A gunman terrorizes Seattle Grace in the dramatic -- and wrenching -- season finale

Grey's Anatomy, Ellen Pompeo | GREYSCALE Pick you, choose you, love you, Meredith? You got it.
Credit: Danny Feld/ABC

Grey’s Anatomy sure knows how to bring the drama when it’s good and ready.

When Callie and Cristina had their ”stop crying”/”no, you stop crying” exchange at the beginning of the two-hour finale, they could’ve been talking to any of their viewers throughout the gripping episode. Shonda Rhimes and company had a lot to live up to, given last year’s epic George-is-the-dead-patient twist, and, well, they did a bang-up job. Such a bang-up job that I actually feel bad using cutesy shooting puns, as if this all really happened, as if there really were a shooter in Seattle Grace racking up massive casualties, as if there really were several people now dead at the hands of my insensitive wordplay. It felt real in every way, thanks to some stellar performances and writing. And yet it maintained its Grey’sness thanks to some quieter moments — yes, these people still manage to overanalyze their relationships even (especially) while on lock-down — and plenty of witty exchanges to boot.

Only Grey’s Anatomy could start an episode with the totally de-dramafied revelation that its central couple, once so on-again-off-again-tortured, was now expecting a baby. We even saw Meredith’s feet in the stall as she peed on the stick. And then she told Cristina (before getting around to telling Derek, of course) so nonchalantly that Cristina wasn’t even sure if it was good or bad or indifferent news: ”So are we happy about this or are we exercising our legal right to choose?” Meredith finally indicated that we were happy, so we cheered. ”This is very adult,” Cristina said. ”I’m very proud of you, Meredith Grey.” Then she added, ”Hey, I hope it has his hair.”

We met our patients, as usual: a kid had appendicitis, a guy got shot in a road-rage reaction to a car accident, Mandy Moore had a colostomy bag and needed a transfusion and was married to the guy who plays Busy Philips’ boyfriend on Cougartown. But then: The guy who tried to sue the hospital for pulling the plug on his wife showed up, looking foreboding and getting blown off everywhere he asked for directions to the chief’s office. And when Reed sneered at him, he shot her point blank in the head. Alex, too, got a bullet to the abdomen, then dragged himself into the elevator hoping to eventually be found.

Much dark-humor/ironic foreshadowing dialogue ensued while most of the hospital still didn’t know about the shooter in the building. Like Derek saying, after Meredith told him about a great head-injury surgery she’d gotten in on while he slaved over paperwork: ”I would love to have something jammed in my brain. That way I could see the inside of an OR.” And Cristina saying, upon learning that she’d be Meredith’s kid’s godmother and thus would get the kid if they died, ”I have to admit, I kind of hope you and Derek die, just a little bit.” Cristina and Owen slipped in a quick mid-surgery breakup when he couldn’t answer the question, ”Do you love her or do you love me?” Arizona and Callie bickered in the children’s ward. Cristina politely gave the gunman (whose weapon was concealed at the moment, obviously) directions to Derek’s office.

NEXT: The tracks of Mandy Moore’s tears

It wasn’t until April tripped on Reed’s body and then stumbled, blood-covered and shocked, to Derek’s office that the lockdown happened and word of the shooter started to spread. Some knew the reason for the lockdown, but most still didn’t. Arizona and Callie were forced to stay together in the children’s ward and tend to all the patients there despite limited staff and without, as Arizona put it, ”alarm[ing] the makers of the tiny humans.”

Cristina and Meredith scoffed at the directive, as is their wont. ”Whatever,” Cristina said. ”It means we can’t leave. I never leave anyway.” She went back to the gossip at hand — her breaking up with Owen, Meredith breaking news of her pregnancy to Derek. ”Was his world made whole because your womb is not empty and dry?” she asked. But Meredith told her she hadn’t told Derek yet; she was waiting for that night to make it ”special.” Cristina wisely noted that it wasn’t so special for Meredith to find out while squatting over a toilet seat, and Meredith agreed that she should just tell him at the hospital. Cristina wanted to come, too, so she could watch: ”I want to see the bitch baby tears.”

