It had to happen eventually, didn’t it? After the upcoming tenth season of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Sandra Oh (who plays the frequently crotchety Dr. Cristina Yang) will be signing off from the series, according to The Hollywood Reporter. As Oh explained, “It’s such an interesting thing to play a character for so long and to actually get the sense that she wants to be let go as well. [Cristina] wants to be let go, and I am ready to let her go.” Me, too.
As one of the original characters on the show, Cristina was the starchy yang (literally) to Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo)’s sometimes annoyingly neurotic yin. As many, many episodes reminded us, Cristina was Meredith’s “person” and vice versa, more than boyfriends and, later, husbands could ever be — at least, until they could.
As Meredith’s bond with McDreamy Derek Shepherd became less grounded in fantasy and insecurity and more substantive, it didn’t seem like Meredith needed to process every single “Uh-huh” and “Yeah?” through her sounding board/best friend anymore. The appearance of adopted baby Zola (and now son Bailey) pushed Yang deeper into her friend’s crowded orbit. As Meredith became less of a train wreck, her relationship with Yang seemed less important — and less compelling.
Yes, Cristina had problems of her own. She suffered through some PTSD after the hospital shooting, became a barfly and generally fell apart before pulling herself back together, all to good effect. But given her limitations, her other relationships quickly became stagnant. Her marriage to Owen (Kevin McKidd) stalled when she could no longer ignore the fact he wanted children — even when he could.
With Cristina, her desire to be the best surgeon out there with limited interest in connection or emotional growth made her the perfect delivery system for snark, but also made her largely one note. She was prickly with occasional moments of watery-eyed sadness and raw emotion, end of story. As much as I liked Cristina (and as much as Emmy voters liked Oh, giving her five nominations for the role), she was always, to an extent, Meredith’s sidekick with the limitations that come with the gig.
After this many seasons, it made sense for “Grey’s Anatomy” to change focus — and it already has. A new fleet of interns has descended on Seattle Grace, and Meredith is no longer center stage despite the character’s name being in the title. Sure, the show could throw a new love interest at Oh, maybe a health scare or a surgical screw-up. But, after so many years, we’re pretty clear on how she’d react. Given that keeping Oh on deck likely isn’t cheap for an aging show, it probably makes good business sense to let her go. But more than that, keeping Oh on reserve to muddle through a familiar storyline is a waste of her talent.
By leaving, Oh is opening the door for both Cristina and Meredith to explore what their friendship has meant, and how it will be changed with Cristina’s exit. As sad as it is to see this curmudgeonly character go and as much as I’ll miss her, I think this last season could be a powerful, emotionally satisfying end to one of the more memorable primetime female friendships (what’s the distaff version of bromance?) in recent years. Cristina would never see it, but it sounds like a silver lining to me.
How do you feel about Sandra Oh leaving the show?