Callie and Maggie fight bullying while Meredith fights with her sister-in-law.

Credit: Richard Cartwright/ABC

Take a deep breath. Just kidding, you don’t really need to, because that episode was fun.

Okay, okay, it wasn’t a complete blast: That intolerant mom was a total bummer, and poor Jackson can’t escape questions about April. But other than that? Grey’s Anatomy returned to its (relatively) lighthearted roots in tonight’s season 12 (12!) premiere.

Let’s start with Meredith, because if there’s anyone we’ve worried about in the months since last season, it’s her. That season ended with the grieving Meredith dancing it out at Richard and Catherine’s wedding in a rare-but-beautiful moment of joy, although we all knew the pain she was struggling with. You don’t lose someone like Derek Shepherd — hell, you don’t lose anyone — and just get over it overnight.

Judging by this episode though, Meredith is doing pretty okay. She’s living with Maggie and Amelia, a set-up that’s causing some humorous bickering, and keeping busy at work (while wearing Derek’s ferryboat scrub cap, of course). One question though: Where are her kids?

For example, the episode opens with Meredith stumbling through a hallway filled with toys into the living room, where Amelia is hammering a hole in the living room wall. Apparently this was an idea she and Meredith talked about rather enthusiastically at an earlier time. Only problem was that Meredith was drunk on tequila during the conversation and Amelia was completely sober — and sober Meredith doesn’t exactly agree with wasted Meredith’s great plans.

Back to her kids: Wouldn’t they wake up to the sound of someone banging on a wall? Like, that is loud! Kids are sensitive to noise! Last season’s hashtag was #WhereIsDerek, maybe this one’s should be #WhereAreTheKids.

Anyway, Meredith’s roommate struggles are baby-issues compared to the death of her husband, so the world of Grey’s already feels a whole lot lighter right from the start. The case of the week makes it a bit heavier though: Two teenagers tried to kill themselves by standing in front of a moving train. The reason? They’re in love, and thought dying together was the only way to be together forever without conservative parents crashing their party.

It’d be easy to dismiss this reasoning with a sigh and mumbling, “Teens, right?” But they’re not just silly, naive teens. They’re struggling humans who don’t see a way out, don’t see a way to be who they really are. A major part of this is that Jess’ — one-half of the couple — parents are trying to send her to one of those camps that attempts to “turn” gay teens heterosexual. As Callie rightfully points out, those camps are “tantamount to child abuse.” But Jess’ mom doesn’t want to hear it.

After talking to Jess and hearing about her parents’ plan, Callie tries her best to talk to the mom. Long story short, the conversation doesn’t go so well: The mom wants Callie to focus on physically saving Jess, and only that. So Callie goes back to the OR and focuses on the surgery, along with Maggie and Karev. The three eventually end up talking about how bullies are the worst, but it turns out Karev and Callie were both bullies in their own ways. Maggie can’t quite relate, because kids used to call her “little maggot” thanks to her age, size, and lisp. Things get real dark real fast, but it’s good to hear more about Maggie’s life pre-Grey Sloan Memorial.

NEXT: Maggie tries her hand — literally — at confronting the bully.

Following the surgery — and the talk — Maggie tries out a new method for dealing with bullies: She clocks Jess’ mom in the face during an especially aggravating moment, a move that earns her high fives from Arizona and all-around accolades from her co-workers. Although Maggie did what many viewers probably wanted to reach through the screen and do themselves, it sadly doesn’t have any effect on Jess’ mom. Jess’ mom is incredibly resistant to any other perspectives but her own — luckily for Jess though, her husband is more open.

Jess’ dad proves how much he loves his daughter in a sweet, emotional moment with the other girl’s dad, who’s raising her alone after his wife died. They show each other pictures of their daughters, and it ends up giving Jess’ dad a new outlook on the whole situation (but, to be honest, he never seemed sold on his wife’s attitude in the first place). Later on, Maggie apologizes to the mom, who says she’s going to sue her and everyone else at the hospital. Jess’ dad takes that opportunity to speak up — really speak up.