By now, however, the shooter was roaming the halls and firing at will while news spread (if not yet to Cristina and Meredith). Mark, after seeing him kill a nurse, sweetly tried to usher Lexie to safety — but then they found Alex bleeding on the floor of the elevator. They rushed him into a nearby room and started doing as much as they could to operate on him. ”I’m so incredibly pissed off right now,” Alex choked, true to form. The police and SWAT teams were pulling up to Seattle Grace. The Chief, who’s not really the chief anymore, had a poignant moment when, though on his day off, followed the emergency vehicles to see what was up and then approached an officer. ”I’m the Chief … I’m the former … this is my hospital,” he said before asking what was going on.

The gunman eventually ended up in Mandy Moore’s wing, where she was waiting for her cute husband to bring her back some pizza, and Bailey was checking on her. Mercy Wester Charles came in to warn them, and next thing they knew the shooter was approaching the room. Bailey covered Mandy Moore — that is, the patient she was playing, Mary — up with a blanket and told her to play dead. Bailey hid under the bed while Charles hid in the restroom. The shooter found Charles, though, and all we heard was him asking, ”Are you a surgeon?” Then, upon Charles’ affirmative answer, shooting him. Next the guy pulled Bailey out from under the bed and asked her the same question. In a perfect Grey’s Anatomy moment, Bailey had to choose: You know she wanted to proudly proclaim herself a surgeon, but to save her life, she drew, perhaps, on the one upside to being a black woman (in our still very racist, sexist society, that is) — the fact that some (gun-wielding jerks) might find it extra-believable that she was a nurse. He apologized: ”I’m sorry for the trouble, for the mess.” Then he left her to live — and to try to save Charles with Mary’s nerve-wracked help and the few supplies in the room. (I’ll take this moment to say I felt terrible for ever having cursed the Mercy Westers’ pointless existence. Again, the action felt so real that I felt terrifically guilty. Sorry, poor little Mercy Westers! I’m sure you were wonderful people in your rich, offscreen fictional lives.) Second perfect Grey’s Anatomy moment: Bailey asking, ”Where’s that water coming from?” And Mary explaining to her that those were her own tears.

NEXT: Always follow Oprah’s advice. Always.

Still oblivious to what was going on in the rest of the hospital, Arizona and Callie continued to have it out. ”I’m going to go the more traditional route of totally hating your guts,” Callie told Arizona when the latter suggested they be friendly. Eventually the sniping unearthed a deeper-seated problem — that Arizona didn’t trust Callie to stay true to her, what with all the men and women she’d fallen for over the past few years. Callie’s response: ”When are you going to forgive me for not being a good enough lesbian for you?”

After that ”lighthearted” break in the action, Cristina and Meredith finally found Derek — and before Meredith could tell him of her pregnancy, he steered them into a closet and told them about the shooter. He left them there, hidden away for safety, while he went to tend to things. It was there that Cristina spotted the gunman out the window — and realized he’d asked her for directions to Derek’s office earlier. The two went off to warn Derek, but they were too late. They watched as the gunman confronted Derek on the walkway bridge near Derek’s office. At first, Derek didn’t realize he was the shooter. ”It’s not safe,” he warned him. ”I know it’s not safe here,” the man replied, pulling out his gun. ”That’s the point. This hospital isn’t safe.” He went on, elaborating his motives as inspired by his euthanized wife: ”I let you decide she should die. I wasn’t a man then, but I’m a man now.” Derek tried to reason with him, invoking his own witnessing of his father’s death-by-mugging as a kid. ”You’re a good man,” he pleaded. ”I can see that in your eyes.” It almost looked like he’d persuaded the guy to drop his weapon, when April came running out of his office and ruined everything. The guy, spooked, shot Derek right in the chest.

