Ellen Pompeo in Grey’s Anatomy.
As a decade-long Grey’s Anatomy fan, I periodically fear that the show I’ve loved has finally passed the point of no return. I felt it when Izzie started having ghost sex, I felt it when the show tried out a musical episode, and I felt it when Sandra Oh left. Yet Grey’s has always bounced back, a phoenix improbably rising from the ashes of bonkers story lines to deliver medical drama, sexual tension, and extremely GIF-able female characters.
But this season? I don’t know, you guys. There’s just so much … muck. Amelia had a brain tumor that reset her entire personality. Meredith became a feelingless martyr who doesn’t need love, sex, or a character arc. Ben Warren had his third identity crisis of the series, which is amazing since he’s one of the least interesting characters in the show’s history (dethroned only by Sloan’s daughter Sloan, and Shane Ross, whose name I just had to look up because he was that boring). To make matters even worse, Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew won’t be returning next season, much to the despair of Grey’s fan base. It hurts me to say, but I think Grey’s Anatomy might be broken. But much like every Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital surgeon, I won’t give up. Grey’s can return to its former glory — that’s right, I’m talkin’ the quality of seasons one through four, six through eight, half of nine, and 13 (those are the good seasons, fight me!) — with these five big changes. In the slightly amended words of Derek Shepherd, “It’s a beautiful day to save TV shows.”
Listen, I know the reason that Meredith is without a love interest because of the show’s renewed commitment to women-in-STEM inspo. I also know that Ellen Pompeo doesn’t believe that Meredith needs a love interest. And sure, she doesn’t need one! But she should still have a sex life. In last week’s episode, Meredith said that she’s turned her sex drive into a career drive, which is sweet, but not a thing. She’s become a unflappable superwoman who has everything. Jo’s abuser shows up at the hospital? Mer doesn’t break a sweat. She wins the Harper Avery? She barely looks up from surgery. Her boyfriend’s ex shows up after being missing for ten years? Meredith basically shrugs and says, “Que sera, sera!” Call me crazy, but in the world of Grey’s Anatomy, being a strong woman doesn’t mean that nothing fazes you, and it definitely doesn’t mean that you’re celibate. It means that you’re like everyone else: ambitious, messy, and, yes, horny. There’s no good reason why Meredith can’t be an incredible surgeon and get it on with, say, a super-hot psychiatrist.
Grey’s was built on the vehicle of interns trying to survive a program, then studying to pass their boards, win fellowships, and advance their careers. Patients would come in and no one would know what to do with them! Remember the guy who thought his foot was possessed? Or the man who had so many warts he looked like a tree? How about when Demi Lovato played the girl who could hear every sound inside her body? Plots like those used to happen all the time. These days, at least medically speaking, everyone seems a little too comfortable. Why don’t we see Alex and Meredith work together and disagree on a case? How about Bailey encounters a patient problem that she can’t solve? Why don’t we see Arizona do … anything? The best thing to happen all season has been Karev’s relationship with Kimmie Park. Remember when relationships with “inoperable” patients were the bread and butter of this show? Reinvest in that and we’ll be golden.
Okay, hear me out. It’s not like there’s a bounty of interesting plots to be found with the DeLucas, so why bother anymore? Boy DeLuca is in love with Sam the intern, someone we only know in the context of “Hey, this is the intern that DeLuca is in love with.” It’s the same thing with him every week, and it’s always been boring. Girl DeLuca certainly has a catchy role as Orgasm Doctor, but being sexed-up does not an interesting character make, and you can only see so many sly smiles before you start to wonder if there’s a point to it all. The DeLucas are a drain on screen time, so my vote is to stick them on some Italian floating villa that sinks offscreen. Tell us about it in a two-minute speech and then never mention it again.
Grey’s Anatomy is a TV writer’s hydra. When you cut out one character, you have to grow three news ones in the hope that one won’t suck. But if you look at what all the beloved non-original characters have in common, one thing is clear: They ain’t interns. Teddy, Owen, Arizona, Jackson, and Nathan all had developed story lines and specialities and quirks — and most importantly, personality traits beyond “nervous” and “scared.” (I will note that Lexie does not count because she was only one year behind Meredith, and George was still an intern, and listen, it’s not like any of her fellow interns stuck, so she’s the exception that proves the rule. Jo and Stephanie were shoved into our eyeballs for multiple seasons before we, as a collective fan base were like “Okay, fine,” so they’re really evidence of dogged perseverance more than excellent character design, sorry.) In light of Arizona and April departing, the show absolutely must transfer in some kick-ass doctors who aren’t there solely and immediately to be a love interest (ahem, Penny, Eliza, and Carina DeLuca, who will soon hopefully drown). I know saying “invent more iconic characters” is easier said than done, but it’s time to end the endless stream of terrified interns.
Yes, Sandra Oh has her own show. Yes, it’s very, very unlikely that she’d return to Grey’s. But this would be the perfect answer. Even a DeLuca-heavy, intern-centric, caseless season where Meredith never has sex would be insanely watchable with Yang because, well, it’s Yang. We’ve lost incredible characters from Grey’s over the years, but nothing took the bite out of the show quite like her departure. Don’t get me wrong: The show doesn’t need her back, and I’ll keep watching until I die or the show dies (impossible to know which will come first). But Yang talking about hearts and getting drunk and competitive and snarky would all but cure this season’s ills and fix Grey’s for good. I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking about it.