It’s late. It’s Sunday. And writing this will certainly start my week off the wrong way. But there are times when you’re moved by something so much that all rational thought must take a backseat.
I’m a hopeless romantic. No reason to deny it. Shakespeare himself tells us, “To thine own self be true.” I lay claim to seeing most of the modern day “romantic comedies” (and owning most of the major ones). Despite how incredible Notting Hill and Love Jones might be, I still hold fast to the belief that the British version of the Office’s Christmas Special (which, in effect, was the “series finale”) was the most special and truly the biggest payoff for one who claims to be hopelessly infected by romance. It was almost as if every other moment in the show’s two seasons was filmed to bring the show to this perfect and fitting ending. It was great and I still lay claim to the fact that it’s the most special moment I’ve ever seen on the screen — big or small. But tonight almost rivaled that moment. Tonight reminded me of exactly why that episode of The Office or any moment on television has the ability to evoke so much more emotion than film. Tonight while watching the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy, I was reminded of why I’ve invested so many viewing hours on the show.
I was a bit critical of the direction that the series was headed earlier this year. I felt that teasing Meredith’s death mid-season was a cheap way to get ratings at the sake of viewers who were committed to the series. After all — we knew Meredith wasn’t going to die. (Well, actually I did kinda wonder for a bit.) But now after having seen the true season finale, I understand where the writers were leading us.
I waited to watch the finale. Somehow I felt as if it wouldn’t quite meet my expectations. With the whole “Addison spinoff series” thingy and no real dramatic event to build up to as heavy as last season’s Izzie and Denny relationship story, I was sure that this season finale would be a non-event. Happily, I was completely wrong.
The finale was perfect in so many ways. Not because it tied up every loose end. (Much to the contrary — it created new ones!) Not because I got what I wanted. (Again, none of the things that I had been hoping for actually happened.) It was perfect because it dared to be different. It dared to be unpopular. And in taking the road less traveled, I’ll certainly be hanging my head down this summer when I think about the characters that I identify so strongly with because everybody seems to be in pain.
ABC and the execs that dared to question the importance of the character of Izzie Stevens should seriously invite Katherine Heigl to the negotiating table and strike a deal. Now. Last season she was the highlight of the show, but one could argue that it was an easy feat considering the fact that her storyline was the biggest part of season two. But this season (and particularly this episode) she was clearly not the focal point, but she more than kept us engaged. She’s subtle and cheery when it’s required. She’s silly when the time calls for silly. And while some critics may argue that she’s crying more than she’s scrubbing in, the scene where she tells George that their chance encounter ‘meant nothing’, only to show her true emotions in private, was about as solid as anyone else has delivered this season. Perhaps this girl who falls in love too easy is confusing having a great friendship with a cool guy like George with actually being in love. Looking forward to next season, Izzie Stevens is certainly suffering from heartache.
Poor George. When he came to the hospital, all he wanted to do was to make friends and do well. Sadly, his personal struggles this season have brought him down. Losing his dad was not the least of his problems. But struggling to try and make a new marriage work, all while another hot girl that you actually respect beyond her appearance hangs over your shoulder, it gets tough. Don’t get me wrong — there’s no excuse for what he did. But somehow his conscience (which is such a breath of fresh air when contrasted against the cavalier attitudes of the other surgeons on staff) keeps us hurting with him. My crush on Callie (…heck…my crush on Sara Ramirez period) clearly makes me the least credible person to say this, but I sincerely do not think that their marriage is a mistake. Watching the the progression of their relationship holds a mirror up and I see reflections of what was special about loves of my own. But it’s George himself who’s having the second thoughts. Like a parent hurting for their sick child, we hurt as we watch him stare aimlessly into space — looking for answers to life-changing and relationship-ending questions.
I really don’t like Alex Karev. He annoys me. His blunt comments always come at the wrong time and he isn’t quite as hot as he thinks he is. But you had to feel bad for Alex. Ironically, he falls into the same trap that Izzie does the season before — falling for a patient. And while this relationship wasn’t of the “hopping into the hospital bed and playing Scrabble” variety that Izzie and Denny shared, it was special. Symbolically, this woman with no memory — a clean slate — almost allowed Alex to craft and mold his own idea of an ideal love. He gained a bit of respect for me as he selflessly let her leave and go back to her husband and new child. But the hurt that he feels in having another failed love attempt makes even me feel bad for him.
