Eight years of Grey’s Anatomy is a long time. My review of the eighth and final season of House has just commented on how slowly the characters developed over the course of the series, and while that meant that there was a lot of filler, it also gave every actual moment of progression that much more impact. Grey’s goes in pretty much entirely the opposite direction, the characters are put through insane amounts of trauma and all the emotions and relationships are cranked up to eleven. If you just let yourself go with it, ignoring the ridiculousness of their lives, and letting yourself be emotionally manipulated, the show is utterly addictive. The problem with forming those kind of emotional bonds is that when the writers make choices that upset you, they grow from just minor irritations into full blown anger – like watching a close friend do something totally stupid and out of character.
Season eight was let down by a few too many of these poor choices, not as epic as the dark days of seasons five and six with Izzie and George and the ghost sex, but still enough to really taint an otherwise solid season. We started off with Derek being a dick to Meredith, but that paled into insignificance compared to the way Owen treated Christina. Christina and Owen were always a disaster waiting to happen, combining two volatile people and trying to have them find compromises on things where there is no middle ground. Owen’s reaction to Christina’s accidental pregnancy was unforgivable in my opinion, she had always been clear that she didn’t want children and his anger at her was both cruel and idiotic – did he really think he could guilt Christina into changing her mind on something when she’s determined? The relationship was dead from that moment, and the fact the writers continued to drag it out across most of the season was just tedious. I spent a significant amount of time just shouting at Christina to leave him.
Meredith and Derek at least have a little more going for them – they’re fundamentally good together, they just have a few areas they need to steer clear of. Except of course that would be too easy, so over and over they fall into the same old mistakes. It’s boring. The biggest problem in both of those relationships of course is that the two wives have a much stronger relationship than either does with their husband, what gives me hope for Meredith and Derek is that he accepts that relationship and embraces the extended family he’s fallen into.
Almost everything else about the season was great. The surviving original interns Christina, Karev and Meredith have all finally matured into grown up surgeons and found their places where they excel and have the respect of their colleagues, particularly satisfying for Karev who’s always been overlooked. The newer additions are a mixed bag, I like Jackson (although I wish he wasn’t used so blatantly as eye candy taking his shirt off at every opportunity) and his relationship with Mark is hilarious. Kepner I was just about growing to accept until the end of the season turned her spontaneously into a complete nut job and destroyed her life. I really don’t understand what happened there.
Despite the huge cast, everyone got some great stories this season, Teddy and her husband (the always wonderful Scott Foley), and Webber and his wife’s Alzheimer’s were both stories that had me reaching for the tissue boxes with superb performances by all parties. Although they didn’t really get any major plots, the Callie and Arizona’s relationship (and their family with Mark) was a lovely thing to see almost in the background – it may be unconventional but it’s probably the most stable relationship group the show has.
As with most seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, season eight ends with a cliff-hanger that’s actually more a part of the following season than the current. The writers are running through the list of disasters they can inflict on their characters, so it was inevitable that sooner or later they’d cram as many of their cast as possible in a small plane and then drop it out of the sky. Cue what even for Grey’s was an off the chart amount of screaming and sobbing, which unfortunately broke some sort of threshold for me, because I went through the stages of caring and came out the other side. I did expend a couple of tissues for Lexie, who I felt got a rather perfunctory send off for such an integral and lovely character, but after that I just disconnected a bit.
Grey’s Anatomy’s success and failures come from the emotional investment I have. It means that when stories are going the way I like, I pounce on new episodes and am completely hooked, but when I don’t like the way things are going I either disconnect and don’t care or don’t want to watch, because I just don’t want to see any more. Fortunately this season it was more a matter of being disconnected and bored by certain storylines, meaning there’s no risk of me quitting the show (I’d say the chances were remote anyway, but that’s the exact reason that I haven’t watched Supernatural this season yet). Maybe the disconnection is actually good, I care a little bit less about these entirely fictional characters. Probably a good thing for my sanity.