Creator Shonda Rhimes likens this year’s season finale of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, “Unaccompanied Minor,” to last year’s shooting massacre finale. However, this time around, the bullets are metaphorical instead of physical. It’s an apt analogy, as many of the main characters suffer serious emotional pain in the episode. Derek (Patrick Dempsey) is disgusted to learn that his wife, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), tampered with his Alzheimer’s trial. Chief Webber (James Pickens Jr.) goes easy on Meredith once he realizes Meredith has acted to help his wife, but Derek can’t bring himself to forgive her. Owen (Kevin McKidd) begs Cristina (Sandra Oh) to consider having a baby once he learns she’s pregnant. She makes an appointment for an abortion, and he kicks her out of their house. Alex (Justin Chambers) betrays Meredith, despite the fact that she is the one person who has always been nice to him, and the rest of the staff loves her. It costs him his chance to be Chief Resident, and everyone’s respect.
Rhimes has said that Meredith and Derek are in it for the long haul, and confirms that this latest fight is merely a set back, not a permanent split. However, it does expose a fundamental difference in the outlooks of both characters. Meredith sees the world in shades of grey, and has been willing to cross lines if she believes she is helping someone. Derek believes in black and white; right and wrong. He has strong convictions, and is not easily swayed to bend those beliefs. In fact, Derek is likely the only character that will not see Meredith’s actions as justifiable, considering she acts to help a dear friend’s ill spouse.
The question is, how long will it take Derek to cool off? Meredith gets to bring home their new baby in “Unaccompanied Minor,” adoption pending, and Derek doesn’t know that yet. Will a child be enough motivation to draw him back to her, considering how much he wants to be a father? It’s hard to say, because he is a very stubborn man. Certainly he will immediately want to be involved in the kid’s life, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be moving back into the house. Unless that is a requirement to finalize the adoption, and then who knows what he’ll be willing to do. He’s likely to reconcile for the baby long before he actually forgives Meredith.
Alex has always been a complicated character. At his core, he is a good person with a compassionate heart. But he has been hurt so many times that he tends to act like a total jerk, a fact that turns many people off. Because Meredith deals with the layers and murkiness in all things, she finds it easiest to embrace Alex. He betrays her very deeply by outing her trial tampering to Owen, who in turn is forced to tell Derek and Webber. But although Meredith lashes out at Alex and tells him to move out of her house, which he does, she is already looking for him at the end of the episode. She is angry, but she still wants him in her life. He is very lucky to have her.
Unfortunately for Alex, not everyone is as forgiving as Meredith. Owen tells Alex that he would be Chief Resident if not for his ratting out Meredith. This not only demonstrates that Owen understands Meredith’s actions, but that sometimes it is right to do the wrong thing. Alex only told on her to win Chief Resident, and by telling on her, he costs himself the job. What’s more, in his cloud of rage over losing the position, he tells Lucy (Rachael Taylor) to go to hell. He will probably never see her again, and that is sure to be something he comes to regret.
Rhimes confirms she wants Alex to be happy, so there is still hope for his character. In fact, had Taylor not been cast to star in Charlie’s Angels next season, and had the series not been picked up, it is likely the writers would never have had Alex burned that particular bridge. In this case, real life gets in the way of a really nice romance.
Extremely uncertain is the future of Owen and Cristina, whom Rhimes says she hasn’t decided whether to break up or not. They rush into marriage in the wake of tragedy, and Cristina is still not used to relying on another person. She makes the decision in “Unaccompanied Minor” to have an abortion unilaterally in spite of Owen’s pleas. She does not get the concept of a couple, or making decisions together. While it is completely within character for Cristina to not want to be a mother, it is a big step backwards for her to not even consider Owen’s feelings.
Or does she? Cristina has shown a willingness to think of Owen, especially this past year. It is very possible that she takes Owen’s wants into account, and decides against him anyway. In which case, the failure is in communication. As an anti-people person, Cristina never develops the skills to adequately relate to others, and as close as Owen is to her, and as much as he understands her, it is easy to see how he could mistakenly think she is being uncaring when she’s not.