Nobody’s quite sure if the Chief Richard Webber is leaving the hospital, but I’m hoping that he doesn’t. He brings a much needed poise to the staff. But if he did leave, you’d have to breathe a sigh of relief for him. He’s been hurting all season. Not only did death take Ellis Grey, but separating from his wife proved to be more difficult than one might assume for the always in control Dr. Webber. You can’t help but feel a slight bit of joy at the hinting of a reconciliation with his wife, but immense pain to learn that you lost what could have been the son that you always wanted.
You might assume that a man with the nickname ‘McDreamy’ would never have any problems. But somehow my heart even went out to Derek Shepherd. It seems silly. I mean, feeling for McDreamy is like shedding a tear for Warren Buffett losing his wallet. But then again, is it really? Derek is hopelessly in love with a younger woman who, as has been well documented, has her own relationship issues. And while I watch him confess to her that he’s “in this thing”, you have to wonder if this man has a death wish when it comes to love. Your best friend cheats with your wife. And now you’re strung along for three years, only to come to the realization that you could be headed to still more pain. (…and if you’re reading this Derek, another “Grey” girl is just going to lead to more trouble. Steer clear.)
Everybody thinks Miranda Bailey has it all together. But you have to feel pain for the woman who has poured her heart and soul into teaching the interns all that she knows….only to be overlooked for the Chief Resident position. She reminds me of one of those middle managers who’s never quite made it to the corner office, ’cause he’s too valuable where he is’. Watching Miranda selflessly ask George if she failed him, all while she’s going through her own inner dilemma about her worth to the hospital has to be painful. (I mean, I don’t even think she got one of those vignettes where the Chief tells her why she’s not getting the job.)
It wouldn’t surprise me if Sandra Oh was holding another Emmy for her performance this season. Christina Yang is neurotic and competitive, but she’s also a great source of emotional strength and support to Meredith and to Preston Burke. I really like her an Preston Burke together. Or maybe I should say, “liked”. As much as I felt for Preston and Christina as they tried to search for that cultural ‘common ground’ in bonding, I did wonder a bit if Christina and what made her unique was being stifled at the prospect of this new marriage. And while I think they would have done (and might still do) fine as husband and wife, I won’t soon forget the image of Christina recounting all the details of Preston’s belongings that were missing from the apartment. Sandra Oh is such a good actor, that if you watch that scene carefully, you can’t definitively explain her emotions. Initially I took her irrational-but-completely-justified release of emotion as a sign that she realizes that she just lost Burke and was left at the altar. But watching it a second time, I wonder if she’s not “freeing herself” and releasing her emotions at the thought of almost starting a subservient life that goes against all that she believes in. Or perhaps a bit of both. But one thing’s for sure: if anyone will hurt this summer, it’s going to be Christina Yang.
Of course, Preston Burke shares in this pain, as well. The steady and sure surgeon has a lot of uncertainty ahead — not the least of which is whether he made the right decision by calling off the wedding. He also realizes that his dishonesty cost him the role of Chief of Surgery — one that he probably would have most certainly been given without protest from anyone. And where exactly is Preston right now? He doesn’t seem like the type to drown his emotions at a bar. After all, the apartment does belong to him, doesn’t it? Could he be in a hotel room or perhaps sleeping at the foot of the bed in the McDreamy trailer? Wherever he is, that heart that he was looking to place in Christina’s hands has to be hurting right now.
Addison has been through so much pain that one show can’t even contain it. She’s ready to take it to a whole ‘nother state. And while something about her always bothered me, her struggle to find the right person and the prospect of not being able to have a child earns her a huge slice of sympathy. (I still don’t appreciate being “spun-off”, ABC! But, hopefully she’ll be dropping back in. After all, who is Callie going to confess her sins to?)