April then gave us a lesson in confronting an attacker, suddenly spouting off personal details like she was reading her Facebook page aloud — her name, age, hometown, plus: ”I haven’t done anything yet. I haven’t lived yet… No one’s loved me yet… I’m someone’s child.” (She got the tip from Oprah. True story; I remember that episode.) He told her to run, and she did. Meredith wanted to run to Derek’s side, but Cristina wouldn’t let her: ”You’ll get killed, and I’m not going to let that happen. You’re going to have to go through me.” Well, she did. She knocked Cristina down and went to her husband, then gave us a good dose of Grey’s nostalgia in case we weren’t crying yet. ”I pick you, I choose you,” she gasped. ”You don’t get to die.”

NEXT: We all have big, sad, don’t-kill-McDreamy eyes

Alex offered his own near-death lesson. ”I’m telling you,” he said to Mark, ”you’ve got to eat more bacon and have more sex.” Lexie told Alex she loved him, and Mark winced, though it’s not clear how much she meant it versus whether she was telling him that because he was possibly dying — because they were soon having a delusional-state exchange in which he thought she was Izzy. Him: ”Izzy, I’m sorry, don’t go. … You came back for me, Izzy.” Lexie: ”I came back.” The feelings were now gushing full force all over the besieged hospital, as Callie comforted a pediatric patient by telling her, of Arizona, ”People feel so much better after she helps them. Sometimes people feel better when she just walks into the room.”

Bailey and Mary did some herculean work trying to drag Charles on a bloodied bedsheet to the elevator bank, only to find the elevators shut down. Bailey had a near-nervous breakdown — who could blame her? — before accepting Charles’ fate. ”Yes, Charles, you are dying,” she said when he asked, as she cradled his head in her lap. ”But Mary and I are going to be here. You are not alone.” (I never thought I’d cry during this guy’s death, but there I was, bawling. Props to the Grey’s writers and Chandra Wilson for that.) He asked the women to tell Reed he’d been in love with her. ”She knows,” Mary assured him. ”Girls always know.”

But the most intense action was culminating in the OR where Cristina was now faced with the moment that, in a sense, she’s been pining for: her first major solo cardio operation. Unfortunately, it would be on her best friend’s dying husband. On the day her best friend found out she was pregnant. While a gunman was still on the loose in the hospital. Not ideal. She, smartly, banned Meredith from the operating room and banished her to sitting on the floor, with April, in the scrub area. ”I can’t do this if you’re in there with your big, sad, don’t-kill-McDreamy eyes,” she explained. Good call, since we soon learned that the bullet was lodged near the aorta — as Cristina said, ”the hardest freakin’ repair in the history of the world.” As if the stakes weren’t quite high enough yet.

April and Meredith had a nice moment sitting on the ground together, April sniffling and Meredith stonefaced. ”It took me a long time to find him,” Meredith said. ”And even then it took me a long time to realize I wanted him… And now that I realized that he’s lying on a table in there and my best friend’s hands are inside his chest. You don’t get to cry.” April’s answer: ”Reed was my best friend. She died today.” Meredith silently took her hand.

NEXT: Saving our guys

Owen and Teddy, meanwhile, had been evacuated from the hospital by the advancing SWAT team and were safely outside with their patient. But when they discovered Cristina was still inside, he wanted to go back in. ”It’s okay to choose,” Teddy told him, and he was off. I was scared for him, though, because it would totally figure that he’d get shot trying to get back to Cristina. I was also scared for the Chief — sorry, I’m just going to call him the Chief, out of respect, for the rest of this recap — who’d now also gone inside. It would really figure that he’d get shot, what with the gunman actually wanting to kill him specifically and with it being his day off and him being sober, etc.

