Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! Following last Thursday’s completion of the tenth season of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, I’ve decided that it’s time to take a moment to share my thoughts on what has been referred to as “10B,” the last twelve episodes of the season. (This is because ABC decided to split the season into two equal halves.) I’m posting my initial episodic thoughts — written immediately after viewing each installment — followed by an overall discussion on 10B, and the season, as a whole.
10×13: “Take It Back” (Aired: 02/27/14)
Written by Austin Guzman | Directed by Rob Corn
The doctors face the consequences of the events that took place at April’s wedding. Meredith feels betrayed when Derek goes back on a promise, Alex is furious after returning to the hospital and hearing the news about his father, and Arizona and Callie decide whether or not to move forward together. Meanwhile, Bailey realizes she was wrong about the motive behind Ben’s decision to move back to Seattle.
I did a whole Wildcard Wednesday post on my thoughts regarding this episode. Read that here.
10×14: “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” (Aired: 03/06/14)
Written by Tia Napolitano | Directed by Ron Underwood
After an anonymous complaint is issued by one of their own, the hospital implements a non-fraternizing policy causing the couples to panic. Meanwhile, Emma and Owen talk about the future, Cristina and Meredith enjoy a little girl time and Richard enlists the residents to help research a rare cancer case.
Much better than the previous episode. It was light-hearted (without insulting the characters’ or the audience’s intelligence), and the script found ways to bring in some genuine pathos, without the proceedings becoming cloying. My complaints are few: Alex/Jo’s fight was an unrealistic waste of time, and probably the weakest part of the episode; I still don’t care about the interns, and get no pleasure out of seeing them in scenes alone together — they should be around to service the core cast; and Oh’s drunk scene (at Meredith’s) was way too self-conscious and distractingly forced. Bailey was better. Owen was better. April/Jackson were better. Callie/Arizona better. Everyone was better but Jo. Too much Jo.
10×15: “Throwing It All Away” (Aired: 03/13/14)
Written by William Harper | Directed by Chris Hayden
Arizona has a bad day which escalates when she advises one of Callie’s patients on a potential double amputation. Derek goes back on a promise to Callie, and Jo and Stephanie come across an abandoned baby outside the hospital. Meanwhile, the doctors deal with the repercussions of the non-fraternization rule, which include meetings with HR and one doctor’s suspension.
Busy episode; lots of stories, too many characters. That said, this was a very solid installment. The highlight was Arizona finally accepting responsibility and seemingly coming to terms with the events of that two-year-old plane crash. Superb stuff, and I’m finally back on board with her relationship with Callie. I also really liked Cristina again in this episode; the scenes between her and Owen and her and Shane (who was less annoying than usual) were interesting and had a unique and fresh energy. I also liked that April and Jackson were limited, and that there was some mild punishment for their behavior. I don’t care about Stephanie’s pain, but I also don’t care about April/Jackson being happy. (I’d rather they all suffer than any of them be happy.) What didn’t work: not enough Meredith, the expected ongoing residue from the stupid HR rule, all of Alex’s scenes (Sorry, don’t support his relationship with Jo, the show’s worst regular, so I don’t find his behavior justified — even if the board is being hypocritical), and the continued use of sappy modern covers of ’80s songs.
10×16: “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” (Aired: 03/20/14)
Written by Jeannine Renshaw | Directed by Susan Vaill
It’s Richard’s birthday and Bailey invites him to scrub in on the case of a lifetime. Meredith hires a research assistant to help with her portal vein project, and a scorned Callie gives Derek quite the shock. Meanwhile, Shane helps screen candidates for Cristina’s clinical trial and meets a young expectant mother who needs his help.
I wasn’t invested in any of the storylines this evening; they all irked for one reason or another. (I, did, however, find the 17-year-old pregnant patient storyline mildly engrossing, and liked the non-histrionic way it played out.) Meanwhile, the scripting did little to elevate these trite stories. Cristina and Owen’s scenes were particularly grating, and the attempts to make the story involving Richard and the fetus light, airy, and like ‘classic Grey’s’ fell flat. Catherine Avery is as insufferable as ever, and I continue not to care about Jackson, April, or the residents.
10×17: “Do You Know?” (Aired: 03/27/14)
Written by Stacy McKee | Directed by Chandra Wilson
Cristina imagines the two routes her life can take based on one decision she makes. Meanwhile one of the hospital’s patients decides whether or not to live.
