Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! Last Thursday, a million young females (mostly aged 18-34) squealed with delight at the return of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, which returned from a ten-week hiatus with the first of twelve new episodes (labeled by Rhimes and company as 10B) that will air uninterrupted for twelve consecutive weeks. When I first heard of ABC’s idea to split the season into two equal halves, I was pleased. Not only did this seem like an opportunity for more focused storytelling, but it also eliminated all those random pesky weeks in the middle of the season in which ABC simply didn’t have a new episode to air. And following an incredibly trite winter finale, with a cliffhanger hinged on one of my least favorite characters, I was ready for a break. However, I wasn’t expecting this break to alienate me as much as it did from the series and these characters. I went ten weeks without them, and I didn’t miss them. (This is the obvious adverse effect of such a long midseason hiatus.) So, my expectations going into this episode were drastically reduced. I was… well… only a little bit of it worked well.
What worked for me:
I’m relieved that the Meredith-Cristina drama is over, and while the comedown does seem a bit inorganic, I’m pleased that the characters actually discussed the situation in the OR and seemed to possess an uncommon self-awareness. It’s nice to see them together again, and while I don’t want them to return to the out-of-character fighting, I really hope they’re both consistently given meaty material to play for the rest of the season.
I thought the conflict between Owen and Richard on how to deal with Shane was moderately engrossing, and Owen’s style, given his military background made sense. For the sake of drama, Richard’s later moment of calling Owen out on his mistreatment of Shane, due to the latter’s relationship with Cristina, rang nicely, almost giving these two sidelined characters a renewed importance. (Owen’s been written poorly since Season Six, so I’m always pleased to see his character utilized in an appropriate manner.)
What didn’t work for me:
The Ben/Bailey drama is settled; wonderful. And as drawn out as the story was in getting Ben to become a surgeon at GSMH (that is its name now, right), I’m glad he’s there — and the bit about the mixed up lunches did make me laugh. However, why is Bailey still acting so ridiculously? (We’re over the embarrassingly handled OCD storyline!) She bounces from overwrought to childish in each episode. Is there no in between? Her character right now is hard to tolerate, and I wish something would be done about this. STAT.
Speaking of hard to tolerate, Alex’s quasi-proposing to Jo was cringeworthy. Not only do I like her less than I did at the start of the season, but neither character is acting like they have any common sense. They’ve been together for all of 12 episodes now… and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s still a forced and manipulated relationship. I don’t see that changing. Also, Alex’s complicated relationship with his father, who surprisingly didn’t die at the end of the last episode, ended with more of a whimper than a bang. Disappointment. Will this development change Alex’s character, or will this once again be a filler storyline that does nothing — keeping his character stagnant? (Probably the latter.)
What almost worked, but didn’t:
The ending of the Winter finale was incredibly cliched — like a bad romantic comedy — with Jackson standing up and confessing his love for April during her wedding to Matthew. So, naturally, one wouldn’t expect the series to actually have her run away with the man who interrupted the wedding. It’s too obvious. I thought April was going to pick no one. It’s trite, but it would have been a way for the writers to prolong the drama — which they love to do. So, color me surprised when April ran away with Jackson. Frankly, April/Jackson were manipulated into becoming the new Mark/Lexie after it was officially decided that Leigh would not be returning. Happened at the same time — end of season eight. And Mark/Lexie themselves were designed to be the new Meredith/Derek when Pompeo and Dempsey (and the fans) demanded that their characters be together for good, starting in Season Five — when Mark and Lexie first hooked up. Shonda needs an on-again, off-again couple. It’s that simple. And, while seeing them together does nothing for me, but I’m relieved that the back-and-forth is over. We knew they were going to get together. (Thanks for ending my misery, writers.) Now, the structure of making us think that April changed her mind after going with Jackson was okay — it made the reveal that they are in fact together into a nice big moment for the fans who do care. HOWEVER, the pair’s flashback impromptu decision to get married completely wrecked the story for me. I don’t care if they’re each other’s ‘one true loves’, the fact that April can begin one day intending to marry one man and end the day marrying another makes her character look flightier than she already comes across. And Jackson simply has whatever personality the writers want him to have. He’s a vessel for this storyline — and an empty one at that. So, in the end, it didn’t work for me. The writers went one step too far, bringing us back into the realm of the last episode’s cliffhanger: bad romantic comedy. (Where’s the O’Malley bus when we need it?)
Derek’s White House storyline is clearly the writers’ way of giving Dempsey time off for racing during the latter half of the season. That’s it. The few scenes Meredith and Derek had were only mildly effective, and the whole fake out with the woman to whom Derek was sending money was unnecessary. (It’s a joke that these actors get paid as much as they do. They should be worked harder than anyone else in the cast.) Pompeo played the scenes annoyed, and that’s exactly how she came across. With Derek presumably on reduced screen time, I’d love her to get a storyline independent of him that, unlike the fight with Cristina, is well written and fitting for the character.
Callie and Arizona are happy and together again. They still have things they need to work out, and I think having them apart for longer would be more effective. I still feel that Arizona hasn’t excepted enough responsibility, and any growth that has occurred in her character must have happened off screen, because I haven’t really seen it.
Jerrika Hinton, who plays Stephanie, is the best actor of all the interns. But I’m not as invested in her character as I need to be. The same goes for Leah. There’s a certain enjoyable soapiness of Leah convincing Stephanie to go to the board with a sexual harassment suit, but it’s difficult to take the story seriously. They’re scorned women, we get it. So now one of them is going to become the villain and the cause of a recycled storyline (see: Season Four’s “The Becoming”) that will be played interchangeably for laughs and cheap drama, before petering out when the writer’s exhaust it. And we’ll all be wondering, like with the ‘buying the hospital’ drama from last season, what was the point? Just keep it moving, writers. You’re not making the interns more likable.
This series is going to lose its MVP in May when Sandra Oh leaves. So far, her farewell season has been less than stellar. Truthfully, I’m not confident than the writers will turn things around in the second half of the year, but, ever the optimist, I’m willing to pretend that I think it’s possible. So, keep watching, and come back in May for my collective thoughts on 10B.
Come back next Wednesday for another Wildcard post! And tune in tomorrow for more Xena!