Bottom line, it’s never a good idea to bring a child into the world that is unwanted. Owen may be willing to do the lion’s share of the work in raising a child, but once the baby is born, there is no way Cristina can turn her back on the tyke to concentrate on her career. She is a human with real emotions, and a child would force her to be more nurturing. That is what she is rebelling against more than Owen. She has no desire to be put in that position. Were she to go through with having the baby, she would do the right thing by the child. Which makes the decision even more complex.
Will Meredith’s decision to cheat on the Alzheimer’s trial have any lasting effects on Seattle Grace / Mercy West or Chief Webber? Webber does suspend Meredith, but if she had acted for any reason other than to save his wife, she would be fired. There will be an investigation from outside the hospital, and while Webber has a lot of leeway as Chief, it’s certainly possible he will be found to be going too easy on Meredith. She is not out of the woods in losing her job, nor is the Chief safe in his.
The hospital at large can still be negatively impacted, too. With Meredith’s actions, the FDA may decide SG/MW is not a secure place to do research. They could lose credentials. Webber has worked very hard to increase the positive reputation of the hospital recently, and Meredith’s actions may lead to a backslide in those efforts. While Weber will feel it is worth it, the rest of the staff won’t be so forgiving. Meredith is arguably the most beloved doctor on staff right now. That will not last.
Is this the end of Mark (Eric Dane) and Lexie (Chyler Leigh)? After seeing what a stand up guy Avery (Jesse Williams) is, Mark voluntarily backs off from his pursuit of the younger Grey. But Lexie admits that if Mark keeps pushing, she will go back to him. Though she says she is happier with Avery, is it possible for Lexie to put aside her still very strong feelings for Mark and truly move on? Avery is a great character, but he just doesn’t feel quite right with Lexie. Hopefully this triangle is due for a shake up early next season.
Teddy (Kim Raver) has a decision to make in “Unaccompanied Minor,” and it’s not an easy one. She is reunited with Dr. Andrew Perkins (James Tupper), and falls right back into bed with him. But she is now married to Henry (Scott Foley). Their marriage is one of convenience, done for insurance purposes, but there is undeniable chemistry growing between them. She stops by to visit Henry during dates! Both Foley and Tupper are fantastic actors who would be a good thing for the series, long-term. Henry ultimately makes a move for her, and she chooses him, so Foley will be returning next season, while Tupper likely won’t.
Less noticeably, Bailey (Chandra Wilson) takes a big step in her relationship in the finale. She has been dating Eli (Daniel Sunjata) all season, and she allows him to come over to her place, even though Bailey has her son. This is a big step, showing that the two have moved well beyond a casual, sexual relationship and into more serious territory. Poor Bailey didn’t deserve her divorce, and it’s heartwarming that she has some happiness on the horizon.
April (Sarah Drew) is promoted to Chief Resident. Though she is a dark horse in the race, her efforts in developing a vital checklist, as well as consistent hard work, mean that she deserves the honor. Her attention to details and rules likely point to the fact that she will be a good Chief Resident. What is worrisome is her personal skills. She is only just starting to be liked by the other doctors. While there is little doubt April will stand up for herself, there is a worry she will make unnecessary unpopular decisions, alienating her co-workers once again. In a perfect world, April will be excellent, as there is no need to revisit a lonely April.
Finally, with all of the character development going on, Grey’s Anatomy finds time to sneak in a truly moving patient story in “Unaccompanied Minor.” A plane goes down, and there is only one survivor, a young girl. As the child’s mother is not at the hospital, a number of families who have lost their loved ones, spurred by one mother, decide to wait at the hospital and get updates on the girl. When the mother does arrive, they offer her comfort, and don’t go home until everything is all right. It’s a truly inspiring story of strangers coming together totally unselfishly, and a credit to the writers to fit it in with all of the various plots that need addressed in a season finale.
Grey’s Anatomy will return next fall to ABC for an eighth season, the last the original cast in contracted to do. Which means it could be Derek, Meredith, Alex, Cristina, Bailey, and / or Webber’s last season, depending on what the actors decide. You will not want to miss it.