As far as the gimmicky episodes of this series go, tonight’s installment was par for the course. However, thanks to the expert finesse of Sandra Oh, this episode was a cut above most of the others this season. I will miss both her and her character when she leaves. I don’t think the series will ever recover.
10×18: “You Be Illin'” (Aired: 04/03/14)
Written by Zoanne Clack | Directed by Nicole Rubio
The hospital gets inundated with flu infected patients, which causes the doctors to slowly fall ill one by one. Derek must fight off the sickness as he prepares to give a speech on brain mapping and the residents place bets on who will fall ill first. Meanwhile, a new doctor at the hospital gives Alex a glimpse into an alternate form of medical practice.
Little to say about this one; may need to watch again. Not a bad episode (aside from the usual “too much screentime for the second year residents” complaint). Some fine little moments, though nothing extraordinary.
10×19: “I’m Winning” (Aired: 04/10/14)
Written by Joan Rater | Directed by Kevin McKidd
Cristina is nominated for a Harper Avery and although most of her fellow doctors are ecstatic, she won’t let herself get too excited. Bailey continues to work on a young boy without an immune system — Alex considers making a change, and Derek and Callie work with a machine that can recognize emotions. Meanwhile, Richard gives the residents a pep talk about the exciting projects going on around the hospital.
Actually, I really enjoyed this episode. I was on board for all of the stories, and I appreciated the competing research/job opportunities/medical innovations that are infusing the show with the spirit that it used to have back in the glory days of the original fab five — when they were scratching and biting for surgeries. Bailey felt in character tonight, and I thought Wilson hit all the right notes. There was plenty of Meredith (always a good thing), and the build-up to Cristina’s exit seems well-plotted (so far). However, I’m sick of the ’80s covers, think the child actors were annoying (I’m not suckered in by cute faces), and don’t buy that Callie & Arizona have already overcome all of their issues. But, as a whole, this stands as a much stronger episode than what we’ve been getting these past few months, and I was invested for the entire hour.
10×20: “Go It Alone” (Aired: 04/17/14)
Written by Lauren Barnett | Directed by Mark Jackson
Cristina enlists Meredith to help her prepare an acceptance speech for her possible Harper Avery win and while Owen offers to attend the ceremony with her, she insists on going alone. Meanwhile, Derek feels overwhelmed between his responsibilities at home and at the hospital. April and Jackson come to a disagreement on children and religion, and Callie and Arizona try to reconnect in their marriage.
I thought the tone of the episode and the construction of the dialogue was strong. Yet, the episode started off looking like a winner, and slowly devolved. Hated a lot of the stories tonight: April/Jackson, resident scenes (particularly Jo), Mer/Der “conflict”, and that annoying family of patients with their drama. However, Cristina’s not winning the award truly surprised me, and I thought that the build-up was suspenseful and well-handled. Still, on the whole, this was a mediocre installment.
10×21: “Change Of Heart” (Aired: 04/24/14)
Written by Meg Marinis | Directed by Rob Greenlea
Jackson is given the daunting task of delivering disappointing news to the doctors. Meanwhile, Derek’s sister Amelia drops by for a surprise visit, Richard surprises Catherine in Boston and when Bailey gets frustrated by the slow pace of her research, she makes a risky decision.
I thought this was a pretty dreadful installment — chiefly because of the construction of the dialogue and the structure of the stories. (I thought the scripting quality had improved over the past few seasons, despite the sometimes painfully bad stories of the past two years in particular, but tonight brought us back to that soundalike GREY’S dialogue of the middle seasons: high school moronic.) First, the enjoyable… the two multi-arc patient stories were less irksome tonight because the kids had very little to do — meaning that I could enjoy the medical drama without sappy bother. Also, there was minimal Jo (always a fantastic thing) and not a lot of the other residents, and the final Owen/Cristina scene was powerful (as were all of Oh’s scenes this evening — maybe her best episode of the season so far). Now, the not-so-good… Well, I personally never cared for Amelia because of her poor characterization. She was introduced pretty much like every single GREY’S female — she started off all tough and smug and unlikable (like Catharine Avery or the two Mercy West gals) and then devolved into one of the whiny personality-less vessels that the writers use to sling around faux-amusing dialogue. Neither incarnation is satisfying because they are both so trite. (Fortunately, I only had to deal with her for two scenes this evening.) But, speaking of trite, April and Jackson have been written so idiotically this season (and last season too, actually). I’m glad they’re being punished for their behavior at the altar, but can’t the writers contrive scenes that play a little less forced? Speaking of forced: Meredith’s outrage at Cristina losing. It was not amusing. At all. And finally, this brings me to the Richard and Catherine scenes, which probably annoyed me more than anything else tonight. It took them until the end of the third act for her to admit that Cristina didn’t win the award because of the foundation. We, as the audience, knew that going into the episode, so there really wasn’t need to create this unwarranted suspense. Furthermore, the way this story was drawn out (one scene per act), especially with that melodramatic “break-up” bit that the writers shoehorned in, made both characters come off looking absolutely horrendous. Bad storytelling. Plain and simple. Not a good episode by any stretch of the imagination.
