Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Season 7 Review Part 2: Emotional Debris - Meredith/Derek & Cristina/Owen

To read this article on SpoilerTV with comments

Having summed up the season in Part 1: The Good, the Bad and the just plain Ugly we move on to the fall out of the season finale. Many thanks for the comments to part 1. Please keep them coming. I did say this pre-season ramble would be in 3 parts. Well I write too much, so it’s more likely going to be 4 or 5.
Whilst I am not spoiler free, this article is. No reference is made to recent tweets or gossip…any comment on Season 8 content is speculation only.
So, as we tread the path towards Season 8 we’re catching our feet, tripping and falling on the emotional debris left around us from Shonda’s verbal shoot out. Whatever you might feel about the finale (and for me it was a bit …meh) there’s no getting away from the fact that things are a bit of a relationship mess for the doctors of Seattle Grace Mercy West.

There’s only one place to start – Meredith and Derek. We’ve had 7 seasons (and who knows how many years, because let’s face it the Grey’s timeline is a mystery to all) of MerDer angst, trauma, relationship, affairs, sex, heartache and finally happiness. There is very little this poor couple haven’t been raked through and as the most significant, longest serving couple on the show it’s been a tortuous journey for the viewer.
The opening of season 7 saw Meredith trying to control the uncontrollable. Her best friend has weirded out with PTSD, her husband has discovered ‘carpe diem’, she’s failing the psych test for surgery, she’s miscarried a child and coating all of that she’s covering up her own trauma demons. Derek, on the other hand, has not only rediscovered his love for cutting, he’s living on adrenalin, feels an extraordinary compassion for Cristina, and at the same time as knowing his wife could be a victim of early onset Alzheimer’s, seems intent on keeping Meredith’s shooting trauma in his blind spot.
This was not an easy puzzle to fix.
To be honest I’m having some trouble with Derek this season. Maybe his faults have been in my blind spot for 6 seasons or maybe season 7 was intended to be about his ascendancy to the moral high ground in the spirit of carpe diem.
Now before all the MerDer’s go crazy at me, for what I’m about to write, I tell you I’m a MerDer fan really. But I’m going to have a negative moment.
(Feel free to throw bricks at me in the comments box!).
Let’s look at the evidence.
  1. His dangerous addiction to speeding down the highway, as if untouchable.
  2. After finding out about Meredith’s miscarriage, one hug and it’s all better. Really?
  3. The ‘I know what’s good for Cristina not you’ attitude. This storyline was one of the best this season except for one element - his lack of empathy for Meredith’s point of view and Meredith’s trauma. Which leads me to number…
  4. He completely ignores the fact that Meredith went through any trauma. Well, I shall defend him a little, on the basis that knowing Meredith, she probably downplayed it so much that it was hard to see she even went through a trauma. But Derek claims to know her well. And don’t get me started on his comments during surgery in “Disarm”.
  5. Lying to her about starting the trial…with Alex. And the smug grin when he says it was open to all the residents…
  6. Let’s adopt this baby. Don’t get me wrong, the baby is c.u.t.e. But he blindsided Meredith. How about a two-way conversation with her first?
  7. “Let’s get married.” Today, now, exactly this minute. Well, it’s for the baby after all. Emotional blackmail.
  8. “I don’t know how to raise a child with someone who doesn’t understand that there’s a right and wrong in the world.” Seriously? I hate to point out the irony to you Derek but Meredith’s name has always been Grey.

Now Meredith is complicit in all of this of course. She spends too much time fixing others that she doesn’t fix herself. She doesn’t see the healing that Derek is trying to do for Cristina. She’s too focussed on doing the good thing, which is not necessarily the right thing and doing it without thinking through the consequences 360 degrees. She doesn’t talk to her husband. But does she deserve the Derek bruised ego?
Am I wrong about Derek? Did he have good reason to behave as he did? Did you see things differently? Do guys see things differently?
So where did this leave us at the end of the season. Meredith rode through all the issues like the trooper she is, calm in a crisis, even to the point of taking the baby home and at least looking like the mother she apparently now is. And because she rode out these issues it certainly feels to me like the separation at the end is merely a time out. Getting some clean air (literally in Derek’s case). Nothing about this shouts ‘divorce’. It is a communication problem (as seems to be the sickness all Grey’s couples suffer from).
Meredith has failed to see the deeper implication of her tampering with the trial for Derek – I want to shout at her “woman, he’s trying to find a cure for his wife…that would be you…he can’t bear to face the prospect of losing you to this despicable disease”.
Derek has failed to see the connections Meredith has made between Adele and Richard and Ellis, the compassion, the second-hand guilt, the need to repair what was broken. In her words, “it’s complicated”.
Neither of these issues is malignant. Both will fester for a while. But all will be well…between them as a couple. I remain cautious regarding whether the adoption will finally go through.

