”Grey’s Anatomy”: A very special disaster
At last, 15 episodes into this season and this TV Watch, you and I might as well talk about the Super Bowl episode.
Not Sunday’s post-Super Bowl edition of Criminal Minds. Who cares about Criminal Minds? I’m talking about last year’s post-Super Bowl episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Who else here hated it? (Anyone? Everyone?) Of course it was a life-changing moment for the show — ABC programmed its sparkly little 2005 midseason replacement to run after the Steelers won last year, and billions and billions of people watched, and Grey’s has been a juggernaut ever since. But for me, somebody who’d been watching from the very first episode, that post-Super ep felt falsely dramatic, overcooked, and too eager to suck up to football fans who’d never seen the show before. Super Grey’s opened on our three leading ladies gratuitously TV naked in the shower; it closed an episode later with the literal explosion of a guy (hi, Kyle Chandler!) that nobody — on the show or off — really gave a second thought to; and it also featured many of our favorite bruiser characters all of a sudden acting nonsensically soft (you, pregnant Bailey, you!). Maybe it hooked the masses in, but here’s my beef: It was ambitiously dumb.
And so was last night’s first-of-three extra-special Grey’s.
This show is too good. It doesn’t need three-episode arcs where we drop everything snappy and human and sexy and frivolous in the soapy hospital so our docs can go out and incessantly save countless bleeders, burn victims, catatonic children, and men trapped under cars whose dripping blood artfully mixes with dripping water leaks. Isn’t that ER‘s bag? (It might not be, but I suspect it is, which is why I don’t watch ER.) I mean, ever since last week’s promo, was I the only one silently half-dreading the kickoff to this three-week ”Grey’s Anatomy Event”? In all the previews, we were promised a cataclysm large and terrifying, something that made the interns and Bailey drop their jaws and look up to the sky off screen, something equal to three weeks of our time. What could it be up there? Well, with hype like that, anything less than a vision of the sobbing Virgin Mary, or the spaceship from Close Encounters, or at the very least a burning Space Needle, would be a letdown. And what we finally got, just before the break in front of the opening credits, was a busted ferry that had been clipped by a container ship in the fog, smoking (under unconvincing F/X) like a volcano on Skull Island in 1933. That’s it?
Here’s why last night’s Super Plot was so bad: It made everything great about Grey’s feel stupid. The show gamely tried to throw a smidgen of the regular frothy Grey’s melodrama in, but that kind of stuff just doesn’t work as well when extras who we don’t really know or care about are dying by the boatload. Burke gets testy because Cristina is reluctant to tell anyone about their engagement? Who cares, Burke? A container ship just crashed into a ferry and legions are dead! The red ambulance raced to the scene in slow motion, it was that serious! Derek is wondering why he found Meredith hanging out under the water in her bathtub like a crazy person, and so he asks her, mid-triage by the docks, if maybe it means she wants to get married? Great, but look over there! Burned flesh is falling off the bone! Back at the hospital, Addison compliments the Chief on his attractive new dyed hair, and shares a story about how she went blond after Derek left her? And while you’re fluffing your curls for emphasis, Addison, a couple people just died. The way I see it, they might as well have set this episode in Darfur. A superserious plot that rampages all over the place and takes over the show just draws attention to how unsuperserious Grey’s can be at times, because it leaves no room for anything except superseriousness. A superserious medical plot works well when the stakes are intimate, like when Denny Duquette died and Izzie got torn up in an extra-meaningful way. A superserious plot works less well when countless people are dying left and right, and the doctors are still worrying about their hair, their relationships, and all the other lightweight stuff characters on this show often worry about.
Strangely, only 700 words into this TV Watch, I kind of feel like I’ve covered the big points of the episode (a first for me). A ferry crashed, everybody hurts, two more episodes of this to go. All right, so Karev rescued and then bonded with a purple-faced pregnant lady buried under a pylon, Izzie went back to being a doctor and tried to save the fella trapped under a car, and Meredith took charge of a little girl who then gaped like the blonde from Village of the Damned when, in the truly laughable final moments of this episode, Meredith and her black Converses got shoved into the harbor by the convulsing guy she was treating at dock’s edge. That was the cliff-hanger: Is Meredith dead? Did she drown? The preview for next week’s episode has her bobbing sleekly underwater, like Holly Hunter at the end of The Piano, while everyone wonders where Meredith went. High drama, surely. And by the end of episode 3 of this plot cycle, who knows? Maybe it will be astonishing, and I will be wet eyed and eating crow. (Especially if — note to producers — Bailey sings again, Cristina loses another baby, or the lovely and amazing Ellen Pompeo repeats that crack-y thing with her voice from last week.) But for now, I want my old, dear, un-super-sized Grey’s back.
So have at me, message boarders. Do you like me better when I like the episode? And do you like the episodes better when they are actually good? Are you as anxious as I am to get back to business as usual at this nutty hospital? My favorite line was when cheery doc Sydney said, ”I’m a competitor, grrr!” — was it yours? And this is random, but what is that picture on Cristina’s locker that we saw in close-up at the beginning of the ep — it looked like a lady in a black dress collapsed on a piano bench in somebody’s living room. What was that from? Something I don’t remember?