10×22: “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (Aired: 05/01/14)
Written by Joan Rater | Directed by Rob Corn
Cristina looks to Meredith for advice as she assesses her future at the hospital. Derek and Amelia work together on a difficult surgery involving conjoined twins. Meanwhile, Jo is spread too thin when she tries to work on several cases at once and Stephanie realizes the truth about Bailey’s bubble boy case.
I liked this episode a lot more than the majority of this season’s installments. Nothing really irked me (a rarity), and I was pleased to see Burke not only return, but also be treated with reverence by the writers. They gave him what he wanted and didn’t make him unlikable, and I was also pleased that they didn’t try to force a romantic reconciliation. However, the way the story turned out truly surprised me — with him offering her HIS position instead of just a spot working with/for him — and I’m not quite sure what to make of all of it. Shonda’s full circle for Cristina is having her become Burke’s successor? Okay. May post more later…
10×23: “Everything I Try To Do, Nothing Seems To Turn Out Right” (Aired: 05/08/14)
Written by Austin Guzman | Directed by Bill D’Elia
With Derek away, Meredith spends time with Amelia and finds out her true feelings about her time in Seattle. Bailey deals with the ramifications of her actions and Callie receives devastating news. Meanwhile, the residents panic after hearing that one of them will be fired.
Average dialogue. Mediocre stories. Okay structure. Fair episode.
10×24: “Fear (Of The Unknown)” (Aired: 05/15/14)
Written by William Harper | Directed by Tony Phelan
The doctors of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital bid an emotional farewell to the beloved Cristina Yang. A possible act of terrorism rocks Seattle and causes chaos at the hospital. Meanwhile, Meredith makes a life changing decision and one doctor receives shocking news.
The episode wasn’t bad. It was fairly engrossing, even though it was busy and overcrowded (like the series). But the whole ‘disaster’ bit is getting old, and more than ever before, I really felt like the writers were purposely recycling old stories — the first half of the episode was all stuff I felt like I’d seen in 3×15-3×17. I was pleased with the departures of Leah and Shane, and liked all the Meredith/Cristina stuff (despite it being more saccharine than I usually prefer). Meanwhile, the set-up of Bailey vs. Alex over a spot on the board seems potentially interesting, as long as Bailey doesn’t devolve into the immature persona which which the writers have made us accustomed. The Meredith/Derek drama is predictable, but solid. NOTE TO WRITERS: These are the kids of scenes they should have been playing for the past three seasons. They’ve been given crumbs of good story lines, while others (like the predictable and boring April/Jackson) have been given full course meals. In general, the Cristina send-off was well-handled, though I thought the opening photo montage was very self-indulgent on the series’ part, as was the usage of the old Season One song (even though I enjoyed that callback). I’ll miss Cristina terribly; she was the show’s only multi-dimensional character, and the actress is one of television’s finest. My minor complaint tonight is that the episode should have ended on a scene with Meredith, our protagonist. (Though I know my opinion may be in the minority.) She is still the focus, and I hope she steps into this position even more next season. As for the cliffhanger… it’s such a soapy and ridiculous reveal to be considered either original or well-done. The Richard/Ellis love child was a beat that we’d been speculating on for about six years. (At first we thought it would be a half-brother, but that turned out to be Jackson Avery.) The actress didn’t seem hardcore enough to be a cardio head, and similar to the episode’s medical disaster, I feel like I’ve seen this before — with Lexie Grey seven years ago. (Let’s hope the writers handle this better than they did the Meredith/Lexie relationship, which never developed organically.) Not excited for this. The episode was solid, though nothing exceptional. The season was adequate; some hits, some misses. I’ll miss Cristina, but I’m anxious to see how the series handles the loss. I’m not anticipating anything of quality. The show lost its MVP.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to talk about a season immediately after it has wrapped. Like most primetime soaps, though suspense is still imperative to the audience’s emotional journey, the episodes play better when they’re commercial-less and screened without weekly gaps in between each installment. (My thoughts and feelings on every single season since the third have improved after watching the DVDs.) Yet, there are some unequivocal truths about Season Ten that I know will not change upon further viewing. First and foremost, more than any other year (since maybe Five, but that’s a whole separate story), I felt like Season Ten was equal parts hit and equal parts miss. But it was much better than Season Nine, which was tremendously forgettable — filled with boring stories (like Cristina/Owen in their seemingly unending cycle) and stories that dragged on to the point of disgust (like the hospital buying drama). Unquestionably, Season Ten gave us much better stories than Season Nine. This year saw all of our favorite fellows in medical/research competition with one another, which infused the show with that “high school with scalpels” sentiment that existed most deliciously in the early years. Also, we got to see Meredith and Cristina engage in legitimate conflict, Alex confront his father, Arizona accept (some) responsibility for her unruly behavior, and Cristina leave SGMH with dignity — alive and happy. What kept a lot of the season from working wasn’t the stories themselves; it was the way the stories were told.