This is not the case for Cristina and Owen, who, in my opinion, have set off on a one-way road with no roundabout. I’ve struggled with these two as a couple, mainly because I can’t see the future for them. It is so much easier to see the future for Meredith and Derek or Callie and Arizona. Cristina and Owen’s entire relationship has always been based around trauma, either his, or hers. Their meeting was via an icicle in the gut and a stapled thigh. Their courtship was plagued with PTSD violence. Their marriage was on the back of one party operating with a gun pointed at her head and then watching the other get shot. And we know how those ‘rush to the altar’ weddings end in Grey’s don’t’ we? And once again a Grey’s couple have come down with a case of communication cancer, an epidemic at SGMW. Whilst WE have known for at least 6 seasons that Cristina does not want children, it seems that Owen has either been living in ignorance, living in hope or operating with complacency that he has the power to change her mind. None of those imply that he knows his wife very well. Cristina has her part to play in this as well. It doesn’t take much to realise that Owen is the kind of guy who would want a family. Both couples Meredith/Derek and Callie/Arizona discussed this, both resolved it, before a post-it white wedding marriage took place. Cristina and Owen fell into marriage without the necessary conversation. So now Cristina is pregnant and headed for an abortion.
Let’s take a minute to discuss birth control. In general it seems that contraception is either not practised in Seattle or that there is some creepy tampering of the condoms rife throughout Bailey’s clinic (be aware Miranda, there could be a mini Eli cookin’). Some might say that if Cristina really and truly did not want a baby she would have made it impossible to have one following her previous accidental pregnancy. This may well be one way the writers justify keeping the baby, but if it is, it’s a poor one. And then now she is accidentally pregnant again will Meredith kick off at Cristina about her ‘baby without trying’?
In my view Cristina will not keep the baby and this will mean Owen won’t keep her. She is focussed, principled and single minded. She doesn’t change her mind about things. And she doesn’t want kids. It’s not a case of protesting too much, she simply doesn’t want them. She is not Arizona, who at least has empathy with kids and whose feeling around this subject was simply not so strong. Cristina has no empathy and rock solid resolve. Being true to her character means a termination. And then how will Meredith react to that?
It is always possible that this is not the path the writers will take, for whatever reason (and this is not the place to speculate on those reasons). Shonda may decide that Cristina keeps the baby. Go back to the fire station “I don’t care where we live. But you do. And I love you”. Cristina bent for Owen. Having a baby is much different to buying an apartment but still there is a sign. In order to carry a “keep the baby” story arc though Shonda needs her best writers to pull it off. Cristina as a mother is out of character. To make it ‘in character’ will take an immense story, with some awesome story telling. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but Season 7 has seen some character writing seriously misfiring.
Cristina has other loose ends to tidy up amongst her marital problems. Her cardio career is dive-bombing as her surgical arrogance has yet to peak. The choice she is presented with will be keep the baby or fix her career. And my money is on the career.

So it’s over to you folks now. Join in below. Let me know what you think. Remember, mine is just an opinion and I love to hear yours. Also, if I've missed something in the diagram let me know.
Part 3 (Callie/Arizona and The Alex Hub) will be up soon.

The above article makes reference to the difficult and controversial topic of abortion. Speculation and discussion around what action a character may take with an unwanted pregnancy is merely to understand how that particular character, as written and characterised, might behave in such a situation.
No personal opinion on the rights or wrongs of abortion is intended nor should be inferred.

