Grey’s Anatomy recap: A reminder of why the show is still on after 15 years

GREY'S ANATOMY - "Silent All These Years" - (ABC/Eric McCandless)MICHELLE FORBES
GREY'S ANATOMY - "Silent All These Years" - (ABC/Eric McCandless)MICHELLE FORBES /

Grey’s Anatomy finally reveals Jo’s origins in a profound, powerful episode tackling the importance of consent. Debbie Allen directed the hour.

It’s pretty incredible that a show almost finished with its fifteenth season is capable of surprising with incredible depth and nuanced storytelling. Grey’s Anatomy tackles heavy subject matter in its newest episode as we find out the truth about where Jo Karev came from.

Michelle Forbes guest stars as Jo’s birth mother. We learned who she was a couple of episodes ago and Jo finally meets her face to face on this weeks episode, “Silent All These Years”.

In the fifteen year run of Grey’s Anatomy, they have never featured a focal storyline involving rape or sexual assault. There has been the odd patient here or there who is a victim but no main character has ever been raped in their storyline.

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I actually thought it was kind of strange, and refreshing, to have a show not use a tacky sexual assault storyline for views. Private Practice did feature a main character getting raped. I haven’t seen the show so I can’t comment on how it was handled, but I’m glad Grey’s Anatomy waited so long to get it right.

Too often, television, and film, use rape as a plot device, either to titillate audiences, to create a backstory for a woman, or to further a man’s storyline (how many times have we seen a male character motivated by revenge because a woman he loved was assaulted?)

It’s often exploitative and shown in graphic detail when it doesn’t need to be at all. Framing the assault on-screen often takes away from the victim, when the aftermath delivers a bigger impact.

This episode of Grey’s Anatomy delivers on multiple fronts. For starters, the episode is written and directed by women. Debbie Allen gets behind the camera for this special hour. The fact a woman penned the script and shot the episode, is immediately evident.

Grey's Anatomy
GREY’S ANATOMY – “Silent All These Years” – (ABC/Eric McCandless) KHALILAH JOI /

If the episode is, at times, slightly after-school special, it makes up for it with gifted performances. Khalilah Joi is phenomenal here as a patient who has been the victim of sexual assault. Jo feels a special connection to her because she has just come home from learning her mother was raped – and that’s how she was born.

We, as a society, talk a lot about abortion rights being tied to women who don’t have a say in how a child was conceived. But we don’t often talk about the kids who are born from violent circumstances. What is it like to live knowing your mother was raped? It is a brutal truth, an awful fact, and it’s one Jo will now have to figure out how to cope with.

She has distanced herself from Alex. It’s not because she doesn’t love him, the show makes it clear Jo’s pain is not something he can fully understand. Yes, men can be victims of sexual assault, and it’s an equally important conversation, but the culture surrounding women and assault is so ingrained into the fabric of our culture and political landscape, when the topic is about the female victims, it must be delivered and lead by women. The focus of this episode is about the grief and trauma so many women face and are forced to suffer with in silence.

I’m sure at some point, Jo will be able to talk to Alex, but for now, she can’t.

Grey's Anatomy

There is an extraordinary scene in the episode where Abby is taken to her surgery. Jo and Teddy round-up all the women in the hospital and they line the hallways for her progression to the operation room. Every woman can relate to Abby. Even if they haven’t been assaulted themselves, we all know what it’s like to exist as a woman in our society.

We have all experienced harassment from men, have directly been affected by the insidious values instilled by decades of living under a patriarchal regime, we are united by this implicit understanding, of knowing yes, this is what it is like to be a woman in America.

Abby’s reasoning for not wanting to do a rape kit is something all of us have considered at one time or another. Would you come forward? Everyone makes it sound so simple. In theory, it should be. But it never is.

You think of all the women who are dragged through the mud for speaking out. What were they wearing? Were they flirting? How much did they have to drink? It’s heartbreaking to know the amount of untested rape kits sitting out there. To know what should happen and what will happen are two entirely different things. I loved the amount of care and respect that went into telling the stories of these women this week. The moments of repetition where Abby had to say “yes” several times when getting examined was an excellent demonstration of consent.

Next. Grey's Anatomy: Top 5 moments from S15E18. dark

I commend Grey’s Anatomy for tackling this subject matter, for handling it with the dignity and grace it deserved. I hope it makes those people who are doubters and naysayers of the #MeToo movement reconsider, that it’s healing for survivors, and that it sets a precedent for other shows moving forward.

A new episode of Grey’s Anatomy titled, “The Whole Package”, premieres April 4th on ABC.