The episode where Derek died felt like a finale. The two-hour episode following that one felt like a finale—a series conclusion, even. But this? No, this felt like… well, a regular old episode. And that’s not what I expect out of a Grey’s Anatomy season finale.
This isn’t to say it was bad, because it wasn’t. The episode focused on romance more than anything, which was a nice change of pace in a way—it’s much easier to watch an hour of couples fighting over whether they should stay together than an hour of doctors fighting over whether to give a dying Derek a CT scan. And because of how stressful, how tragic the last few episodes have been, it makes sense that Shonda Rhimes and co. would want to end this season on a relatively hopeful note as if to say, I know I put you guys through hell, but it will get better. And it already is getting better for most of the Grey-Sloan crew.
Bad news first though: Jackson and April are on the rocks. Remember when she was, as Bailey puts it, “all pigtails and bunny rabbits”? Ever since she got back from serving in the Army, April has a newfound toughness to her—and a newfound desire to get back to the military. Jackson knows this, and he confronts her about it in an extremely supportive way. She admits that, yes, she does want to get on a plane and go back to the Middle East. “When we lost Samuel, a light went out in you,” he tells her. “And whatever it was over there, whatever it is, it got re-lit.” He’s happy she’s found it—but he also has limits.
They have this sweet conversation about how great it is that she’s found this new passion and how if she wants to go, she should go—and then Jackson kind of springs something on her: If she does decide to go, he doesn’t think he can be there when she returns. In shock? So is April, who argues that it’s only going to be a couple months. But we all know what happened last time you said that, April (if you, by chance, don’t know: She stayed much longer than two months).
Turns out Jackson’s been bottling up a lot of emotions the past year or so. While she went away and had what he calls a “life-altering journey,” he was stuck home trying to deal with the loss of their son all alone. To make matters worse, she didn’t ask him how he was, how he was coping. This seems to be a common problem on this show. Readers: Learn from April’s mistake and always ask those close to you how they’re doing. It’s not that hard, really.
April apologizes, but it’s too late at this point. Jackson has an idea of marriage, and that idea is that he and his wife will cope together and be together. But April left for months and months, and that didn’t happen. So now he’s stuck giving her an ultimatum: Leave and break up, or stay and make it work.
That second option doesn’t really seem to be an option though. He’s upset about her not being there for him, and that’s not magically going to fix itself if she stays—especially because she’ll likely feel some resentment that he made her choose between passion and love.
I didn’t used to like Jackson and April. I actually used to really, really dislike April. But over the seasons, I’ve come to appreciate their relationship and all its complications. I still feel no real attachment to them as a couple, but the idea of them ending does make me feel something. His disappointment makes sense—partners are supposed to be there for each other in sickness and in health and all that jazz—but her behavior makes sense, too. She needed to heal, and she found a way to do it. It’s just unfortunate that her way isn’t one that involves Jackson.
The episode doesn’t wrap up their story, and instead leaves us hanging: Will April stay or will she go? In happier news though, Alex and Jo are making some progress. They weren’t doing so well at first because she was upset about him letting Meredith and the kids move in, but then he saved the day with a romantic speech (okay, romantic by Karev’s standards, at least) that includes a line about how he wants to have “someday a dog, maybe” with Jo. Aww.
Later, Jo brings him to a loft—a rather grimy one—and says she’s used all her money to make an offer on it… and she wants him to pitch in, too. In other words: She wants to live in this loft with just Karev (and someday a dog, maybe?). And judging by the kiss they share following her proposal, he wants to live there with her, too.
NEXT: Webber and Catherine say “I do.”[pagebreak]
Webber and Catherine also start off arguing—what a surprise, right? It gets so bad that Catherine even takes off her engagement ring and puts it in his hand (in front of much of the hospital staff, no less). But a little later, Meredith finds them alone and points out that her husband is dead and that they’re alive so they need to figure their shit out. “Whatever it is that’s coming between you two, will you please just figure it out?” she pleads. “Figure it out.”
So they figure it out. They start making compromises and rules—one being that Catherine will be able to bring in an outside competitor to go up against Bailey for the role of Chief—in a discussion that is extremely business-like. That is, until Webber outlines his role in their relationship: “You need a place to not be Catherine Avery,” he says. “You need a place to fall apart. I will be that place should you require it.” Webber is no McDreamy (sorry, Richard), but, man, that line is swoon-worthy.
Apparently Catherine eventually takes back her engagement ring, because the next scene is them exchanging vows as everyone from the hospital watches on (don’t they have surgeries to do?). So that brings us to Meredith.
Meredith gives Amelia her old cell phone, which she says has one voicemail on it. “Make sure you’re alone when you listen to it,” she tells her. Amelia chooses to listen to it at the wedding reception, but she’s not alone—Owen comes in and sits next to her as they listen to the voicemail together. It’s Derek calling from a ferry, the last ferry ride he took before he died.
“It might be the most perfect ferryboat ride I’ve ever had in my entire life,” he says as the scene switches to a shot of him standing on that ferry, smiling into the phone. “I love you. I love our family … I’ll see you when I get home.” His whole monologue was too heavy-handed with the irony—okay, Grey’s, we get it, he didn’t make it home—but it was sweet to see him smiling one last (or at least, what I assume is one last) time.
And it made Amelia happy, which is enough to make me happy. “Are you okay?” Owen asks her (see, April, this is what you’re supposed to do!) and she responds with a tearful smile. She’s okay.
Meanwhile, Meredith’s outside with Maggie, who finally revealed what was happening on the other end of that phone call she got last week: Her parents are getting a divorce. She didn’t want to tell Meredith though because Meredith has much bigger problems—but Meredith essentially rolls her eyes at that. “Whatever it is, chances are, I’ve seen worse,” she says. “And I am qualified to tell you how you’ll survive. You should always come to me.” She’s got a point: If Meredith’s taught us anything over these 10 years, it’s that you can and you will survive.
Amelia joins them, and the three sisters admire what’s going on inside until Meredith drags them in to dance. And that’s how the episode ends: with Meredith, Amelia, and everyone else having a jolly good time as Meredith’s voice-over plays on. “People can be broken, sure,” she says. “But any surgeon knows, what’s broken can be mended.”
Meredith’s completely right—what’s broken can be mended. But this ending line doesn’t feel that satisfying because we didn’t get to see Meredith that broken. Her husband died, and yet we’ve barely seen her deal with it. If you’re going to kill off a major character, I want there to be purpose to that. I want it to affect the other major characters in big, life-changing ways. But right now, Derek’s death doesn’t feel like it had a purpose. It just feels like another plot point.
And maybe that’s the point of this all, that death doesn’t always have big, life-changing effects. That sometimes the only goal is to get through it. That would make sense in reality, but this is a fictional TV show and I want fictional drama—lots of it. But, alas, the season is over and this is what we got. And though I’m still not able to look at the show the same way since McDreamy’s death, I was able to get over my annoyance and appreciate that final moment between Mer, Maggie, and Amelia. At its core, Grey’s is about relationships—ones that persevere, ones that don’t—and it warms my heart to see Meredith finding strength in her relationships with friends and family right now. She might not be dark and twisty anymore, but she’s still Meredith. And that’s why, 10 years and plenty of frustration later, I (mostly) can’t wait for the 12th season to roll around.