Friday, September 25, 2009

Grey's Anatomy, "Good Mourning"/"Goodbye": Laugh till you cry

Some quick thoughts on the two-hour "Grey's Anatomy" season premiere coming up just as soon as I say "rue"...

As the two titles suggest (as did the multiple use of the title logo at 10 o'clock), the premiere was actually two separate episodes aired back-to-back. And I keep going back and forth on whether it was a good idea to do that, or if we'd have been better off spacing out the tearful speeches over two weeks.

That isn't to say that there shouldn't have been tears, or speeches. George's death, no matter how marginal he had become last season, is and should be a huge event in the lives of these characters. Had the show raced through Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's famous five stages of grief (as opposed to the four stages of cancer, with the fifth stage being death), it would have rang false, as if everyone making the show was in a hurry to move past the events of the wildly uneven fifth season. And I also recognize that putting both episodes on a single night allows the show to deal with the mourning period in an appropriate but self-contained way, so that when we do get into these season six stories about the hospital merger and the rest, it won't feel like there's a constant pall cast over them.

My problem, I guess, is that there's a very specific rhythm to a "Grey's" script - particularly a big three-hanky one like this - whether it's written by Shonda Rhimes herself or in this case by Krista Vernoff. When you put two episodes back-to-back, those rhythms - the pace at which the acts build to emotional crescendos and then briefly recede - start to become too predictable, and it sucks some of the life and emotion away.

There were so many strong performances (particularly by Sara Ramirez, Chandra Wilson and Justin Chambers) in these two hours, as well as a lot of great individual moments, highlighted by the hysterical laughter at George's funeral. But in the end it felt a little like overkill - or over-grief, I suppose.

Still, "Good Mourning" and "Goodbye" maintained the tone and quality of the creative upswing we got at the end of last season. In general, "Grey's" is really strong at the starts and ends of seasons - I liked last season's premiere - but things are a lot dicier in the middle. I'm hopeful this season's equivalents of Wacky Asperger's Doc or Ghost Sex are at least briefer than last season's. And maybe we'll get lucky, and skip over the bad patch altogether.

What did everybody else think?


Andrew K. said...

I really like Grey's so...yeah I liked this. You make a good point about the validity of airing the episodes back to back, cause it was obviously two different episodes.

And I'm glad you recognised the goodness in Ramirez and Chambers. They have potential to do really great work.

AngieNCSC said...

I enjoyed it/them, though I didn't get as sucked into the storylines as I usually do with the weepy ones. Also, and I may be alone here, but the laughing at George's funeral rang false to me. It felt formulaic, and unearned.(And it made me tense that they were laughing so loudly as other mourners were leaving the gravesite.) The laughter itself never drew me in, and I felt disconnected from the characters.

Roy Schwartz said...

You can read more about the episode's condition - tethered code syndrome, here:

renton said...

Did they create them as separate episodes so they could air as individual hours in re-runs and syndication? If not, why add the second title card? Why start the second hour with voice-over narration?

I agree, it may not have been such a good idea to run them back to back... but it might have been a smoother transition if it wasn't clearly two separate episodes.

Bix said...

I was amused by the Callie plot implying there really is only one attending per surgical specialty at Seattle Grace.

Anonymous said...

What annoys me the most about Grey's, even in episodes where the characters aren't doing something stupid like having sex with ghosts, is the style of writing. Every 5 minutes, one character says a sentence the writers undoubtedly think is cool and then next sentence, same sentence is said with different emphasis to bring in a "deeper meaning." "This is not George." "THIS is not George." "I need you alive." "I need you ALIVE." It's incredibly grating.

Anna said...

When I watched Grey's last season, I started watching it way late - like two-episodes-from-being-over late. So, by that time, I had heard enough about the horrible episodes in the middle that I fortunately knew to skip them, and my experience, as you can imagine, was all the better for it.

So I think that's going to be my plan for watching Grey's all the time now. Because a part of me still really wants to watch it, even if only for my love of Justin Chambers/Alex Karev, but I only really want to watch it if it's good.

Pamela Jaye said...

i'm a fan, so I'm biased

Yes, the implication that there is one attending per specialty is stupid. The almost new implication that there are doctors on the show we don't see (remember when "all the attendings" were sick?) is slightly refreshing.

I'm not really clear why it wasn't clear to EVERYONE that George would be a donor (obviously it was so Callie and Izzie could do something) and I'm not clear if, when adults die, next of kin can make these decisions. I keep hearing "if your family doesn't know you are a donor, you're not." (even if you are, or even if they couldn't call the freaking DMV and ask. oh right. DMV is slow.)

I'm also not clear if Cristina and Callie are living together anymore.

That said - I loved the use of the elevator scene between Bailey and Derek and the same song that was used (though possibly not in the same scene) in Into You Like a Train (the trainwreck/pole people)
I love Krista, I love that she echoed her past (in reverse) and I love scenes between Derek and Bailey.

I love that Cristina would go to therapy with Owen - I love all of that story, now. I love when someone on Grey's says We're going to take it slow and get to know each other (and not bury ourselves in each other and ignore our problems). I just loved the concept of doing it the right way. How often has that been done on this show?

I loved the laughing, but yeah, it was a bit obvious. I loved that it was Callie to got hysterical.

