhaps his most sensitive performance since Arizona in the car crash or even since Izzie was diagnosed with cancer. But despite these strong performances there remained a void; not enough gravitas to hold the show though just enough to hold Meredith’s story. Perhaps some of this is dramatic intention, but from a holistic ensemble perspective there is a big black hole. Meredith is now on her own yet we are reminded that in practise she is not, her work colleagues are her family. She has Alex and she has Maggie. But it goes deeper than this. The many seasons of failure to build up Alex’s character has left him playing catch up. Meredith maybe the fulcrum but previously she had the super powers of Cristina and Derek to share the story with, even on the centric episodes…to actually broaden and deepen the story and to make it more interesting and complex. With their departure while we see this played out on screen in the loss of those she loves, we lack really strong alternative characters to hold the episode together. The ensemble cast is built as an equilateral triangle with the central character at the top. That triangle is now more acute isosceles – much easier to topple over. These strong alternatives don’t need to be connected to Meredith, they don’t need to be related or intimate but they need to be big. And while Alex was simply wonderful this week, twelve seasons in and it still feels like he’s not quite the main feature the writers are trying to show him as. And… If Jo is his ‘post-it’ and Meredith has finally given her blessing, then we really need so much more.
While the episode provided a status update on a number of other stories we were treated to a few little gems. Amelia, at last showed some emotional self awareness, even if she is still the perpetual petulant teenager. This is not for Meredith to fix. Wouldn’t it be great if Mama Shepherd flew in to take control? Penny showed some backbone and finally let rip. Grey’s Anatomy generally redeems characters and this episode did it for Penny though it’s difficult to tell if this is something that the viewers care about. Penny has been introduced as a device, one that Meredith can spew her anger at and ultimately learn some lessons with. Is this device a worthy partner for one of Shonda’s favourite characters? Her relationship with Callie is a mystery – yet I can’t help asking where is the romance, the teasing, the push me pull me that has formed the tantalising beginning of every Grey’s relationship? I am not invested and I’ll wager neither are the writers. April and Jackson are clearly in trouble and Arizona is a lost character.
Maggie flirted in and out of a few scenes but she is no Cristina. And so we are back to Cristina. She was missing in this episode, not only because she’s Meredith’s ‘person’ and frankly should have turned up at her bedside pronto, but because as a character even in a Meredith centric episode she and more particularly Sandra Oh could hold the floor in a way that Amelia, Maggie, Alex and Justin Chambers can’t.
But all of that is the bigger picture and probably something to worry about another day, right? Stacey McKee knows how to pull out a good episode. She has a wonderful track record (Golden Hour in Season Seven remains one of my all time favourite Meredith centric episodes) and together with good direction she has a laser eye for a powerful scene…the fear in Meredith’s kids…Jackson splitting Meredith’s jaw…Alex climbing into bed. Actually all of Alex.
But I am worried. I’m worried that we will see more fall out from a beating than we did from the death of a husband. I’m worried that not enough attention has been paid to laying a strong foundation with the ensemble, that there will be too much reliance on Meredith to hold the show.
But these are worries for tomorrow. Today I loved it and am so relieved that hiatus is over and we’re back in the swing.
Ps. Tell me…how many of you have just watched Season One Episode One after seeing the 12.12 press release?
Posted by Brouhaha at Monday, February 15, 2016 0 Comments
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