Friday, May 08, 2015

Grey's Anatomy. Master Storytelling or Cheap Emotional Manipulation?

The glory days of Grey's Anatomy are behind us, but just to show she still has it, show-runner Shonda Rimes pulled out all the stops and killed a major character in a recent episode. All of a sudden, Grey's is back in the news and guest-poster, Priya, has something to say about it. Spoilers below! --Maggie Cats

It's been a few days and I'm still thinking of the latest Grey's Anatomy. Specifically, how Shonda Rhimes set us up. For those of you who haven't been watching lately the show has essentially been your regular run of BIG DRAMATIC incidents and quiet character development and movement. But since January the show has been slowly filling fans with dread as it takes us on a more-than-usual roller coaster ride of emotion.

First of all after the following paragraph there is going to be a giant SPOILER. Consider yourself warned.

Now, I know I don't really have to justify why I keep watching Grey's Anatomy but I feel like I should for just a moment. I really love the characters. Even when the show was at its worst (seasons 4-6) it was a bit of eye candy and silliness wrapped in a generally well written package. It was unafraid to be ridiculous and heart-wrenching with week to week medical stories.

But I digress. Here's the spoiler. McDreamy is dead and since January, Shonda Rhimes and company have been priming fans for maximum trauma.

Act One: Remind us that McDreamy is not perfect. Derek Shepherd has a giant ego. He has an opportunity to work in DC for the President and doesn't care that Meredith's career is in Seattle. So after a fight he goes. In his absence (where we literally don't see him for about four episodes) Meredith kicks ass. She is an awesome doctor, a really good one. Focused, driven and smart. She can do this. She has a streak of saving all her patients.

But she knows that she's better with him and when she calls to tell him so another woman answers the phone.

Act Two: Create doubt, that is once a cheater always a cheater? Shonda reminds us of where things all started. McDreamy the married man picking up Meredith in a bar. Who was the woman on the phone? We obsess with Meredith until we find out the truth -- he did not cheat. He was lonely, and another woman hit on him and he stopped it. He didn't want anything but his family. Elation. Shonda did not go down the cliche road! Everything is ok!

Act Three: Derek Shepherd is a changed man. But wait, weren't we just suspecting him of cheating and being unsupportive? Audience turn your heads to the right. Derek wants to connect with his fellow doctors, and be a good brother by bestowing sage advice to his sister. He also does not need to be in charge. Audience turn your heads to the left. He and Meredith have some moments. Then he gets in a car and drives to the airport for a final meeting in DC.

Act Four: Deny. Deny. Deny. There is an entire episode where Shonda reminds us what she's put these people through. The trauma, the horror. The awfulness. PTSD after a massive plane crash comes in that reminds everyone about the time when they were all in a horrible plane crash and two people died (Meredith's half sister and McSteamy, Mark Sloane). Remember when this show was lightness and fun angst? All the while Meredith has a sinking feeling that something is wrong since Derek is not answering his phone and never made it to DC. Something is very wrong and the episode ends with flashing cop lights on a windowpane.

We should have known better.

The Final Act: McDreamy the Hero. McDreamy the brain dead neurosurgeon. What happened? Derek Shepherd was a hero. He is calm and deliberate. He saves four lives after a car crash on a windy coastal road. (Huge sigh of relief, everyone is alive!) Then as he gets ready to drive away, he reaches down to pick up his phone (in the middle of turning the car around, in case you didn't know distracted driving is BAD) and WHAM is hit by a semitruck.

We then have to watch slowly and agonizingly as he realizes he has bad doctors and becomes brain dead. Meredith has to come in and take him off life support. But don't worry guys. In Rhimes' set up we know that Meredith is a fighter, she will survive this. We've seen death on this show before, and know that the show can go on without him. But should we have to? Whiplash sucks, and I'll be a monkey's uncle if we weren't set up to feel this in the worst possible way. So I ask again. Masterful Storytelling or Cheap Emotional Manipulation?

I will, whether immediately or at some point down the line, finish out the series. Though I may take a break to finish Mad Men before the finale (TV time is a valuable commodity these days). But when I do, I won't be able to look back at the series as a whole with satisfaction. Nope. Rather it'll be filled with a little bitterness. I guess we should have known better, but seriously? Just end it already.

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