Thursday, September 25, 2008

Grey's Anatomy, "Dream a Little Dream of Me": Pain don't hurt

Spoilers for the "Grey's Anatomy" season five premiere coming up just as soon as I grab a stapler and a pen...

Shonda Rhimes is a genius. An aggravating genius, but a genius nonetheless. (And, really, what genius comes without some aggravation?)

Shonda's brilliance -- her ability to tell a very familiar story in a slightly new and extremely affecting way -- has kept me watching "Grey's Anatomy" for a very long time, through a lot of episodes and story arcs I absolutely despised. Where I've stuck with other shows in the past that I didn't like simply because the ways in which they were bad fascinated me (say, "Studio 60"), with "Grey's" it was my knowledge that, even though I would have to suffer through a lot of annoying shenanigans to get there, Shonda would occasionally provide a moment so elegant and surprising and moving that I would regret not seeing it.

So, yes, I wanted to throw a brick at the TV when we got the dream sequence fake-out about McDreamy being in a car crash, and again with Rose's pregnancy joke (which led to an ABC promo that Shonda had to publicly disavow). And, yes, Lexie suddenly having an unrequited crush on George in the same way he did on Meredith way back when is a little too cute and self-conscious a role reversal. And, yes, I still think Callie and Dr. Hahn are gay for each other (but not, in an unexpected twist for Hahn, for anyone else, past or present) only because the writers needed to give these two characters something to do.

But every minute of it was worth it for the moment when Izzie (and you know how much I hate Izzie) started counting to 30 after Mariette Hartley woke up from surgery, then realized that this woman would spend the rest of her life having to be told, over and over and over, that her husband was dead. As I said in my column this morning, that's the sort of fate even a fairy tale witch wouldn't be cruel enough to concoct. That Izzie found a way, in the end, to turn Mariette's curse -- a condition that makes Leonard from "Memento" seem like a lucky bastard in comparison -- into a blessing (Mariette will instead be perpetually told that her husband is just around the corner) didn't diminish the awesome horror of that earlier moment. If anything, it elevated all the fairy tale talk, because it showed how every fairy tale is a horror story, and vice versa, depending on the perspective you take on it.

Really, aside from the missteps I mentioned above, I quite liked "Dream a Little Dream." I've made peace with the aspects of the series I know are fundamental to its DNA --- the narration, Meredith's need to obsess about her relationships every minute of every day -- and the running meta-commentary about the drop in the hospital rankings(*) suggests Shonda and company are aware of how they slipped in recent years and are going to make a good-faith effort to get back to doing what they do best.

(*) Or was it a meta-commentary? An ABC publicist says she talked to Shonda and was told it wasn't meant as such, but it's impossible to look at it as anything but, especially since "Grey's" last year went from #2 to #11 by most Nielsen measures. Whatever the authorial intent, I'm choosing to regard it as such until proven otherwise.

Meanwhile, I really liked the addition of Kevin McKidd. Yeah, they laid on the "He's a combat field surgeon who doesn't play by the rules!" thing a little thick -- and, as noted in the column, the surgical staple gag was straight outta "Roadhouse" -- but McKidd brings a distinctly masculine energy that the show has needed for a while. I think the producers hoped that McSteamy would provide that kind of counterpoint to McDreamy and George, but he's instead wound up as comic relief.

I'm not clear on how long McKidd is committed to being here, but I hope it's a while because, much to my pleasant surprise, I suspect I'm going to be here for a while as well.

What did everybody else think?


Pamela Jaye said...

right now, in this moment, i'm just glad you're back :-)

(and please don't ask me - yet - which ep that was from. i've seen them all a million times.)

i'll get it in a minute. really.

Pamela Jaye said...

i thought i had it. i didn't. darn. so i'm going to go watch the scene with Denny again. :-)

(no, first i'm going to read your column)

Pamela Jaye said...

I do have one problem with this ep (other than the amount of time it took to recognize Mariette, and John Getz)

it was confusing to me, since i could not keep track of whose husband was whose, and therefore missed a whole batch of metaphors.

aside from that...
Sometimes happy endings *are* possible - even if they only live in our dreams.

(oh sorry - I've been listening to too many Grey's voiceovers.)

Pamela Jaye said...

having read said column, two more comments

And Rhimes gives one of the patients a fate crueler in its beauty than anything the meanest Disney witch might think of.

aside from this being a Disney owned show (which makes its take on happily ever after even funnier) I could not help but be reminded of my favorite episode of Enterprise, where Archer lost his memory, over and over - although not evrey thiry secons - for 12 years. Perhaps if Shonda could solve Mariette's problem, the Xindi won't destroy earth...

