ELLEN POMPEO, KELLY MCCREARY via ABC Press
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ offered an episode full of emotional support and it reminded us what we love and need the most from the show.
Grey’s Anatomy‘s 13th season has been a series of mostly downs. The narrative has since moved well beyond Alex’s (Justin Chambers) potential prison sentence but despite that things have somehow still gotten progressively worse.
When the show returned from hiatus everyone was fighting and that’s continued. April (Sarah Drew) and Jackson (Jesse Williams) managed to find some kind of peace in “Who is he (and what is he to you)?” (S13E16) but Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) and Owen (Kevin McKidd) have completely lost the ability to communicate even after she told him the truth about her first pregnancy. Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) went ahead and seized her own potential happiness in the with Minnick (Marika Dominczyk) but it mostly just made her look like a traitor and poor Webber (James Pickens Jr.) feels on the outs, though Bailey (Chandra Wilson) does get points for repeatedly trying to talk to him.
In short, the interpersonal relationships of Grey Sloan Memorial are at an all time low and aside from the whole thing just being hard to watch, it feels disingenuous to the characters. And then episode 18 aired and although everything was all kinds of awful it contained exactly what has been missing all season: emotional support.
There’s a reason earlier on when Amelia told Alex what happened to her son that the scene worked so well. It was two people who connected over undeniable and all-consuming grief. I still don’t understand why she can’t and won’t really accept the same from her husband but it worked.
In the same way it worked to see April encourage Jackson to confront his father. Episode 18 was meant to play on our emotions and I was prepared for that. Kelly McCreary gave an absolutely stunning performance (and yes it was Ellen Pompeo’s directorial debut too). The episode revolved around Maggie’s mother’s quick decline from inflammatory breast cancer and the helplessness Maggie felt as a doctor unable to heal her own mother. There were layers to every interaction that Maggie and Mer shared. The significance of Ellis as part of the voiceover since she is Maggie’s biological mother. And the way that played into Maggie and Mer’s interactions throughout the episode as things got worse.
When Maggie raged that Meredith just didn’t get it because she couldn’t just throw her mother down the drain, I felt shades of Ellis’ own criticisms of Mer and the often tumultuous relationships they shared. But what was striking about the whole moment was also Riggs. He witnessed Mer getting told off and he tried to offer her comfort. His very soft very thoughtful, “What can I do? What do you need?” might have been brushed off but instead of just giving up he went to the source. He let Maggie rage all her pain and when she was done he didn’t say anything he just hugged her. Later, Mer offered the best advice she could.
It wasn’t just that everyone showed up for Maggie. It was everything else. Bailey offering tissues to Webber despite his constant attempts to push her away. It was Amelia and Mer sitting in Diane’s (LaTanya Richardson Jackson) room after she passed with Maggie when her father arrived.
The scene that stuck with me the most though was the three sisters eating the lasagna. Not just because it mirrored an earlier scene but because it reminded me of every other time Grey’s Anatomy has taken those moments to honor the dead. It reminded me of Cristina’s proclamations that they would sit shiva for Denny or even when they did throw Ellis’ ashes down a drain.
Emotional support is a central and fundamental part of the show because these doctors are family. And when they separate them and nobody gets any help it does more than hurt the characters it hurts the show. I wouldn’t say I enjoy spending my Thursday night’s with an abundance of tissues nearby but I certainly don’t mind it when there is a sense of relief at the end. This is what this series is about! If only it could remember that all the time and not just when things go all dark and twisty.
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8/7c on ABC. Be sure to tune in!
What did you think of the most recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy? Was it better than other this season or just pure emotional manipulation? Share your thoughts about what’s bothering you the most in the comments!