The best example of this is from 10A — the Meredith/Cristina fight. On paper, this looks great: the show’s dynamic duo in a conflict spawned by a medical rivalry that seemingly cuts deeper — to their respective and individual choices. But what kept this story from being divine is the way it was written. Instead of giving both women reasonable points-of-view, the two docs were engaging in out-of-character shenanigans and delivering dialogue that made them each stupid and unlikable. Throwing Shane into the mix was the biggest mistake. It cheapened Cristina’s integrity (unnecessarily, I must add), and kept the conflict from focusing on Meredith/Cristina. The resolution was compact and direct, and it seemed to do the trick, albeit a bit quickly. Yet, 10B saw them in a really good and healthy place (i.e. not completely dependent on one another), and in the final episode, the series found its roots when the pair danced to a Season One song and Cristina reinforced one of the show’s central thematic constructs: the conflict between Meredith’s personal and professional life. I hope this gets explored more next season — even without Yang.
Speaking of Meredith, she had more to do this season than she’s had since maybe Season Five. For the first time in a long time, she had actual stories — both medical and romantic — and she seemed to have more to do weekly: she was in more scenes, was more involved in some of the other stories, and overall, was portrayed as a much stronger and more developed character than the last few years would otherwise lead us to believe. And Derek, who I assumed would have little to do in 10B following the deus ex machina phone call from the President in 10×12, actually participated in his fair share of medical cases … until the last two episodes, where he faded out again. (His stuff with Callie was great, even though the idea of her threatening legal action seemed totally ridiculous.) Admittedly, all the stuff between Meredith and Derek this year were beats that I felt had already been played. And the final conversation in the finale between the pair was something that honestly should have been talked about earlier. (The writers have no clue what to do with this pair, so when they DO get a story, they stretch it out for as long as they can.) I’ve said this before: the writers can’t seem to make Meredith and Derek interesting. Again, I think this is because Shonda got them together “for good” way too early in the seires’ run. By promising the fans that they’d never break up, she’s eliminated all the suspense. Truthfully, a nice long break-up would be the most exciting thing to happen to either character since the shooting. Give Meredith more to do, writers. Please make her interesting; she’s our protagonist.
One couple who did break up (and should have stayed broken up longer, actually) is Callie and Arizona, who spent 10A apart and 10B together. Honestly, Callie is still a much richer character than Arizona, because, though both women are flawed, the latter’s faults are not organically explored. For instance, it took Arizona until 10×15 to sort of come to terms with everything that had happened over the past season-and-a-half. (This was something that should have been building all through 10A!) Since then, all of Arizona’s flaws and sins have been swept back under the rug. And though 10×15 helped reconcile Arizona’s character and her feelings for Callie, it still seems like the couple’s conflict hasn’t been put to bed. Instead, they’re hoping a house and second kid will fix things, making them seem like a couple fated for disaster. Based on the way this season played, the writers have failed to convince me that they are on solid ground. And if they are, I wish that it would have translated on screen. Again, it’s the way this story was told that had me disappointed.