There were so many fantasy sequences tonight, I thought I was watching Scrubs. (which is okay - I love Scrubs, but I fell for thise show cause it reminded me of Ally McBeal, so the promo for Brothers and Sisters - that I fast forwarded thru- just made me smile)

loved the meta - 12th rating, but was really waiting for the Chief to proclaim that the hospital was going to start a program of actually *rotating* the interns and residents. Alas, this is Grey's, and it's too much to hope for.

Still, you have to admit - all summer, half the fans thought Derek was going to get hit by a truck after telling Mer to "stay here" - so Mer's nightmare was actually amusing and apropos.

And of course the Chief had to yell at Meredith for things which were not her fault, as that is a prerequisite for every man who has slept with Ellis Grey (or Ellis herself). (Nevertheless, I so wanted to punch him in the mouth!)

Joe Reid said...

Alan, I'd actually come to this realization around the end of last season, when I realized that Grey's sat on my DVR for far shorter intervals than other (perhaps better) shows. But tonight's episode solidified that feeling and I came out with very similar terminology: I've made peace with the aspects of the show that bother me and will weather them to get to the parts of the show that I love.

The idea that this show needs a sufficient "masculine energy" or whatever is kind of depressing in that I'm not sure what it implies, but I welcome Kevon McKidd's addition just the same.

Pamela Jaye said...


no wonder he was reminding mme of Peter Hunt on Murphy Brown.

no time to watch ER yet.

Anonymous said...

The 2nd hour dragged...just like Heroes...I'm so not into two hour premieres...just more commercials.

I do like the addition of Major Hunk (yeah, how long do you think it will be before they call him that?)

Still love the Chief and Yang and McSteamy. Could live without Izzy, Lexie, and George.

Loved it when Yang told Meredith to shut up. Finally. And by the way, why doesn't Meredith ever seem to do any work?

Alan Sepinwall said...

The idea that this show needs a sufficient "masculine energy" or whatever is kind of depressing in that I'm not sure what it implies,

Joe, I just meant that, for variety, the show could use one guy who's not lost inside his head the whole time in the way that McDream, George and the Chief tend to be. It isn't so much about actual masculinity but perceived masculine stereotypes (guys don't spend much time thinking about feelings and such). Point is, McKidd adds a different color to the show, and that's good at this late date.

Anonymous said...

Shonda's comments - Here she seems to affirm that the chief's speech is indeed a meta-commentary

catzak said...

Loved the addition of Lucius Vorenus. I had written Grey's off for the most part last year, but it has me interested again, so we'll see where it goes.

Heather K said...

As a native of the East side of Washington state where we actually, you know, have snow and use to make the Huskies lose the Apple Cup on our side of the mountains. I mostly was surprised that anyone in Seattle was leaving their house that night. My impression of Seattle in snow is that no one does anything except lay low in their house and eat everything in their cabinets until every last flake has melted. Although most of that way of thinking is from a trip I took in high school with my dad where it took us 4 hours through serious snow we ought not to have been driving in over the pass to go what usually takes about 45 minutes. When we arrived in Seattle, the people at the hotel were appalled that we would even contemplate much less actually leave to drive elsewhere in the neighborhood to eat dinner through the light flakes they had.

Although I did start crying when Christina told Meredith she was her person. And I like seeing Denny, even though the craziness that was that storyline was stupid, I just really like seeing those two together.

Susan said...

I loved the Chief yelling at Meredith, and admitting that his work had slipped due to her presence. I was so annoyed last season when he let her get away with anything and everything because she was Ellis' daughter. (In the season finale, he starts to call out Meredith for disobeying the order to only do one more surgery in their cynical trial, and she goes ahead and does a second; she turns on him and starts yelling about Ellis's suicide attempt, and that was that.)

I'm sick of seeing the medical cases parallel the personal lives of the doctors, but I guess that's a Grey's trademark. I thought the Mariette Hartley storyline was very well done, but otherwise, the coincidence of both limos being in accidents was bit much for me.

Very excited about McArmy. I do think he's what the show (and Christina) needed.

Kiersten said...

Yeah, I'm scheduling it back into my DVR. I'd canceled it with the George and Izzie thing b/c it literally made my stomach churn and I couldn't bear to watch. Plus I was sick of Meredith's whining, and with Addison gone, not even hot McSteamy could offset that.

But McKidd has a huge zing to the screen and is a welcomed foil for Christina. When we weren't watching the awesome might of the 3 veteran actresses, Staples and Christina were the hottest, most electric thing up there. I swear, there was more chemistry in that icicle removal scene than there was in the entire time she spent with Burke.

Damn you Shonda Rhimes!!

Anonymous said...

