Friday, November 23, 2007

Grey's Anatomy: The ghosts of disasters past

Spoilers for last night's crash-tastic episode of "Grey's Anatomy" coming up just as soon as I find my "Radio Days" DVD...

Figures. A couple of days after I complain about Shonda preparing to do another disaster episode, it turns out to be by far my favorite episode of the season. In other news, I wore a heavy sweater and a heavier coat for the Thanksgiving drive yesterday and lost five pounds from sweating in what turned out to be a 70-degree day. (I blame Jack Donaghy.)

In doing some pre-emptive complaining, I focused too much on last year's underwhelming ferry crash three-parter and completely ignored that two of season two's highlights were the train crash episode and the Super Bowl bomb two-parter. It isn't that Shonda can't write disaster episodes; she just fumbled last year's.

As with so many things "Grey's," there wasn't a lot of reinventing the wheel going on here. "Homicide" and "China Beach" both did variations on the story of a dying man being kept alive only by unusual pressure (a subway car for "Homicide," a pair of pneumatic pants for "China Beach"), and one of my favorite Peter Benton episodes of "ER" featured him missing his mother's birthday party because he had to save the life of a skinhead with a knife in his chest.

But as with so many things "Grey's," the ideas mattered much less than the execution. James Pickens Jr. and Chandra Wilson were superb throughout their two stories (Pickens doesn't get nearly enough credit for the gravity he brings to this often-silly show), and the two paramedics trapped in the rig came off as real people and not object lessons for how one of the doctors should be improving their life. I do wish, though, that when Meredith started babbling about her role in the soon-to-be-widow's story, the Chief had simply said, "Meredith, this isn't about you," but the rest of the storyline was put together so well that I didn't get too annoyed.

There was an urgency to these proceedings that was missing throughout the ferry crash episodes, which seemed less about the disaster at hand than about Meredith's latest fugue state. Here, there was a nice balance between plot and character. We got a glimpse of Bailey's marital troubles, but it didn't slow the momentum of her case, any more than Karev trying to juggle two women distracted from the heart patient. After last week's iteration of Life Is Just Like High School, it was refreshing to see all the characters acting like grown-ups -- or, at least, like college students -- and the George/Izzie time was virtually nil.

There's still time to screw this all up -- none of these stories may turn out to need two full episodes -- but this was the most I've enjoyed this series in quite some time.

A few other brief thoughts:

-Great job by the makeup department on Seth Green's exposed artery. I couldn't even look at him in the final scene, even was before it became obvious that it was going to burst in mid-flirt.

-For a few minutes there, it seemed that the swastika plot was heading in a direction where it turned out Gale Harold regretted the thing and was just ashamed to have any black doctors see it -- which would, in turn, explain his concern about his black partner -- but the later scenes suggested he was unrepentant. Where are they going with this?

-Geez, Jane Doe: if a guy risks his career to slip you into the viewing room, the least you could do was not strike up a conversation with the girl next to you in which you quickly admit you're no supposed to be there and who snuck you in.

What did everybody else think?

19 comments:

Jon Delfin said...

Pretty grim for a Thanksgiving episode (though I did feel thankful that I wasn't any of the people in the story).

Anonymous said...

I stopped watching after the third episode this season, so all I caught were the last 5 minutes and Seth Green's exploding artery. I literally laughed out loud when it happened because it was so over-the-top and ridiculous. Maybe what lead up to it was good, but just seeing that moment made me realize I will never regret dropping this show.

Anonymous said...

As Anton Chekhov said, if you introduce an exposed artery in the first act, it better explode before the To Be Continued is displayed.

filmcricket said...

I do wish, though, that when Meredith started babbling about her role in the soon-to-be-widow's story, the Chief had simply said, "Meredith, this isn't about you," but the rest of the storyline was put together so well that I didn't get too annoyed.

Well, you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din, because that's all I could think about. I was switching back and forth between this and "The Incredibles" on NBC, and I think I missed out on a lot of the cool medicine and happened to hit the angsty, relationshippy, self-involved stuff. I didn't see Green's artery explode - too bad about that, although he's way too good for this show so maybe killing him off is the best thing.

BigTed said...

I don't know if this is how the scene was intended to play, but it seemed as if Seth Green's artery burst because Lexie made him laugh -- so in a way, it was her fault. If it had been Meredith, she'd spend half of the next episode moping about it.

Is Jane Doe heading in a crazy-stalkery direction? I'd hate to see that, but there doesn't seem to be anywhere else for the character to go now that she's regained her memory. I like Elizabeth Reaser (or at least I did when she was in "Saved"), and I think she deserves better. (Although I guess at this point in the strike, any actor is lucky to be appearing in anything.)

Despite all the soap-opera elements, "Grey's" is still a million times more realistic than "Private Practice." Why is that? In the last episode of "PP," Addison dated the patient of a psychiatrist in her own medical practice (with predictably bad results, but no ethical or legal repercussions). We also discovered that a hospital chief of staff not only has time to waste entire days at a small clinic, but spends her nights in "Looking for Mr. Goodbar"-style Internet-fueled sexual encounters. (Luckily, it turned out that's the best way to meet nice, handsome doctors -- who knew?)

Undercover Black Man said...

I happened to watch this ep. (or at least most of it)... first time seeing the show in a couple of years. I couldn't get past the "Homicide" echo. In general, this episode made me re-evaluate upwards the early years of "ER," where the medical crises were highly credible and the soap elements were done at a very high level.

LA said...

Honestly, I'm not really a fan of "very special episodes" of Grey's Anatomy, but it didn't hurt that George and Izzie had minimal air time.

Oh, and I'm with you 100 percent on your comments about James Pickens, Jr.

teenagewasteland said...

