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Grey's Anatomy - Family Affair - Review




Grey’s Anatomy bowed out of season twelve last night with a low key yet satisfyingly powerful season finale. There were no catastrophic multi-casualty dangerous external events. This will not be a finale we will be talking about in years to come. Instead you might say that this episode was more about understated human drama and conflict. It reflected a closeness to real life as much as any Grey’s episode might without wandering into melodrama territory. After last weeks masterclass ensemble episode my expectations were suitably lowered that the finale might not live up to that. It didn’t but nevertheless I felt pleased at the end. Or perhaps that satisfaction is more to do with the rather low key cliffhangers. There is not a lot for us to panic about over during hiatus.

“Family Affair”, written by William Harper and directed by Debbie Allen was exactly that, a very family affair. Indeed the stories were so interwoven both in directing and writing that the majority of the cast felt like family to one another. Within the major stories there were subtle hat tips to family; take Bailey gently telling Jackson how strong April is, or Owen unknowingly giving Alex some brotherly advice, or Webber trying to be the gracious groomsman. This was a gentle finale where the medical drama in the hospital was secondary to the one going on on Meredith’s couch. It offered up something for everyone, closed down a number of open plot lines and opened up some fresh ones ready for season thirteen. While those new stories look to be very appealing I worry that by not giving us too much to think about over the next four months they may not be strong enough to hold the viewers that this old timer show needs to hold.

The finale opened with Meredith and Alex flaked out on a lawn discussing the whys and wherefores of true love. Is it possible to have more than one? This brother and sister moment finally confirmed to us that Izzie is a thing of the past. It can’t be possible that Alex only gets one true love. A lot goes on for Meredith in “Family Affair”. The journey that she’s been on to come back to herself or the version of herself that she’s comfortable with post Derek has reached the point where her three worlds are in some kind of equilibrium - her work, her love life, her family. At the end of season eleven Meredith was moving in with Alex and now she has a household running, collecting strays, and hosting births. Maggie and Amelia have established themselves (several times in the case of the latter) as both her roomies and her sisters and through the ups and downs of sisterhood they have found their own bickering reality. A year ago Meredith was telling Alex “I hurt her feelings and she’s mad at me. I forgot I’m supposed to be her sister”. It would be easy to say she hasn’t moved on. Her treatment of Amelia has been woeful recently and last night Amelia called her on it in a big pre-wedding showdown. In Amelia, Meredith sees herself. And in herself perhaps she sees Cristina - for she was channeling Cristina forcefully. The speech itself was important because it established more than a sisterly bond between Meredith and Amelia. Cristina’s relationship with Meredith went beyond sisters. They were soul mates. Amelia will never be that to Meredith but Meredith has recognised that she has it within her to bring others into her world in the same kind of way. Being a twisted sister, being Amelia’s person on the day, being FAMILY, reinforced the idea that this new Grey’s era is about family and about sisters. While this episode was titled “Family Affair” so the show is now a family affair.

This started a very funny, rather lighthearted ‘Bridesmaids/Hangover’ style segment with Maggie the romantic neurotic, Meredith the rebel with a cause and Amelia the indecisive chaotic. Poor Owen knew nothing but it is a credit to him that he waited patiently for reason, love and romance to prevail.
Amelia moves back and forth in her pursuit of a decision on what to do, eventually believing that it’s possible to have more than one true love, more than one chance.

I was disappointed with the way they portrayed Mrs Shepherd. Her character, played previously by Tyne Daly, though only shown briefly in seasons past (Season Five), was a strong force for good. She believed in Meredith even when Meredith didn’t believe in herself. She believed in Mark despite his teenage hormones and it’s a shame the writers have her not believing in Amelia.

What does this mean for Season Thirteen Amelia: I can’t help feeling that this is foreshadowing or at least more significant than it appears. I wonder if Owen’s calmness through the pause in the proceedings will come around to backfire when life and work start to interfere with their marriage. Or maybe they get their happy season. Every couple gets a happy season before the proverbial crap hits the fan again. It would be good to see Mrs Shepherd visit and make peace with Amelia.

It turns out Meredith and Riggs had quite the night in her car and if Riggs has his way there would be more, a lot more than four more. Well I love Riggs (look at those eyes!) but I’m not sold on Riggs with Meredith. This is one of two major stories bedded in for season thirteen. In trying to be all things to all people Meredith has a quiet friendly word with Owen about Amelia. She can do this, she has permission from Cristina, though I think it a little unfair of her to suggest to Owen that he needed to discuss his remarrying with his ex-wife of some years now. She has been told quite clearly by Owen that “we hate Riggs”, yet jumps on him to the tune of four times with possibly more to come. Maggie, the ultimate romantic has found someone she quite likes (who by the way happens to be her subordinate) and of course tells her sister that she’d quite like to have a go four times with Riggs (okay, she didn’t say four times but we know he’s good for it). Riggs delivers the rings to Owen, and sort of makes some peace though we all know that really the situation is just plain AWKWARD. And so we came to the cliff hanger. Well not really. While the episode made me smile and the final shot particularly so I was let down by this rather tepid ending. The narrative being that Meredith and Nathan would be friends with benefits rather subdued the drama with Maggie. She quite fancies him, and Meredith is sleeping with him with no commitment. It could’ve been …Maggie’s in love with him and Nathan’s in love with Meredith who is just sleeping with him…or something similar with more edge and more drama.

It’s rather a mess. A good mess though. We haven’t had a love triangle in a while. This should be interesting.