I watched it, fast-forwarding through many parts that annoyed me, and immediately cancelled my Tivo season pass afterwards. I just don't care about any of the characters anymore and the plots seem even more contrived than ever.

Anonymous said...

Enterprise, where Archer lost his memory, over and over - although not evrey thiry secons - for 12 years. Perhaps if Shonda could solve Mariette's problem, the Xindi won't destroy earth...

The "Trek" geek in me thinks it was Mariette's character who should have been the one named Sarabeth.

Ball-point pen guy must have learned how to do that from "MASH."

Mo Ryan said...

Damn you Shonda Rhimes!!

Exactly. I will fastforward through Lexie making googly eyes at George and all the other eyeroll-inducing stuff to get to McVorenus, Webber, Bailey.

Anonymous said...

i very rarely watch "Grey's" but tonight I was convinced to never purposely watch it again. The icicle thing was definitely a "jumped the shark" moment for me.

Anonymous said...

Several other websites commented on the icicle that didn't melt!

I love Kevin McKidd, and you know his name Owen Hunt will be turned to Owen HUNK on that show.

Bix said...

The icicle did melt partially.

Anonymous said...

I mostly enjoyed the episode until Denny Duquette showed up again. Good lord, can't they let that corpse rest in peace?

Greatly enjoyed McKidd, and thank goodness they're finally giving Cristina a story line. Sandra Oh was criminally under-used last season.

Pamela Jaye said...

I wanted to throw a brick at the TV when we got the dream sequence fake-out about McDreamy being in a car crash, and again with Rose's pregnancy joke (which led to an ABC promo that Shonda had to publicly disavow).

I haven't read all the comments yet but -
we're not saying Shonda is innocent in this, are we? Cause if Shonda hadn't *written* a Derek death dream, or Rose saying I'm carrying your child, it would have been substantially harder for ABC to misrepresent either situation as the truth. The baby carrying, could have been referring to anyone, of course - Rose could even have been telling someone a story - but she wasn't. She was screwing with Derek's head. And while I can see where that might be just as understandable as Meredith having nightmares, why give ABC fodder? (except as yet another meta joke on own's on show, of course - as those were all things we thought Shonda might pull)

It's not *totally* ABC's fault. (and Shonda doesn't come off smelling like a Rose (couldn't resist))

Pamela Jaye said...

oh goodness - I didn't even *realize* till I just read it that they actually went and hired someone whose name already had a Mc in it.

Stef said...

Just watched it, and Alan I'm with you - this episode went a long way in winning me back. Sure, the dream sequences were a little annoying and Lexie is just too cute, precious and young to be mixed in with everyone else.

But this was a good ep for my favorite characters - Bailey, Cristina, Hahn, Callie and McSteamy - and even a good ep for everyone else. I don't think they even had George and Izzie in a single scene together, did they??? And I actually thought Katherine Heigl was really good tonight, and looked beautiful. Perhaps doing her job well will be what redeems her overall.

And I absolutely thought all the ranking stuff, and particularly the Chief's "we've been resting on our laurels" speech, represented Shonda talking to the show, and to us about what she's gonna do about it. So, I'm willing to give it another chance.

Stef said...

Oh, and bravo! for Lucius Vorenus! He's amazing on screen, and I agree that the chemistry between Hunt and Cristina was electric. Sandra Oh should have a great time with this.

I wonder how it was for Dempsey and McKidd to reunite, after that horrible, awful, piece of crap "Made of Honor."

ProgGrrl said...

I so agree with you about this show. I had already marked this season as 'dead to me' earlier in the summer, mainly because it felt tired at the end of last season.

But the casting of Kevin McKidd (and the advance clips I saw) changed my mind. They have been anouncing other cool new casting over the past week or so (Mary McDonnell, Melissa George) that makes me think I will stick with it.

We shall see.

As for this first two hours, I enjoyed them. Whenever GREY'S starts to feel stale or overly soapy, they always manage just enough brilliant moments to keep me watching. Right now, I'm mainly getting them from McKidd and Oh. But "Callica" is also fun...and this week's guest stars Bernadette Peters, Mariette Hartley and Kathy Baker were wonderful - both in their performances, and for the obvious influence they were having on Our Favorite Interns.

Anonymous said...

I thought the episode was BORING. One hour would have been boring enough, but the extra hour was almost unbelievable. A once great show has had a complete melt-down, no pun intended.

Pamela Jaye said...

could I just note that I want to beat Shonda up for something completely different this week? That stupid song! I finally had to look up the lyrics, as I could only remember half of them and I've been singing half a song all week!

As it turns out, the version in my head is the Mamas and the Papas...

...stars fading but I linre on dear...

my apologies to all of you, your mates, kids and co-workers, who now share my afflication.