I knew the Chief was going to have a car crash, although I felt it happened, and was just as soon forgotten - that there were scenes dropped or left out between here and Derek being offered the job and hey let's merge!

I love that we made it through another year - finally, season 6 is year three. Bailey and Callie are attendings, our new interns from season 4 are residents. I saw a few of them here and there.

I dislike that it took so long for us to get happy - or at least Mer/Der and somewhat less Izzie/Alex - that we will have so little time to have it as it is season 6. Ellen's contract is 7 seasons. I'm guessing that's true of everyone who has a long term contract and was there in the beginning. Scrubs held an extra season, but... Lexie Grey's Anatomy anyone?

Ellen and Chris had a girl, Stella Luna Pompeo Ivery, on the 15th.

Shonda says Ellen will be in every episode (she shot ahead) while Katherine with be missing from 5 (but not necessarily 5 in a row)
I hope that is not a spoiler. No one is leaving and I know no plot points. But I find it interesting that Katie gets 5 eps off "to do a movie" while Ellen - quite pregnant and then on maternity leave - shot enough so she will not miss an ep. I still remember the "They made me work 17 hours yesterday" from Katie while she was messing with everyone's schedules to get time off to promote her last movie. (didn't read that? see Ken Levine's blog).

And of course, sadly, there will never be a reason to give Ellen an Emmy (and Chandra and Sandra (and now Justin)) deserved one more than Katie. Watched some ep yesterday. Looked up, Izzie was crying. Couldn't figure out where we were - it was season 2, Christmas and she was crying over Alex cheating on her.

The ep was good. It made me happy. But yes, I'm biased. (and btw - details - Joan's hubby on Mad Men was passed over for Chief Resident, not Chief of Surgery - but that was a commenter's error, not the writers.)

Loretta said...

I'm pretty excited about this merger business. Some of my favorite stuff from the early seasons was the crazy competitive doctor stuff... Christina's at her best when she's all cocky, Meredith becomes less annoying when she gets a little arrogant, Karev is funny when he's an ass.

These two episodes were good, though they seemed to drag.

One moment that I really liked that you didn't mention was Owen talking to Mrs. O'Malley. Clearly he wasn't as close to George as the rest of the characters, but I got the sense that he felt like there was a lot of lost potential there--both as a good, or potentially great, trauma surgeon, as well as maybe someone who could have turned into a good friend.

Stef said...

I liked these episodes enough, though the usual character quirks do still get annoying at times. But hey, anything's better than ghost sex....

LA said...

While I still get annoyed by "very special 2-hour episodes," I was bracing for something much more maudlin and over-the-top, content-wise. I think the merger with Mercy West and the tension between the Chief and Shepard is a good set up for the season.

Best line of the night, "On a scale of 1 to gay, how gay are you?"

Pamela Jaye said...

does Grey's really do "very special" episodes? I know all the season premieres and finales are two hours (or two eps) now. I know their sweeps things are things I tend to skip over in my rotations (pole people, not good to fall asleep to) but at least they (mostly) don't have tanks crashing into the hospital (train wrecks and ferry crashes are big but not unbelievable (having interns informing relatives and searching for lost 7 year olds in a mass casualty situation is unbelievable. Meredith "dying" - that came close to the cloying "very special." The amount of time they worked on her? that she didn't have brain damage? not so believable)
I really thought ER would go out by blowing up Chicago.

I can't remember a good example of a very special ep - not this show, not any show. I know I've seen them. Just forget where.

And most of the time I get sick of the patients sooner than the rest of the ep (I rewatch them *a lot*).

I think I'm also kind of sad that Lexie gave up on her promise to not move in with anyone till she'd finished residency. (though i'm not clear on how or when she ended up at Grey's Youth Hostel anyway)

Anonymous said...

@pamela. that whole donation storyline was false. the organ procurement agency would check the state database (which they have constant access) no need to call the DMV.

erin said...

Well, I'm a fan too and thought last season had some really great moments in it (besides the obvious problems). I thought the finale was incredibly powerful, and I'm really glad they didn't screw up the emotion of the premier. I thought the 2-hour opening was thoughtful and well-plotted, and handled everyone's grief well. I really loved it (and cried buckets, but no surprise there). And I actually thought Heigl did a really great job, and she and Chambers have such nice chemistry together. I'm really excited by the new challenges of the season, and I can't say I've felt that way about Grey's in a while!

Pamela Jaye said...

thanks anonymous

Pamela Jaye said...

as to not feeling excited or anticipating the new season - I am much happier this season, and expected, excepting George's death, that it would be better (although a lot of last season was good. it was just way too much Denny. and Sadie didn't seem to make much sense and Aspergers/Austistic prospective department head didn't either. I'd rather see more of Thatcher)

but think back. A couple of months ago, I got on ebay (and am still trying to hang) a season 3 promo posts "Feel Thursdays..."

Nothing is ever going to match that level of anticipation.
But I guess that's okay. At least we are no longer going in circles. (a good side effect of the writers' strike? Shonda sat down and watched the whole series in the middle of season 4. (and Krista wrote the premiere this season))

Mike F said...

can't put the genie back in the bottle for me...I just can't believe this group of people as fictional characters holding the jobs they hold, being the people that they are and making the decisions they make...its been too far gone since Izzie killed Denny and didn't wind up in prison