”Grey’s Anatomy”: A night to remember
You know what I realized for the first time last night? Grey’s Anatomy currently has too many characters.
I’ve been wondering lately why I don’t love season 3 as much as the first two seasons. (I mean, I love it, I love it, okay? But not, as a whole, like before.) I’ve stayed up late Thursday nights thinking about this show for months now, and I don’t know that I ever really pinned down what was nagging me about this season until tonight.
Too many characters. Back in the old days, the show was focused on a pack of interns, with counterpoint provided by Derek and Burke, alongside an occasional cymbal crash or two from Bailey. There was room for the whole gang, everybody had a regular showcase, the plots were easier to manage. Then came the Chief, Addison, Mark, Callie, even Ellis. Instead of that pretty redhead nurse who caught VD and then took a hike into the periphery, we started getting supporting players who stuck around for a while. Nothing wrong with that, we love ’em all, but it’s to the point now where almost nobody on the show really has the chance to consistently shine, because everybody’s elbowing everybody off the screen so everybody can have some face time.
Where’s Derek been this season? Aside from beating out the vet for Meredith’s hand and later plucking her out of the deep, hasn’t his role felt very significantly reduced? Medical malfeasance aside, has Cristina really done anything except lollygag over Burke since September? What’s Bailey been up to the last few episodes? She had one good speech tonight, yapping at Mark about not being able to focus on the future because she has to work in the ”right now,” but don’t we expect to see more of her these days, and aren’t we disappointed when we don’t? Mark had a great episode tonight — bumbling and funny, he aced his interview for the Chief’s job by stealing Bailey’s ”right now” idea — but his arc tonight didn’t make me think, ”Man, Mark had a great episode,” so much as it made me think, ”Why haven’t we heard more out of this guy since he came aboard as a regular?”
The one exception to this — and now I’m almost ready to talk specifics about what happened last night — is the ever-present Izzie, who suddenly feels like the representative heart of an uneven show. Izzie, at least lately, is the new Meredith. You love her or you hate her, but you can’t deny she’s the one character who’s getting all the big scenes nowadays. And everything that’s right and wrong about the show right now is reflected in her. Sometimes Izzie is spectacular; other times, as in that ”I believe” speech, she’s unbearable. But that fits with the show, which has been alternately spectacular and unbearable lately. Izzie is up and down the same way the show is up and down.
The night began with Izzie waking up and realizing that she’d slept with George. ”Wow, you and George were really going at it last night,” said Meredith in the kitchen — funny line, shocking even, but it turned out Meredith meant drinking! Nobody knew they slept together except Izzie; George, we learn upon his awakening, blacked out the entire hookup. Now, what’s great about Izzie — and what gets at the crux of what I’m trying to say about her and the show — is that she seems to have fallen in love with George somewhere along the road to morning. I would argue that this is highly, highly unlikely, and borderline ridiculous. To paraphrase George, he’s George, and she’s Izzie. It doesn’t make much sense, and yet Izzie redeemed the subplot, because her speeches were so well written, and (this is key) Katherine Heigl is a fantastic actress. ”Hours of our lives, many hours that are all I can think about,” Izzie wailed to George the next morning, ”and you seriously don’t remember?” The tears that dotted Heigl’s eyes for one shot before this outburst were an emotional highpoint of the show. No, this hookup doesn’t make much sense, but damned if Izzie and Heigl aren’t out to make you buy it.
Katherine Heigl had a bunch of great scenes tonight; she was alternately goofy and tragic as Izzie confessed her liaison to Addison, quizzed her fellow interns on the science of blacking out, and tried unsuccessfully to sidle up to George after he finally remembered what had happened the night before. At the end of the night she gave a speech to a girl named Nina, a dead ringer for a young Angela from The Office whose mother just died of statue disease, or some ailment like that. ”If you fall down, you won’t turn to stone,” said Izzie to Nina, but really to George. ”Messing up, it’s what makes a person.” After that, she wanted to tell Callie, but George said no way. So they’re keeping it a secret. I give it an episode and a half before it’s out, tops. Grey’s can’t resist drama like that.
So Heigl had another wild, ultimately stellar night, ably managing to go wherever the writers wanted to chuck Izzie. But everything else about the episode felt a little cursory. I dug Karev at the beginning of the season — still do — but I don’t see why he’s so drawn to Jane Doe; I think he might be a little too soft right now, poring over facial reconstructions with the disfigured pregnant lady. (The facial mock-up Karev named Elizabeth looked a little like Emily from the Dixie Chicks, didn’t it?) When Addison dropped in on him late in the night, the fire between them was so doused it was hard to remember that they’d almost hooked up, which made me wonder if Kate Walsh will have anything left to do on this show before she decamps for her own spin-off later this year. Burke, too, gave ominous rumblings about not wanting to go back to the way things were with the now-antsy Cristina; she wants to ”rewind,” while he wants to ”go forward.” She did seem to acquiesce at the end, as she laid out Cristina-ish conditions for their wedding, but this was the second week in a row where I worried that Isaiah Washington was not long for the cause. But, as I said above, this was the first week where I realized the show could use the extra room.
What do you think of my ”too many characters” theory, friends? And what else do you think about this episode? Will Derek’s worries that Meredith wanted to ”give up” when she nearly drowned go anywhere promising? Which guest star did you prefer — Michael Boatman as the guy who lost his foot or Hector Elizondo as Callie’s scary father? Do you agree they overdid George’s hangover makeup — dude looked like he had leprosy, right? And have you ever magically recalled something from the middle of a whiskey blackout the night before? (And if so, oooh, what was it?)