“This stops now,” he says, “or I am gone and I will take Jess with me … I don’t care if she’s gay. I care if she’s loved. I care if she’s happy, and that’s what you should care about. What is wrong with you that you don’t?” Jess is wheeled at around this point and throws a weak smile her dad’s way before he rushes to her side. Dads, man. Dads are great. (Don’t worry, moms, you’re also great — just not this one.)

People who are also great: Callie, for standing up for Jess (did I mention she also called Child Protective Services?). Maggie, for attempting to stand up for Jess, and then being classy and apologizing for the slap. Karev, for reforming his bully ways. And Maggie, once again, for trying to mend Meredith and Amelia’s relationship.

Owen drops Amelia off at the house and mid-kiss (swoon), Maggie yanks open the door and pulls Amelia inside for an intervention. And surprisingly, it works. Amelia apologizes for the wall, and Meredith… well, here’s what she says: “I don’t totally like you. But I don’t have to because you’re family. I love you.” Kind of harsh, but also kind of sweet. And that’s all they needed: Meredith grabs the sledgehammer and knocks into the wall (again, #WhereAreTheKids?!) before the rest take turns in a gleeful moment similar to the one that closed out last season. If this episode is any indication, the rest of this season is going to be filled with tense-then-heartwarming sister moments like these — and that’s good news.

NEXT: April comes home.

In not-so-good news, turns out April left. To refresh: Last season ended with Jackson telling her she could either stay and figure it out with him, or leave and break up. So now she’s back in Seattle, but she left, and judging by their one interaction in the episode, Jackson made good on that threat to break up. He’s sleeping in the on-call room so she doesn’t have to face him at their home, but she had the same idea and also shows up in the on-call room. They go on to have an uncomfortable conversation that ends with Kepner saying, “I really want to talk, Jackson” and Jackson responding, simply, “Goodnight.” Not exactly a response that screams, “Yes, let’s spill all our feelings to each other tomorrow!”

The silver lining of Derek dying last season though is that most of these dilemmas seem downright trivial compared to that. April and Jackson might break up, sure, but they’re alive. Meredith and Amelia have some issues, sure, but they’re alive. And having trivial issues isn’t a bad thing, even for a drama like Grey’s Anatomy: We needed a break from the overwhelming heaviness of last season, and this episode largely granted it to us.

Last season before Derek died, he told Meredith how much he wanted to be with her and she responded by saying, “I can live without you. But I don’t want to.” That sentiment applies to the show itself: We’ll all always miss Derek — and George, and Izzie, and Cristina, and Burke, and… you get it — but this episode proved that, like Meredith said, we can live without him. Life continues on death, and so does television. So welcome back, Grey‘s, and thanks for reminding us that life does indeed go on — annoying sisters-in-law and all.


  • Catherine’s candidate for chief is a perky, super-smart blonde — and she intimidates the hell out of Bailey. After a pep talk from Ben though, Bailey decides not to back down and even uses her time in the OR to practice a speech about how she deserves the job. It’s a powerful speech, made even more powerful by how similar the circumstances are to that time Burke told Addison what his wedding vows to Cristina were going to be mid-surgery. (Miss you, Burke. And Cristina. And Addison.)
  • In an uncharacteristically tender moment, Karev admits to Jo that he was bullied for being overweight when he was younger. Sensitive Alex is the best Alex.
  • The best line of the night goes to Meredith, who, during a conversation with Amelia about the whole wall thing, says, “That sounds like something tequila would say.” TV’s greatest relationship: Mer and tequila.
  • Arizona’s looking for a roommate, but no one wants to live with her because, as Edwards explains, “You are kind of a legend.” That is, until a cute — so cute — intern volunteers.
  • Good for Grey’s for tackling bullies, and good for them for doing it right in the beginning of the season. Sometimes cases of the week can be, well, weak, but this one was affecting and relevant. Plus, seeing Maggie get out her inner schoolyard bully was so, so satisfying.

Episode Recaps

Grey's Anatomy

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

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  • 18
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  • Shonda Rhimes
  • ABC
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