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Grey’s Anatomy – Don’t Let’s Start – Advance Review

Grey’s Anatomy fans biggest fear coming into the series’ 11th season seemed, rightfully so, to be how the absence of Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) would affect the show. Oh had been with the series since it’s pilot, appearing in all 200+ episodes since, and was arguably as important to the show’s success as leads Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek (Patrick Dempsey). But season 11 so far has been strong – stronger, even, than season 10 and certainly season 9. And the biggest issue with Grey’s in its current state isn’t a missing character but, rather, too many characters. “Don’t Let’s Start” is a great example of that: a good episode with compelling stories, some great character moments, humor, but too much (and not enough) going on.

Now, I know there are people who disagree. I read the comments on my posts, I get it – every character on the series has fans. And it’s not even that any single character at the moment is annoying me (I quite like the cast right now). Even worse, though, is the fact that there are just too many characters that I don’t care about at all. So when an episode as good as tonight’s comes along, I feel gypped when the interesting stories are cut short. I’ll give you a few peeks into tonight’s episode, which Canadian fans were lucky to view last night, and show you what I mean.

Meredith / Derek / Richard / Maggie:

I love the Meredith and Derek of it all this season. It’s great to see a couple fighting and struggling and not just breaking up. For several seasons now the writers have worked to take Meredith and Derek beyond the will-they-won’t-they of the series’ early years and make them an interesting and realistic couple. The fighting continues a bit tonight, but there are also some loving moments between the two which fans will appreciate. Derek suggests Meredith have Maggie over for dinner, and after witnessing an awkward moment between Meredith’s new half-sis and her father, Richard, Derek decides to also invite the former Chief for dinner. You can go ahead and guess how that goes over – with Meredith and Maggie – but it won’t be as fun as watching. Ellen Pompeo is doing great work this season and I only hope that we see more of her. I’ve said it a million times – Grey’s Anatomy works best when Meredith is playing a central role. The series always seems a bit unfocused when the majority of characters have no tie to her.

April and Jackson
The opening scene made me believe this might be an April-centric episode but that isn’t the case. I’m incredibly thankful for that because not only am I not a huge Kepner fan, but there have simply been too many character-centric episodes this season. I actually really enjoyed two of the three so far, Grey's tends to do them very well, but when every story stops and starts every couple of weeks, things start to feel totally disjointed. Case in point: I almost completely forgot that April is pregnant. Have they even mentioned it this season so far? Anyway, they do tonight as April’s mom shows up to try to help with all of the baby planning. Naturally April gets all neurotic and blows up and Jackson settles her down and everything is okay at the end. April and Jackson fans will like their scenes, I guess.

Callie and Arizona
The hospital is still unaware that Callie and Arizona have separated, despite the fact that Arizona is currently living in an on-call room. The two actually only share one scene and spend the rest of the episode dealing with their own cases, which is great – Callie has been a favorite of mine since she joined the series back in season 2 and Arizona has worked best apart from Callie as a character for some time. Callie essentially just deals with patient-of-the-week stuff in this episode, but Arizona’s story with Dr. Herman (Geena Davis) finally takes an interesting turn. I’ve been wondering how the hell they landed Davis for a part that, so far, has consisted of forgettable cameos and been-there-done-that side stories. But tonight her character takes an incredibly interesting turn that opens up huge possibilities for the rest of the season. I’m very excited to see Capshaw and Davis play this story out going forward.

The Rest of The Hospital

Jo works with Owen on a case that hits home for both of them – a war vet living out of her car is beaten and dragged, all of her possessions stolen. Alex has a few scenes with Arizona and one with Jo near the end of the episode that I could have done without, because like Callie and Arizona, I think Alex is better apart from Jo (and, probably coincidentally, the only time I found Jo interesting was when she worked in ortho with Callie.) She just doesn't do it for me, and Alex is such a great character that I wish he had someone better to play off of - his scenes with Meredith and Arizona are always great.

Elsewhere, Edwards gets one line tonight, “Copy that.” Jerrika Hinton is getting the easiest money on TV right now. Possibly ever. She’s been a series regular for over a year and has yet to be given a single interesting character arc. I know literally nothing about her. Amelia, meanwhile, doesn’t even appear this week, though it seems the next episode is a big one for her character. Bailey and Ben are given a remarkably boring D-story about Bailey wanting to eat right and get healthy… or something (You guys, remember when Bailey was funny and badass and one of the best written characters on TV?) And there again is my problem with the season – there are too many characters around and the writers don’t know how to balance them. They either forget about them or struggle to shoehorn them into episodes. As enjoyable as some of the stories are, they’re weighed down by the fact that they either get 5 minutes total of screentime per episode or are completely dropped for weeks at a time. Many scenes tonight feel like they’re getting cut off at the most interesting point, and then the characters aren’t seen again until we’ve checked in with the other 13 regulars for a few moments each.

I get that this is a problem that likely won't be changing any time soon - there are a number of bonuses to having as large of a cast as Grey's does, especially for the actors. But you have to imagine that some of them can't be pleased with showing up to read off exposition and a bit of medical jargon every week. There is so much that is potentially great about this season and so many unexplored stories waiting to be told, it's frustrating that the writers can't seem to just focus in on them.

Quotable Surgeons:

Richard: I'll bring dessert.
Meredith: Thanks. That'll be nice.


Maggie: I brought wine.
Richard: I'm an alcoholic...

"I come from a big family. It's crazy, it's messy, but it's good. And I want that for you, I want you to have that. She's your sister and he's practically your father. And Zola needs more black people in the family because I'm running out of ways to braid her hair and Bailey won't show me any more." - Derek

"Feels strange, doesn't it? To touch a baby before it's even born. You know what it feels like? Privilege. Great privilege." - Dr. Herman

"I traded my marriage for this job and it's pretty much all I have right now, so it has to work. I need it to work." - Arizona

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursday nights at 8 EST on ABC.
A full review of tonight's episode will be up following the show. For more on Grey's and all my SpoilerTV work, feel free to follow my Twitter account.

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