It’s a Shonda Rhimes-themed edition of the Morning Round-Up, with thoughts on last night’s season finales of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” coming up just as soon as I ask you to stab me in the face…
Shonda was in a difficult position when she wrote the “Grey’s Anatomy” finale. While she could very safely assume that the show (still the top-rated drama on TV in the 18-49 demo) would be returning, the contracts of many of her actors – including original stars Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey and Sandra Oh – were up, and matters weren’t likely to be resolved until after the season had finished production. So in recent episodes, she had set things up with all the outside job offers so that it would be easily understood if Meredith, Derek, Cristina, or anyone else wasn’t at the hospital when the show returned. And then having properly set up viewer expectations, Shonda proceeded to blow them up by putting a good chunk of the cast on a plane together and crashing it in the woods.
And the funny thing is, fans and the press spent so much time speculating on what the show would be like without Pompeo or Dempsey (who, along with Oh, Justin Chambers, James Pickens and Chandra Wilson, signed contracts for next season earlier this month) that it felt like a genuine surprise when the one immediate casualty of the plane crash wasn’t one of them, but Lexie, while the only person definitively leaving the hospital right now is Teddy. Shonda posted an explanation of both those decisions, and if she was going to play the plane crash card, then somebody had to die, even if it was a more minor character like Lexie.
That said, I have very mixed feelings about all the plane crash material. On the one hand, “Grey’s” has (like “ER” before it) pretty much always excelled at the mass casualty stuff, and the intensity and despair and sense of shock that everyone was feeling (particularly Meredith and Cristina in the opening scene where they yelled for Arizona to shut up) were very well-captured, even if several of the shots (Meredith looking up at the sky, in particular) couldn’t have been more evocative of the “Lost” pilot. On the other hand, “Grey’s” (like “ER” before it) has inflicted so much trauma on its characters and this hospital over the years that you either get desensitized to it or start laughing about it. When Cristina complains to Meredith about all of the terrible things that have happened to them since they came to Seattle Grace, it’s framed in a way where you can’t imagine any of these characters wanting to return to that hospital, even though I imagine we’ll come back in the fall to find out that the plane crash has given everyone pause about walking away. (Or, in some cases, like Derek, I imagine the injuries will complicate their surgical careers.)
Also, while I would have been okay with the show moving on without some of these people had deals not been reached, I feel like this episode would’ve been a pretty rotten farewell for any of these characters. If Pompeo hadn’t re-upped, would fans of the show really want their last glimpse of Meredith to be her shivering in the woods, wondering if the search parties ever find her?
“Scandal” started off in a more melodramatic key than “Grey’s,” what with Olivia’s history with President Grant and then the Amanda Tanner story, and I was impressed with how Shonda kept upping those stakes throughout this brief, brisk, entertainingly soapy seven-episode season. On the one hand, all of it – murders being covered up, former CIA assassins torturing each other, the vice-presidential chief of staff nearly bringing down the presidency
pregnancy, Quinn having a secret identity, etc. – is completely and utterly ridiculous. On the other hand, the show and its actors (particularly Kerry Washington, Jeff Perry, Guillermo Diaz and Josh Malina) took it all seriously and played it with the conviction necessary to make it work.
It’s not a deep show, but it’s more fun than I was expecting. I’ll be curious to see what, if any, tweaks Shonda has planned for season two. Quinn was definitely the show’s weakest link, and while the final scene could provide an out to send the character packing, I fear it’s instead going to make her even more central. Also, once we’ve gone to the places the show took us in the finale, will the next big story arc have to involve alien invasion to top it, or can Shonda make something with far smaller stakes work?
What did everybody else think?