Speaking of my homegirl Calliope, the only two principal actors who didn’t seem to be kicked in the butt by love were her and Mark “McSteamy” Sloane. McSteamy is hard to feel any pain for. Who could shed a tear for a guy who slept with his best friend’s wife and who sends interns to fetch his coffee? Almost makes you wish he’d have been the one who fell off the pier into the river earlier this season. But he’s starting to show some signs, albeit very dim signs, of being selfless. And as bad as the guy may be, it couldn’t have been the greatest thing to hear from the woman that you threw a friendship away for that she thinks that you’re not worthy of having her child. With Addison leaving town, I’m sure he’ll continue womanizing. But one has to wonder if he wasn’t really ready to change. And for that, even the cold McSteamy earns a small sliver of sympathy.
On the surface, Callie appears to be coming out smelling like roses. George was apparently leaving the hospital and she just hit the jackpot with the announcement of her appointment as Chief Resident. But clearly the audience can see that she has a lot more to be fearful of then she realizes. Richard Webber has incredibly huge shoes to fill, regardless of who took the role. And while she’s feeling hopefully about a future with George isolated from a circle that brings her constant insecurity, only we know just how much deeper this thing between he and Izzie actually is. She’s not hurting now — but you can sense that we won’t get too far into next season before her mascara will be running as well.
And then there’s Meredith Grey. Yes, the woman who I love to hate. The one who can’t seem to snap out of her Emo-stricken demeanor. Is there enough sympathy for us to feel a little something for the woman who almost drowned and by all accounts is just plain lucky to be alive? The one who’s boyfriend is the most sought after man in the hospital? What kind of pain could she be feeling? Well, let’s see: If for no other reason than the fact that her mom recently died, we should have a small bit of sympathy for Meredith. But unpeel the onion a bit further and you realize that we might have misjudged Meredith…..slightly. Who says that she doesn’t care for others? The hug that she and Christina shared at the end of the show was as endearing a shot as any we’ve seen this season. I didn’t believe the sincerity in her attempts to reconcile with her father. I felt that he was trying more than she was. But certainly having her stepmom die and her father blaming her for it all but ruins any chance of a reconciliation. And despite the fact that she once again got preferential treatment and had the unique opportunity to take the intern exam over again, one has to wonder if after all these episodes even she knows what she wants out of life anymore. The season is over. She’s hurting for her friend. She’s hurting for her relationship. She’s hurting for the disintegration of what little family she had left. Yes, it’s hard to admit, but my heart goes out to Meredith also.
As we look forward to next season, the guy talking over the teaser was right — this episode really does change everything.
To some, it may appear silly for folks to spend time talking or writing about fictional characters who seemingly have no bearing on our real life struggles. But as we all come to grips with the fact that the disappointments of life don’t appear to be letting up anytime soon, we look at these characters and see ourselves. In some cases, I identify wholly with one character. In other cases, I see traits in other characters that remind me of myself….or other friends. Particularly for those of us who have had our share of heartache in relationships, there’s a little something here for everyone, despite what you might have or might be going through. These characters help you to know that you’re not alone in your pain.
I turned on the Tivo and fired up the season finale of season three of Grey’s Anatomy tonight with the intention of clearing it off to make space for “other stuff”. As I watched the touching scenes in the last minutes of the episode, I knew that I would have to find some other show to sacrifice. The touching way that each character’s storyline was ended this episode, all while the beautiful song “Keep Breathing” by Ingrid Michaelson played to a crescendo, made for such an emotional experience. A big part of me isn’t quite sure if I want to head into a new season with a Richard Webber-less Seattle Grace where Callie is Chief of Surgery and Preston Burke and Christina aren’t a couple anymore. But the great thing about a show like Grey’s Anatomy is that the writers clearly understand their audience. Honestly, I have absolutely no idea where this show is taking us next year. But over the 70-plus episodes that we’ve invested in these characters, we’ve learned to trust the writers. We’ll get some surprises, but certainly every situation will produce results that make sense and are consistent with the behavior of the characters we’ve grown to know and love.
Whatever we experience next September when the show returns, it should prove to be another emotional and wonderful ride.