What does this mean for Season Thirteen Meredith, Maggie, Riggs and Owen (and Amelia): oh my goodness this will be good. Of course Megan will show up, she's a doctor, a surgeon even, and already she is an absent antagonist. She'll show up right when Maggie is laying into Meredith for sleeping with Riggs. The reason we haven't seen her yet is so the writers could prepare the ground to be as churned up as possible; this finale was doing just that.

So this is the second finale in a row where April turns into a superhero. The woman is immense. Her character development over the recent seasons has been phenomenal, topped off with a superb performance from Sarah Drew. Circumstances arise where Ben is put in the unenviable situation of giving April a c-section without pain killers, anaesthetic or even a piece of wood to bite down on. This is the same Ben who four months previously was responsible for making the decision to cut open a woman in a hallway which led to her death and that of her child. The same Ben who is on suspension. Do you remember my mantra people? All Grey’s regulars are redeemable. All of them. Ben is no exception and here was his moment. Though seriously in a house full of doctors there isn’t one clean sharp scalpel. With Miranda’s blessing he cut into April and delivered the baby, saving both their lives. It redeemed him and his marriage and provided a very teary moment in my house.

As for April - Owen’s best man - she showed up with superhuman strength and voracity. Though the birth was dramatic and painfully intense it was nice to see that both mother and baby were fine at the end. Jackson’s own mini birth with his dementia patient added a poignancy to the episode it would have lacked otherwise. Though the scene at the end with him holding his baby was simply too delicious for words.

What does this mean for Season Thirteen April and Jackson: I wonder if Sarah Drew’s or Jesse Williams’ contracts are up for renewal. There was a finality with their final family scene which could easily be the end of the road for them…or just the beginning.


It turns out that Arizona very clearly has not run out of grace as she VERY graciously handed Sofia over to a surprised yet grateful Callie. Did Callie deserve such a magnanimous gesture? Probably not but the enduring character redemption of Arizona continued as she gave up Sofia once again. The moment was heartwarming and a fitting conclusion to this story line.

What does this mean for Season Thirteen Callie and Arizona: This storyline was quite clearly designed to exit Sara Ramirez gracefully (really?) from the show if indeed she decides not to sign on for the following season. It will be a great shame if she doesn’t as she has been arguably one of the strongest characters the show has. We know that the exits of Sandra Oh and Patrick Dempsey have not been the catastrophic disaster some predicted so the show can clearly recover from her exit. This exit being designed to facilitate her to return in the future if mutually acceptable. Allowing Arizona the opportunity to shine in these last couple of episodes has set her up positively and independently for the next season after perhaps too much negative fan reaction. If Ramirez decides to stay on board then the final ‘Calzona’ scene will give some hope to those desperate for their romantic reunion. It's perfectly feasible that Penny will present Callie with a pair of one way tickets back to Seattle with a stinging rebuff. Though I can’t help but feel that Callie’s reaction mid hug was “thank God I can get laid now” in contrast to Arizona’s which was more “I think I might still have feelings”. Cynicism aside my first thought on seeing Arizona’s face was this “If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be.”


In what has to be a wonderful example of miserable fail when it comes to covering grief (as I explained in the review for “At Last”) we have one very short reference to Stephanie losing Kyle. And even then the scene is not about her, it is, as per usual, about Jo whining. Even when she’s failed Alex she still has a whine about it. We now know the big secrets that Jo is hiding from Alex. And they are very big. She’s married…to a bully…and is not using her real name. In a rare moment of empathy from me for Jo, I can see why she’s held back from Alex and this was ably demonstrated the moment Alex walked in and saw Andrew virtually on top of a drunken and giggling Jo. It’s easy to see why he saw red but also easy for us to imagine that if he’s willing to beat the hell out of one man for believing he’s bedding his girlfriend imagine what he will do to a man who physically abused his girlfriend and scared her into living a lie.

What does this mean for Season Thirteen Alex and Jo: Again, as with Maggie and Meredith, there is little to concern us over hiatus. We know all the cards so we know there will be resolution. This will be a problem in the build up to season thirteen because without mystery and unanswered questions there will be less of a crescendo to season premiere. Working through this problem will occupy these two characters for the first half of the season. I’m not sure if there is much the writers can do for me to consider myself a fan of Jolex but this is certainly a good start because it adds much needed depth to this very one dimensional character. I’m also imagining the husband might be killed with Alex up on a murder charge….ooh er….now that’s a storyline worth waiting for.

In other news Stephanie is sad but if there is grief or anger at Amelia we will have to wait for the fall out.

“Family Affair” was a heartfelt familial style episode. With the exception of the irritating editing cuts while Amelia was walking down the aisle it was well written and presented. Funny, endearing and satisfying it allowed us to see our favourite doctors working on each other and their relationships primarily over the sterility of patient care. I missed a big finish, a dramatic exit to build my anticipation for season thirteen but I can live with that. There is much to hope for in the new season.

Written prior to cast announcements.
Happy hiatus folks. I’ve ideas for a few one off articles and if life allows will post during the summer. Otherwise have fun and enjoy the Grey’s-drama-free months ahead.


Post Update - Friday am: Updated header picture - I guess this is the most pivotal scene in the episode though perhaps we didn't know it until the credits rolled. I must say Sara looks like she's had a good old cry in this scene.

About the Author - Brouhaha
Maxine (aka Brouhaha) is a fan of Grey’s Anatomy and writes episode reviews and occasional articles. Her other TV favourites include Foyle's War, Criminal Minds, Bones, TBBT, Broadchurch, Catastrophe and despite her better judgement Madam Secretary. In real life she's a mum, self-employed and can often be found arguing about politics or current affairs, attempting to write fiction and buying hair products. Got a question - go to Tumblr ask!
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