Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! Following last Thursday’s completion of the first twelve episodes of the tenth season of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, I’ve decided that it’s time to take a moment and share my thoughts on what has been referred to as “10A.” (This is because ABC decided to split the season into two equal halves. The second half will resume in late February and play until May.) I’m posting my initial episodic thoughts — written immediately after viewing each installment — followed by an overall discussion on 10A as a whole.
10×01: “Seal Our Fate” (Aired: 09/26/13)
Written by Joan Rater | Directed by Rob Corn
A giant mudslide in Seattle injures a group of first responders and citizens, causing the already shorthanded ER to spring into action. Meanwhile, Meredith is faced with a tough decision that will affect the life of a loved one, Callie is rocked by the reality of Arizona’s infidelity, and Richard’s life is in extreme danger.
Read my thoughts on the premiere here.
10×02: “I Want You With Me” (Aired: 09/26/13)
Written by Debora Cahn | Directed by Chandra Wilson
The fight continues to save those affected by the storm, Callie makes a bold decision regarding her relationship, and the doctors come together upon receiving devastating news.
Read my thoughts on the premiere here.
10×03: “Everybody’s Crying Mercy” (Aired: 10/03/13)
Written by Tia Napolitano | Directed by Tony Phelan
Meredith and Derek adjust to life at home with a newborn but find it difficulty being away from the hospital; Arizona tries to takes steps to fix her broken marriage; Alex and Jo navigate through their new relationship; and Owen clashes with Jackson over financial issues at the hospital. Meanwhile, April anxiously awaits her boards results.
Solid GREY’S episode. Again, I loved that the episode ended with Meredith and her family (a.k.a. Richard) drama. But didn’t his behavior seem contradictory to his narration at the end of the previous episode? I like the content, but just didn’t think it jived with last week. (Though I suppose we could argue from where and when Richard’s narration was coming.) In other notes, I’m liking the Callie/Arizona drama. Hope it lasts all year. And Owen needs to separate from Cristina for good just so he can get more likable. He’s been cringeworthy for close to five seasons. Looking forward to next week — seems like they’ve been doing a better job of putting the Grey back in GREY’S ANATOMY.
10×04: “Puttin’ On The Ritz” (Aired: 10/10/13)
Written by Austin Guzman | Directed by Rob Corn
The doctors of Grey Sloan Memorial throw a fundraising gala which turns wildly competitive after Jackson makes a rash promise. Back at the hospital, Bailey’s patience is tested when she has to deal with several extremely difficult patients. Meanwhile, Shane and Stephanie handle an incredibly busy ER by themselves and Alex reveals an emotional secret to Jo.
I thought the 200th episode of GREY’S tried too hard to be special. Some nice bits; mostly predictable and/or set-up stuff, but they were generally well done. I think the episode would have been more effective if they’d stuck to the traditional GREY’S formula. Maybe I had my expectations a little higher than normal since we’d had three good hours to start the season, but this one didn’t make the grade for me. The preview for next week looks outstanding however — putting Meredith and Cristina in conflict (for the first time since Season Five) over something LEGITIMATE is exactly the kind of drama this series needs. Rest assured I’ll lower my expectations before next week though. That’s the key to satisfaction with this series.
10×05: “I Bet It Stung” (Aired: 10/17/13)
Written by Jeannine Renshaw | Directed by Mark Jackson
Meredith jumps back into work but finds it hard to excel at both motherhood and being a surgeon. Stephanie tries to make a good impression on Jackson’s mom, and Jo finds herself overly involved with her new patient. Meanwhile, Callie and Owen deal with an emotional situation regarding a patient.
Very solid GREY’S episode tonight. Issues were explored that cut directly to the series’ thematic roots. With genuine comedy, motivated dialogue, and well-plotted stories, this was the best episode they’ve produced in a long time.