April and Jackson make up the series’ newest on-again/off-again pair (following in the footsteps of Mark/Lexie and Meredith/Derek before them). Though I know they have their fanbase, the duo fails to interest me. I’m just glad they finally got together because it was inevitable. (Essentially, 10A was a huge waste of time.) But this is another case where the way the writers told the story screwed the whole thing up. First, why did April and Jackson have to marry when they got together in 10×13? I’ve never been given the impression that he would rush into something like that, but since his character lacks solid definition and changes weekly upon request, I shouldn’t be surprised. But their whole married conflict — over April’s religion (which we, as the viewers, have been beaten on the head with for three years) — was incredibly forced. No way did Jackson not know this, given how close they were supposed to be. I feel truly sorry for the actors, because all of the scenes they’ve had to play in 10B have been so poorly written. As with Meredith and Cristina, both characters came off looking stupid. WASTE OF TIME.
As for Alex, I liked the stories he got this season. They were adult, focused, and he had an even amount of material to play all throughout the season. Though the dad storyline was largely unsatisfying, I appreciated that it happened. I also appreciate that Alex is going into private practice. He’s been given some of the show’s best medical cases, and has been shown to be a great surgeon. But I hate Jo. She’s unlikable and I don’t think the two have chemistry. Every single character has grown on me in some capacity (minus Owen and Bailey, who have devolved), except for Jo. It’s both the writing and the playing. The writers really want her to be “the one” for Alex, but it’s a complete misfire. Complete misfire.
Though Jo’s the weakest of the second year residents, Shane and Leah departed. I never cared for Shane, especially when he went crazy in the middle of the season. I hated him with Cristina, and didn’t like that he went off to Switzerland with her, but as long as he never returns, it’ll be okay. As for Leah, the writers painted her into a corner with the sexual harassment suit. Furthermore, she was constantly wavering back and forth between hardcore and incompentent. Can’t say I’m sorry to see her go, but I really liked the actress. However, Stephanie is probably the best of the bunch. She feels like a second year resident in her vulnerability, but has an appealing strength and sense of humor that meshes well with the core cast. Her defense of Bailey in 10×23 was excellent, and I’d love to see her further mix and cause conflict with the other characters. Keep her away from Jackson and April though; she’s too interesting for them.
Bailey was as she’s been these past few years: insufferable. This is the series’ most gruesome character assassination. Her story with OCD was painful to watch, and the Ben drama was a yawn. Things finally perked up with the HIV bubble boy patient, but while the story was strong, her character (both the writing and the portrayal) made the perfect unlikable balance of overly emotional and smug. If the writers can revert Bailey back into the tough surgeon from the early years, I would consider it a major feat — and a great asset to the show’s balance of humor and pathos. It’s not the character; it’s the way they’re writing her.
One character who I do like, but rarely gets good material is Richard, who spent most of 10A in a hospital bed. (It went on for way too long). He’s flawed, yet likable, and much too good for the ‘flawless’ and completely unlikable Catherine Avery. As for the twist in the finale, I’m really disappointed that the writers went there. We always knew this was a possibility, as speculation has existed about an Ellis/Richard love child since Season Four. But the actress isn’t believable as a cardio head, and the idea of the lovechild seems completely improbable. Furthermore, we’ve already had drama with the sudden arrival of one of Meredith’s sisters. Why are we recycling this again?
As for Owen, his character was ruined for me when he married Cristina while she had PTSD. He’s neither likable nor relatable — another one with a malleable personality that bends to textual demands. The Emma stuff was a snoozefest, and the back and forth with Cristina was overkill. (But, I can’t say that it didn’t feel realistic for the characters.) Still, I half wish he left with Cristina, even though I don’t like them together, just to get him off the show. But she is too good for him, and her departure makes that all too clear. I liked the way the writers handled this, and I’m so glad she’s found medical success as a head of cardio. And while I felt like Oh’s performance was stilted a lot this year (as was the self-indulgent writing), I’ll miss her beyond words. She was the show’s most dynamic character, played by the series’ strongest actress. This is the biggest loss yet.
The show can recover, but it’s not likely. The addition of Amelia will be forced, because they’re already setting her up to be Meredith’s new bestie. (“Candy with blood.”) Instead, they should put Amelia and Meredith in conflict, and let Amelia mix with the other cast members. (I’d love to see her steal Alex from Jo!) Though I hated her on Private Practice, largely because of the way her character evolved, I’m willing to give her a second chance. The real key to reinvigorating the series is to give Meredith a really juicy story that lasts all of the season. I don’t know what it would be, but it’s not my job to figure that out. I’ll leave that to the writers, who really need to turn out better material. That’s what the show’s continual decline comes down to… mediocre writing. And that’s what we got with Season Ten: an entertaining, but merely adequate year. Goodbye Cristina, you got out just in time.
Come back next Wednesday for a whole new Wildcard post! And tune in tomorrow for more Xena!