Once again, I've got to hand it to the makers of Grey's Anatomy. Season 7 is an exceptionally strong blending of writing, direction and acting. The show is working so well on so many levels right now that it's truly a pleasure to watch and a treat to anticipate, especially when things get shaken up in a good way.
Last week the residents got to play Attending for the Day and we saw both the students and the teachers in a new light. The twist this week is that instead of GA's usual style of storytelling (voiceovers, patient/doctor parallels, lots of music), we got a faux medical documentary format. Unlike The Office or Modern Family in which this documentary lens is the norm and very, very funny, the Grey's approach was the exception to that rule and was extremely serious to the point of being both harrowing and heart-wrenching. The result was an episode that displayed tremendous emotional range as triumph and tragedy on both professional and personal levels was revealed.
All three of the main cases in this episode were compelling both medically and personally. It was fascinating to see the inside of a patient's home, for example, or to hear the thoughts and feelings of patients and their families without the doctors present. It was freeing and illuminating to get the other side of the story in this way. It definitely made me feel emotionally closer to the patients than usual, which is probably why it was so hard to hear Nicole struggle with the death of her husband or see Lily's mom grapple with the very real probability of losing her daughter.
The triumphs were sweeter, too, as when Zach got his new arms, and a "homegrown trachea" provided a means to save Lily. But when Mary died after a successful surgery because she never came out of the anesthesia? Well, that's where I pretty much lost it. Just that like her dreams of a normal life filled with "lots and lots of babies" were gone and her husband, Bill, was left a broken man. Did you notice how I know all of the names of the patients this week? Yeah, I noticed that, too, and it's perhaps the most powerful indicator of how well we got to know these people. That's great storytelling.
Like Eleanor Rigby we all publicly wear a face that we "keep in a jar by the door." This was particularly true when our doctors were being filmed by the cameras for Seattle Medical: Road to Recovery. Sometimes this posturing was comical, as when Richard kept trying to spin everything in a positive way or Mark displayed his ridiculous macho swagger when telling the crew they'd picked a great day to get started since this was going to be "fun." Even when not taken to those extremes, however, it's interesting to see how people present themselves to the camera and how much that often contrasts with who they really are.
I pretty much love all things Alex Karev right about now. How great is it to see him excelling in pediatric surgery? How sweet is it to see, despite his protestations to the contrary, how much he cares about his patients? Things are finally going Alex's way. Not so for some of our other friends. Bailey is understandably devastated by the loss of Mary, and Cristina is so undone by what happened on the day of the shooting that she is a shell of her former self. My heart broke for both of them. Cristina summed it up well when she stated that being a hero has its price, and I applaud the writers for allowing the cost of that day to play out over time rather than tying everything up neatly in record time. That, too, is great storytelling.
While I certainly wouldn't want this style of episode on a regular basis, I think "These Arms of Mine" was a tremendous success. The entire ensemble had the chance to shine as we saw these characters and their circumstances from a fresh point of view. Particularly illuminated was how far some characters have come and how far others still need to go. I'm enjoying every step of this journey and, as always seems to be the case this season, I'm highly invested in finding out what's coming next. Six days to go.
"This is Me Trying" airs next Thursday, Nov. 4 on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)