10×06: “Map Of You” (10/24/13)
Written by William Harper | Directed by David Greenspan
Derek and Callie work on a brain mapping project, Richard encourages the interns to use his physical condition as a learning tool and after a discussion with Callie, Meredith considers continuing her mother’s research. Meanwhile, Shane continues to feel guilty about Heather’s death.
Tonight’s GREY’S episode was hit and miss for me. I liked the stylized editing and the structure. For once, I was on board with all of the medical cases and found them interesting. But the doctors’ interactions felt largely unmotivated: Meredith/Cristina, Alex and his dad, Derek/Meredith, etc. It was a very manipulative episode in terms of setting up future arcs, and the storytelling lacked nuance. I liked some things that happened — Meredith choosing research, Richard teaching Jo, Arizona and Leah — but otherwise… this episode didn’t work as well as it should have.
10×07: “Thriller” (10/31/13)
Written by Gabriel Llanas | Directed by Cherie Nowlan
It’s Halloween and the doctors of Grey Sloan Memorial are hit with a barrage of spooky patients, which affects their own plans and puts one doctor’s well-being in jeopardy. Meanwhile, Derek collaborates with Ben on a new surgical technique, and Richard angers Bailey when he asks a second year resident to perform his next surgery.
Disappointing GREY’S episode tonight. Holiday shows are usually gimmicky and this one was no exception. The few moments of genuine human interaction were marred by an overbearing and overwrought mood. It wasn’t as good as it should have been. No subtlety, no finesse.
10×08: “Two Against One” (11/07/13)
Written by Meg Marinis | Directed by Kevin McKidd
The issues between Meredith and Cristina hit a boiling point when one of them ultimately betrays the other at the hospital. Derek tells Jackson that he needs to let go and allow the second year doctors to work on his patients, and April and Matthew make a bold decision about their relationship. Meanwhile, Bailey has difficulties with Ben’s return.
I was on board with the majority of the storylines. Per usual, I didn’t care for Bailey, but this time my qualms are larger than ever — taking her into another and potentially more serious melodramatic storyline is not good for the character or the actress. Just… cringeworthy. Speaking of cringeworthy, April continues to be insufferable, but Drew is actually an incredibly gifted actress. On the other hand, I still think Shane is annoying, and the actor isn’t doing anything to make him more likable. Things that I specifically liked this week included: CJ and Richard (glad he’s finally getting his bum out of bed), the final scene between Owen and his new love interest, and the lack of Arizona’s bull (she didn’t come on as strong as she has been lately).
Now, the part that has me conflicted… I LOVE the drama between Meredith and Cristina. Not only does it give the show’s two most important characters a meaty storyline to play, but this is also a more organic and fundamental conflict than their previous one in Season Five. I also liked that Alex was roped into it this week — the clash between Meredith and Alex in the OR played great. And of course we knew Cristina was going to go ahead and use the printer anyway. That’s all fine. The problem is Meredith. And, if you’ve read my posts before, you’ll know that I adore the character and am absolutely certain that THE SHOW FUNCTIONS BEST WHEN SHE IS IN THE CENTER. (So, from a construction standpoint, this was a successful episode.) I also love when lead characters are presented as being in the wrong, as Meredith was tonight — it makes them more dimensional. But it doesn’t quite work here with Mer as well as it should because the character has received so little development over the past few seasons. So the effect isn’t nearly as powerful as it could have been seasons ago when she was consistently handed material that allowed for a complex characterization. The representation here feels a bit hollow.
And while I’m grateful that she show seems to be doing a better job of integrating her into the stories, and keeping her active and focused, the show’s longtime inability to write for the character is still menacing the series — even when they ARE writing for the character and giving her meaty stuff to play. It’s almost a Catch-22, but I’m certain with writers of a higher caliber, it could be pulled off more efficiently and effectively.
10×09: “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” (11/14/13)
Written by Stacy McKee | Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
When an unexpected malpractice suit turns Callie’s world upside down, her supportive father arrives and shares an interesting secret with her. Meanwhile, through flashbacks, we learn some surprising details about Callie and Arizona’s marriage.