First posted on SpoilerTV: Click here to be re-directed.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Season 7 Review Part 1: The Good, the Bad and the just plain Ugly

Click to read this article on SpoilerTV with comments

If Twitterverse is to be believed Grey’s will start filming Season 8 on 15th July (so says JCap), bringing an end to actor vacations and revving up the promotional PR for us poor long hiatus suffering viewers. But before we speculate about what delights Shonda Rhimes will bring us in September let’s remind ourselves of what happened during Season 7.

This is a 3 part series of blogs designed to help navigate the path to S8. Part one is the good, the bad and the just plain ugly. It's a long one, so here goes...

Best Episode: OK, so I think 710, Adrift and at Peace or 701 With You I am Born Again. I can’t decide. 710 probably wins for the outstanding sequence of scenes with Cristina/Derek and the end scene with Callie/Arizona. The best episodes for me are written and directed with subtlety and grace. And 710 does that so well. If you read the reviews you might think that 711, Disarm, is the best, but in my view that episode is over sentimental and unnecessary story telling. Or some reviews say that 722, the finale is the season winner. Having re-watched the whole season there is a stark difference between the writing and directing of 701 with the finale, 722 Unaccompanied Minor. 701 is superb. The tension in the episode is tangible, the cinematography creates a dark, edgy pressure and then in the midst we see classic comedy with Chief Webber dancing away. Grey’s is at it’s best when mixing dark story telling with comic genius. Contrast this with 722, which is poorly written, rushed, with bad characterisation. Generally uninspiring. Other excellent episodes include 718 Song Beneath the Song and 715, Golden Hour.
Worst Episode: 706 These Arms of Mine. This was a wasted episode. I salute the production team for trying something new with the documentary style, but it was difficult to watch our characters behaving differently to how we usually see them. It felt false and over-acted. This meant that stories that needed to be told fully were not, for example Arizona’s grant and Callie’s subsequent decision. Part of the enjoyment of this show is the depth of characters and telling the story in such a way as a documentary meant we only saw the superficial. 
Second in the worst episode award is 712, Start Me Up, a dull filler of an episode which used up valuable screen time that could have been dedicated to really kick starting the true Chief Resident race stories.
Best Character and Characterisation: Cristina Yang. She is the most developed, most consistent, best-written character in the show. She is funny, dark and genius. This is only amplified by the fact that Sandra Oh plays her so brilliantly. I also really enjoyed watching Meredith this season. She took a little bit of a back seat in terms of storyline but what we saw of her was well written, consistent and progressive.
Worst Characterisation (not to be confused with worst character): Arizona Robbins. The strong, independent, mature ‘grown up’ character we knew in S5 and S6 is not the same weak, trodden upon, bailer we had in S7. And this is NOTHING to do with JCap, who has made something brilliant out of nothing this season. Kudos to her also for pushing out a baby and getting back to work in what seemed like only about 4 weeks. To some extent Callie Torres was also poorly characterised but you could also say that her behaviour was merely on the edge of her character rather than completely out of character.
Worst Character: Jackson Avery. I’ve lost the point to Avery (despite the fact he’s lovely totty) and thus can’t be bothered to even finish this sentence….
Best Storyline: Cristina and her PTSD. It’s obviously difficult to empathise with her, not many of us operate with a gun to our heads, but it takes writing genius for us to really feel what it’s like to deal with it, or even get close to this feeling. The writers stuck true to Cristina and the story ended beautifully in Adrift and At Peace. I also loved the heart-breaking and devastating Alzheimers storyline with Adele Webber and really hope this continues into S8. It would be good television to revisit some of the patients, and their progress. Although the clinical trial may well be destroyed…