I (and everyone with half a brain) saw Seth Green's exploding artery coming as soon as they wheeled him into Grace Hospital...however, the reaction shot of Dr. Lexie followed by her getting "Jackson Pollocked" by the blood splatter (paging Dexter Morgan) threw me to the floor with laugher. Since you can't write stuff like that, I am sure the writers stike will have no affect on this unitentionally campy show.

Toby said...

I'm curious - are all the ambulances in L.A. red? Or is it the whole West Coast?

I guess the producers of various TV shows just borrow those rather than getting the details from each city because I've now seen in the last few weeks the same design for ambulance in 'Grey's Anatomy' (Seattle) and 'Women's Murder Club' and 'Journeyman' (San Francisco).

It's little details like that in a TV show that bug me.....

PamelaJaye said...

> "Homicide" and "China Beach" both did variations on the story of a dying man being kept alive only by unusual pressure (a subway car for "Homicide," a pair of pneumatic pants for "China Beach"),

and there were the pole people on Grey's

> and one of my favorite Peter Benton episodes of "ER" featured him missing his mother's birthday party because he had to save the life of a skinhead with a knife in his chest.

Thank You! I was trying to figure out which character missed what event and it just would not come to me (though I remember him (whoever he was) griping about it (whatever it was)

also I was concerned that Yet Another Cast Member was going to "die." and so far that hasn't happened. Yay!

I should note that Shonda wrote this ep with Krista - which almost always helps (aside from George's dad replaying Krista's dad's death) even when Krista has to scream and run back to her office objexting to Shonda's plan to make Mer sleep with George (hey, he hasn't slept with Cristina yet - and everyone around here makes McDreamy look practically McVirginal - he's only slept with *two* people! (and one was his wife))

Kat said...

As this season continues, I'm really noticing a gap opening up between my most-favourite and least-favourite characters. Before I liked them pretty much equally, though I had preferences, but now I'm all about Cristina, Bailey, McSteamy, the Chief, and Dr. Hahn (possibly the single best thing to come out of this season so far, in my opinion, is her addition to the cast - she's one of the only adults in the entire hospital). Meanwhile, I'm so sick of Izzie, George, Callie and that entire mess that I just flip away during their storylines. Also, the Mere-Derek flip-flopping is really, really wearing thin at this point. Either break them up for good or bit the bullet and write Meredith as a responsible adult. PLEASE.

I did enjoy this episode, especially when the artery exploded. Awesome.

dez said...

I happened to watch this ep. (or at least most of it)... first time seeing the show in a couple of years. I couldn't get past the "Homicide" echo. In general, this episode made me re-evaluate upwards the early years of "ER," where the medical crises were highly credible and the soap elements were done at a very high level.

I saw this ep because my family was watching it and there was nothing else to do since the niece and nephew were asleep, and well, ITA with what UBM said, except I'd add the "ER" echoes to the H:LOTS one. Can't believe I liked this show in the beginning, and I definitely don't regret dropping it.

Not that it will prevent me from peeking in on your post next ep to find out if Seth's character lives, dammit (heh) :-)

Jon Delfin said...

Pamelajaye: "also I was concerned that Yet Another Cast Member was going to 'die'." I have a really bad feeling about Bailey's husband.

PamelaJaye said...

>Pretty grim for a Thanksgiving episode

last year's Thanksgiving ep featured Cristina running down the corridor covered in blood, I believe.

>Dr. Hahn (possibly the single best thing to come out of this season so far, in my opinion, is her addition to the cast - she's one of the only adults in the entire hospital).

I'm sure Shonda can fix that, though she may have to spin her off in order to do so

speaking of ER - last year I missed Mark, Peter, Doug, Carter, Susan and Carol, a did a big line of reruns.
Guess what I found, pinned under a train? Denny Duquette.
He was also recently (i think - i do a lot of reruns)in a dark bar - and yes, it wasn't recently - it was Tru Calling. (not lying about the reruns. though this was an ep i's missed)
he gets around as much as Steven Culp used to

LA said...

jon delfin - Me, too. Glad to know it wasn't just me.

Stef said...

Didn't we meet Bailey's husband in an ep where he almost died? I don't think they'd do that to him again...I hope. But I wouldn't mind Izzie going. As much as the George/Izzie relationship sucks, her hating on Cristina and Meredith's friendship has her totally regressing to middle school petulance. It's a horrible storyline, IMO.

Susan said...

I could have sworn that the "ER" storyline with a guy with a swastika tatoo was with Jeannie, not Benton, but it's been a long time, so perhaps I'm wrong. As I remember it, he spends half the episode trying to get someone else to treat him, and when Jeannie finally sees the tatoo, he tells her how ashamed he is of it and how he got it in his youth. I guess I'm remembering it wrong.

Solid episode, although I really could do without all of the Rose-Derek flirtation. We see where this is going already, let's not pretend we don't. Her speech about knowing what she wanted (and her fiance didn't) was just a bit too "nail on the head" for me.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I guess I'm remembering it wrong.

We could be remembering two different stories. There was absolutely an episode where Benton missed his mother's birthday because he (along with, as I recall, an all-minority nursing team) had to save the life of a skinhead with a knife stuck in his heart. This was back during the storyline where Peter and his sister were arguing over whether to put their mom in a home, and this was kind of the last straw for the sister.

But there very well may have been a Jeannie episode later on with a similar theme. As even the "ER" showrunners admit, they've done every story at least twice, if not three times by now.

Anonymous said...

I stopped watching this show after hating it last season... and from what I hear, I'm not missing much. Although I do miss the character of Karev but that's about it. Glad to hear they have a good episode once in a while.