This episode was successful because it was focused. One of the reasons this series’ storytelling skills have declined is because there are so many characters and so many plots going in one single episode. Focusing 10×09 on Callie, one of my favorite characters played by one of the show’s best actresses, allowed for a cohesion that this show rarely sees anymore. As an episode alone, it was excellent. Everyone was good and the guests were well cast.
In the course of the season, it was disrupting and perhaps gratuitous. I say this because this isn’t Season One anymore, when the show was all about Meredith; every single member of the cast gets something to do every week now. So while I understand maybe not seeing the patient before, the Callie/Arizona house & baby stuff is a story that we most certainly would have seen. Slapping it into this episode is an insult to the audience, because we know the writers did NOT know anything about this during last season’s finale. It’s a cheat to include this here. While those scenes were well acted and scripted, they’re a hallmark of gimmicky GREY’S, desperately trying to manipulate emotions with labored stunts. I understand the need to include something “personal” in the flashbacks beside the patient stuff, but the scenes we got were out of left field. The above marred an otherwise outstanding installment.
10×10: “Somebody That I Used To Know” (11/21/13)
Written by Debora Cahn | Directed by Debbie Allen
Ben worries that a casual conversation with Derek could potentially cause issues for Bailey, Cristina turns to Shane as tension grows with Meredith, and April’s upcoming wedding makes for an uncomfortable situation between Jackson and Stephanie. Meanwhile, Meredith plans a Thanksgiving dinner at her house.
Deeply flawed episode. Nuggets of goodness in the Meredith/Cristina, Callie/Arizona, and April/Jackson scenes but they were each overshadowed by unmotivated behaviors and overblown underscoring. Bailey’s storyline is insufferable, Cristina/Shane are ridiculous, and there were several scenes that just felt unnecessary. I liked Alex/Jo’s moment, and Owen’s new squeeze cooking Thanksgiving at Meredith’s is surprisingly hilarious. I LOVE the Meredith/Cristina drama, and I liked Alex’s involvement, but Shane is irksome and, on the whole, the story isn’t working as well as it should. Deeply flawed episode.
10×11: “Man On The Moon” (12/05/13)
April’s sisters arrive to help celebrate April’s upcoming nuptials and quickly get on her nerves. Matthew and Jackson are forced to work together when they witness a terrible accident, Callie and Arizona work hard to reestablish their relationship and Cristina is pressured to live stream an upcoming surgery. Meanwhile, a familiar face returns to the hospital.
Written by Elizabeth J.B. Klaviter | Directed by Bobby Roth
Medical cases were all fairly engrossing, and the Derek/Callie storyline was the best. Though the Meredith/Cristina rift has been fairly inorganic in past episodes, I thought it was well handled here, and I LOVE that both are getting a juicy storyline. I detest that Cristina and Shane are now an item — he’s insufferable. Not surprised that her patient lived and Meredith’s died. Meanwhile, the entire April/Jackson/Matthew storyline has gone on for too long, and her sisters were beyond trite. It was almost cathartic to see her reject them in favor of her fellow surgeons. I knew that Alex’s dad was going to come back — and I’m praying that the second half of the story provides some satisfying and well-written drama. Bailey’s scenes weren’t the worst thing about this episode, and she was much better here than she has been in previous weeks. Wish the Winter finale wasn’t hinged on an annoying character like April, but I’ll be glad when these first 12 episodes are behind us.
10×12: “Get Up, Stand Up” (12/12/13)
On the day of April’s wedding, the Grey Sloan Memorial doctors are all preoccupied with their own drama. Meredith and Cristina continue to argue about their research and careers, Bailey comes clean to Ben about her feelings regarding him moving back to Seattle, and Shane puts himself in a risky situation. Meanwhile, Derek gets a phone call that will change his life.