Worst Storyline: Callie, Arizona and Mark baby threesome. This was almost a textbook definition of “how can writers annoy the most number of fans”. If you were a big supporter of this story you would surely be in the minority. There was nothing for Calzona fans, nothing for Mexie fans and very little for Mallie fans. What was Shonda thinking: the biggest and most iconic lesbian relationship on network TV in America, and she puts a man in the middle of it with boygirl “we were broken up” sex and a resulting baby? If the storyline itself wasn’t bad enough, the writing of it was a complete disaster. And unlike the Cristina/PTSD storyline, which was told respectfully and clearly, the calsloana soap was told either with crass narcissistic superficiality or so symbolically that you needed a PhD in psychology and philosophy to interpret the musical episode (by the way, I loved the musical episode!).
Best Acting: Goes to the ladies this season – Sandra Oh is just brilliant throughout the series. Sara Ramirez and Jessica Capshaw should be awarded a huge prize for their superb acting with extremely poor material. The best guest star is without doubt Loretta Devine for her heart breaking portrayal of Adele Webber.
Worst Acting: Well no one really stands out to be honest. They’re all pretty good. Eric Dane needs a great script to look really good and unfortunately the writers let him down. His dialogue was dull, repetitive and lifeless. There’s only so many times you can listen to “I’m a father”, “I’m a parent”. So he didn’t shine.
Best Music: One of the main reasons for me to watch Grey’s is for the music. I simply love it. This season did not disappoint. The best music came from Mumford & Sons, Adele, The National, Cary Brothers and Mackintosh Braun. All provided atmospheric, enchanting or emotional sound tracks to the stories. But really there was much more new stuff. The musical episode was excellent and a real celebration of what makes Grey’s so good to listen to. If I was disappointed then it was that a new Grey’s ‘anthem’ was not uncovered in the Wedding episode.
Funniest Lines: Seriously, so many to choose from that this could be the subject of a new blog post. But here are the highlights:
The most subtle was from April, “Sparkle…that was the name of my pony” (re-watch 710 for the context!). Subtle and genius.
Meredith, in 721, “My mother was about as nurturing as a steak knife”
Cristina, “"She's mostly tubes and wires. And she looks more like a chicken than a baby. Like a featherless, beakless chicken. You want to wait until she's cuter." 719, It’s a long way back.
Funniest Scene: Oh it has to be Cristina cutting Callie’s hair in 708, Something’s gotta give. Priceless. “You might want a hat!” I vote for a Cristina/Callie sit com.
I also loved Derek catching Bailey and Eli, at it, in the on-call room! Classic. 715, Golden Hour.
Who did I ship this season: Although not a die-hard shipper generally, I was a Callie/Arizona fan (I’m a romantic) until Callie went narcissistic and Arizona lost her bottle. Now it’s difficult to like them as a couple. But as a romantic, I loved 718 White Wedding and I am rooting for them big time in S8. I am sad for Mark and Lexie, this is the “to die for chemistry” couple that get shafted too many times and I don’t like it. MerDer, slightly dull this season.Teddy and Henry are just cute (although doomed) as are Bailey and Eli. Cristina and Owen – never was a much of a fan. Still not. Lexie/Jackson – eeuuuww. Yuk.
Unexplored sexual chemistry that should’ve been explored: Teddy and the CIA guy. Smokin’! 708, Something’s gotta give.
Who did I fall in love with: Alex. I’ve really struggled to like him over the years but this season I finally fell, 718 White Wedding (yeah, you know the scene I’m talking about!), and I am crushed at where Shonda has left him in the season finale. I am, however, secretly hoping he runs off with Arizona…(I know, I know, she’s a gold star lesbian, it’s never gonna happen, but they are too cute together…)
Best speech: Arizona’s “brother” speech in 718, White Wedding. She nails the speech every time. This also restored my faith in Mark (I’m a Mark fan and he’s been disappointing me). April’s “we all have stuff we don’t talk about” speech in 703, Superfreak opened my eyes to how good her character can be.
Other great moments – Meredith finally telling Lexie she loves her, and to grow up all in the same breathe; Derek falling in love with Zola (now THAT is on screen chemistry at work); Richard and Adele, finally, yet tragically happy; Bailey curing fistulas.
Most interesting plot factoid: All three significant relationships in the show got married this season and have a child (or are at least pregnant). Nothing about that last sentence is very “Grey’s”.

So that’s my view of the highlights and lowlights of S7. I thought S6 and even S5 were better but that won't put me off tuning into S8. In the next blog we'll take a look at the emotional shoot out Shonda Rhimes left us with.

First posted on SpoilerTV: Click here to be re-directed.