Owen got to the OR where Cristina was operating on Derek, and Kevin McKidd did some stellar acting as he interacted with April and Meredith, huddled on the floor, while he could see whatever was going on in the OR. Clearly something was wrong — he didn’t actually scrub in before entering the operating room, he was eerily calm. Somehow I didn’t see it coming that when he walked in, the shooter would be standing with a gun to Cristina’s head telling her, ”Let him lie there and die.” Cristina insisted on continuing to operate, which struck me as particularly heroic. Soon enough, Meredith figured out something was awry and walked in to offer herself up as his ”eye for an eye” since she was Derek’s wife. So to recap, we now had: Owen watching a guy hold a gun to the love of his life’s head; Cristina insisting on continuing to save her best friend’s husband with a gun nozzle in her face; and Meredith trying to sacrifice herself to save them all. While newly pregnant. Well, in the confusion, Owen made a move and the guy shot him. Then Jackson decided he’d had enough, and did something brilliant; he told Cristina to stop operating and put her hands up, and told the guy to just wait for Derek to flatline. A few seconds passed, and he did. Though I mostly figured it was a trick of some kind, part of me wondered if McDreamy might really be going out in a rare unleaked death plotline. But, thank goodness, no. The gunman left, Jackson reconnected the monitor wires, and Cristina went back to work, all business as she barked, ”Mer, is Owen dead?” Phew, he wasn’t, either. And even though Meredith was trying to talk more about what had just happened, Cristina said one of my favorite lines of the night: ”I can’t talk right now. I need to save your guy. Now please go try and save mine.”

NEXT: The Chief will always be The Chief

She did, of course, though she did it while having a miscarriage — again, leave it to Grey’s to make this the least dramatic, most underplayed storyline of the night. (Brilliantly so.) April asked what was wrong, as Meredith was clearly wincing. Meredith said it was nothing, and April noted the blood trickling down her leg. ”I’m having a miscarriage,” she said. And that was that.

Finally, the Chief found the shooter, and a showdown was at hand. A slightly politically charged showdown, that is. ”Did you know you can buy a gun at a superstore?” the gunman said. ”There’s a whole section right off aisle 8.” Ammo, he explained, was on sale, so he got a bunch, but then he couldn’t pack it all in his pockets because he also wanted to bring his flask of vodka. ”I left bullets home because I thought I’d need a drink,” he said. ”And the only reason I need a drink is because I don’t have enough bullets.” Turned out he had only one left. So he couldn’t shoot both the Chief and himself, as planned.

And the Chief delivered what, in lesser actors’ hands, could’ve been a fortune-cookie speech. But instead it was profound. He explained that he’d had a full life — good and bad, but full. ”Death, for me, is not justice,” he said. ”It’s the end of a beautiful journey.” Finally, the man was faced with the choice: the Chief or himself, life in prison or suicide. The camera panned away to the SWAT team moving in, and we heard a gunshot. For a second, I thought it would be a cliffhanger, but a few scenes later we saw the Chief shaking hands with the cop from outside the hospital.

We even got a wonderful, rare, passionate lesbian kiss to tie things up when Callie told Arizona, ”I don’t want to have kids if it means I can’t be with you.” And Arizona said, ”No, we’ll have kids. We’ll have all kinds of kids.” All was (sort of, mostly, at least when it came to major characters) well. And cliffhanger-free, which I kind-of appreciate.

”A hospital was my place, my sanctuary,” Meredith said in her opening voiceover. ”I love it here.” Somehow, a shooting rampage made us remember how much we do, too.

What did you think, Grey’s Watchers? How did this finale rank among Grey’s finales? Which part made you cry the most? Will Derek and Meredith get pregnant again? Will you miss any of the characters who died? Will Arizona and Callie stay together for good? Did Lexie really mean it when she told Alex she loved him? What will the consequences of all this be next season?

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Grey's Anatomy

Meredith. Alex. Bailey. The doctors are definitely in on Shonda Rhimes' hospital melodrama.

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