Written by William Harper | Directed by Tony Phelan
Was all set to despise this episode, but in general, everything worked. (That maybe isn’t saying much, though.) The Shane going crazy and Jackson stopping April’s wedding cliffhangers were boring and unoriginal — but at least they didn’t come out of left field. Now the Derek phone call thing? Left field. (Cue eye roll for triteness.) The only things that were dramatically satisfying about the end of this episode were the Meredith/Cristina detente, Arizona’s sudden self-awareness, and the death of Alex’s dad (which hopefully will provide some genuine drama). But the dialogue was more truthful and self-aware than in the majority of episodes this season, and while nothing was stellar, it was a mark above the usual Season Ten fare. I actually liked Bailey tonight, and nobody was insufferable (save Shane). All in all, this was a functional end to the first half of the season, returning things to a slightly higher quality, but still maintaining the pervasive inadequacies that we’ve come to anticipate with Grey’s .
The season began with such promise, and despite a lackluster 200th episode, I remained hopeful during the first half of 10A. Things really went downhill starting with the unbearably bad Halloween episode, 10×07: “Thriller,” and aside from a well-made (but flawed) Callie-centric episode, the rest of the season followed suit — with ill-plotted stories and out-of-character doctors. You can read my initial thoughts for each episode above, but I want to organize the rest of this post by highlighting various stories.
Meredith’s fight with Cristina: I love that these two are getting a meaty storyline. I love that these two are in conflict that’s not the product of relationship drama. I’ve been hoping they would butt heads for a while, because the last time — the only time they really fought — was in Season Five. (And that storyline was so ill-conceived that it might as well be forgotten.) What was attractive to me about their falling out in Season Ten was that it seemed to come from a much realer place: Meredith and Cristina are on different paths. The problem with this storyline wasn’t its premise, but rather, the way in which the writers chose to handle it. It seems like the storytellers have NO idea how to write an ongoing fight between two characters without making one look better than the other. I mean, never during the Meredith/Cristina fight were both of their motivations equally justified. Either Cristina was looking really arrogant (and making out with the reprehensible Shane) or Meredith was jealously scowling. Part of this has to do with the differences in the actress’ capabilities; Oh is much better than the “phone-it-in” Pompeo, whom, I must add, I still think is integral to the show and should CONSTANTLY BE GIVEN LOTS TO DO. (I just wish the actress cared a little but more about her craft.)
Their storyline started out so interesting and gradually got muddier and muddier as the weeks went on. Adding Shane into the mix didn’t help, but the few times in which Alex was involved — 10×08 — the conflict really came to life, centering the series back on the Season One interns. I do want to commend the writers on one thing: throughout the Meredith/Cristina fight, they never really STOPPED all communication. They would still talk a little bit. This shows progress from how they behaved in Season Five. Unfortunately, both women were totally out-of-chartacter, but I appreciated what I’ll generously call a “nuance” to the storyline. Fortunately, in 10×12, Meredith and Cristina finally began having the necessary conversations that they SHOULD have had around 10×08. Though the dialogue wasn’t particularly riveting, it was at least cathartic to finally see them address the obvious issues. It could have been handled better, but at least it was handled. I liked the story, wish it was written better.
Alex, Jo, and Jimmy: Jo is still bland, but she’s not irritating. I’m glad that Alex’s conflict this season, like the above, came from OUTSIDE of the relationship. It’s so refreshing. As for the handing of the father storyline, the scene in which he confronted his Dad in the bar didn’t play well for me, and I was disappointed, even though I knew he’d be coming back to conclude the storyline. His return WAS well-handled, and I enjoyed their interactions in 10×12. I was surprised to see Jimmy die so soon, and though part of me thinks there was more to play between the two, if his death sees the arrival of other family members, then I smell the potential for more juicy drama. And that appeals to me.
Shane: I thought it was dumb to kill off Heather, and while I’m partially glad that the series committed to playing that story out through Shane’s guilt, I still find the whole affair ill-conceived. So I really am not interested. He was obnoxious from day one, but this season he’s been obnoxious and rude. Waste of time, and I was so glad to see Cristina tell him off in 10×12.
Derek and his research: The whole “I’ll take a back seat this year” story felt like a way to explain Dempsey’s possibly diminishing screen time. However, to my great surprise, the research story he’s got going on with Callie has been giving him consistently more to do than he’s had in probably two seasons. So I’m pleased with that — especially since their medical cases are among the more interesting. Now, as for 10×12 and the president phone call: trite, over-the-top. Is this going to be the way that they diminish Dempsey’s screen time (which always shrinks in the second half of the year because of racing)? He’s another “phone-it-in” actor, so while it dramatically doesn’t matter if he’s around, the show structurally benefits from and needs him.
Richard: I’ve always liked this character, even though he’s been inconsistently written. Aside from snapping at Meredith for no good reason in 10×03, I think he’s been fairly consistent this year. I was getting tired of him as a patient though, so I’m glad he’s back to work.
Bailey, Ben, and her OCD: Bailey’s character has gotten whinier and more annoying with each passing season. It’s really unfortunate, since the Nazi used to be (along with McDreamy and McSteamy) one of the series’ hallmarks. The boring Ben quit being a surgeon to come back and be an anesthesiologist, and the drama that could have come from that was instead parlayed into a story about Bailey having OCD. Okay, I don’t think this is a bad storyline. In fact, I think it makes sense given what her character went through last season. However, Wilson plays it so melodramatically that watching her scenes are tiring and cringeworthy. But, like most of the poorly rendered stories from 10A, the Fall finale brought things back on track. Bailey was logical, healthy, and had an adult conversation with her husband. Only took six episodes.
Owen and his new gal: At first it seemed like the Owen/Cristina residue was going to take up a large portion of the season, but it apparently lasted only until the 200th episode when Owen literally fell for the first person he met. Now, Owen and Cristina act almost as if they were never together. It’s very odd. Emma is bland, but so is Owen now. Other than being Chief of Surgery, does he even serve a purpose?
April, Jackson, Stephanie, and Matthew: The writers have obviously decided to set April and Jackson up as the “will they/won’t they” couple to fill the void left by the committed Meredith and Derek, and the departed Mark and Lexie. Fortunately, Rhimes has learned from past mistakes and is dragging out their reunion for as long as possible. But, unless one of them dies in a plane crash, we KNOW they’ll be together eventually. So the relationships with Matthew and Stephanie are time-fillers. Plain and simple. Now, I think that it would be dramatically interesting if April DID marry Matthew, especially since it seemed like she really wanted to. Of course, now Jackson and Stephanie are over, but does anyone really care? Not that Stephanie’s uninteresting, but she just doesn’t have a purpose outside being Jackson’s placeholder. Drew is a great actress, and though her character is obnoxious half the time, I can finally say that I appreciate her presence on the show.
Callie, Arizona (and Leah) : I’ll try to be as brief about this as I can. Callie was written divinely this year. The writers have found a superb way of reconciling the later seasons Callie with the early seasons Callie, and Ramirez is acting the heck out of it. Everything she does is given clear motivation, she elevates her dialogue, and she even makes Capshaw look good. The episode all about Callie was, aside from the writing, a highlight of the season. Arizona, on the other hand, has spent 11 of the 12 episodes not dealing with her issues. She finally shows some growth during her (actually hilarious) conversation with April in 10×12, but let’s be clear: Arizona is still not apologetic. And I want her and Callie to separate for more time, so Arizona can actually make peace with her amputation. It’s been 36 episodes. Arizona’s thing with Leah? Well, that character is crazy, but the actress somehow manages to ground her. Still, I wish they’d find Leah something better to do. Maybe she’d make Owen more interesting?
In summation, the first half of Season Ten wasn’t as good as it should have been. It started strong, had a few (scarce) highlights in the middle, and then ended adequately. Will the second half of the season be better? Judging from the series’ track record, no. But don’t give up hope just yet — the series has all the ingredients for success. It’s up to the writers to utilize them properly and deliver us the goods.
Come back next Wednesday for a whole new Wildcard post! And tune in tomorrow for more Xena!