For Grey’s Anatomy‘s 10th (!) season finale, “Fear (of the Unknown),” a mall explosion rocks Seattle, sparking fears of terrorism. On a more personal level, many of the doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital find themselves at a crossroads. The theme is fear and how one deals with it. Whether you are concerned about death or afraid to leave your comfort zone, the emotion is the same. A variety of characters tackle this concept in a variety of ways as the hour plays out, culminating in some very good conclusions, as well as setting the stage for some interesting changes in the already-scheduled eleventh year. A decade on the air, and the constant character growth and development is what keeps this show just as engaging as ever.
The focus in this installment is mainly on Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), an original cast member who is leaving the series. Her job in Zurich awaits, but she just can’t seem to get on the plane and leave. She complains that she doesn’t feel like things are finished, and can’t bear to leave a job half done. But as Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), her best friend, points out to her, this is not Cristina’s end. This is the start of something new, an incredible opportunity that will stretch her far beyond where she is now. Yang eventually comes to realize this, and in the end, whether its an unfinished surgery for a family she has been taking care of, or a romance with a man she still loves but has trouble seeing a future with, she has to walk away from them.
This is a defining moment for the character, whom, even though she is no longer a main character, will surely be seen again. She is very comfortable in Seattle, but her ambitions have always been bigger. Eventually, she might be able to achieve what she wants, but she can do it so much faster elsewhere, with better resources, meaning she can pursue more dreams after. Friendship is one thing, but her career is Yang’s primary priority. “Fear (of the Unknown)” finds her sacrificing a lot in order to serve that purpose.
Which is not to say she leaves Grey’s Anatomy without accomplishing something. Her goodbye to Owen (Kevin McKidd) is weak, necessarily so, begging for a revisit before the series finale, quite possibly ending with the two of them together. But she gets to dance party with Meredith, imparting advice in the process, and have touching moments with Webber (James Pickens Jr.), Bailey (Chandra Wilson), and Derek (Patrick Dempsey). Best of all, she tells Alex (Justin Chambers) how she really feels about him, and gives him a push back towards the right path, from which he’s strayed. Strewn among these are many references to past season and events, ratcheting up the nostalgia and sadness of her departure even more.
Alex has the chance to make serious money in the private sector, something he never thought possible, so it makes sense for him to quit the hospital. Yet, ever since he changed jobs, he finds plenty of excuses to come back. He is good at surgery, and his skills are being squandered now. Yang, who has come to respect and care for him in a platonic way, sees this and gives Alex a way to both get back to what he loves and have wealth. She gifts him her shares of the hospital and her seat on the board, a generous and perfect solution, making for a neat story connection I didn’t see coming.
There’s just one problem with this. Webber has promised Bailey that seat. It’s not his to give, granted, but had Yang not left Alex her shares, it’s likely Webber’s plan would have worked out. Bailey is great at what she does and deserves the chance to push policy. She absolutely should be stripped of her lab after crossing the line, and honestly, that might mean she should be bench for awhile before stepping up into a leadership role. But Bailey has always been destined to have a say in what goes on at Grey Sloan Memorial, and eventually she will get there.
I am not looking forward to a showdown between Bailey and Alex. They haven’t had a lot of intersecting plot in Grey’s Anatomy for awhile and it’ll be good to bring them back together, but at the same time, these are two beloved characters who both deserve to win. How can fans be expected to choose between the two, especially in the way they both get to where they are? They are also stubborn and I don’t see either backing down easily, which could tarnish their relationship in a very regrettable way.
One solution could be for Derek to give up his seat, too, thus creating a second opening. He seems bound and determined to take the job in D.C., even after Meredith puts her foot down, acting on Cristina’s sage wisdom, knowing Meredith wants to stay in Seattle. As much as Derek hates flying back and forth, he either has to continue it or give up one of the two sides of his life that he loves deeply – his wife and his career. Meredith is completely right to stand up for herself, refusing to live in Derek’s shadow and just go along with his decisions. It’ll be up to him to re-evaluate his desires, and giving up his seat on the board could allow him more time to try to commit to both family and job, shedding responsibilities he doesn’t need.
There are so many great, small moments in “Fear (of the Unknown),” too. Owen ripping apart the media for sensationalism and scare mongering could come back to bite him, but is very satisfying. Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) becoming interested in surrogacy seems a neat solution to their issue. April (Sarah Drew) has a touching moment with her mother-in-law, Catherine (Debbie Allen), the first time they’ve really connected. And departing cast members Gaius Charles and Tessa Ferrer are sent off right, Shane leaving with Yang and Murphy coming to an understanding about her limitations. It’s really a fantastic hour.
Besides Yang’s last moments, which are terrific and fitting, Grey’s Anatomy does manage to drop a huge bombshell on us at the most unexpected time. The new head of cardiology, Dr. Maggie Pierce (Kelly McCreary, Emily Owens M.D.), tells Webber that she is the daughter of Ellis Grey, whom Ellis secretly gave up for adoption. Maggie doesn’t realize she’s telling this to her own father, who didn’t know of her existence, and this also means Meredith, who lost her sister a few years ago, now has another one! I have to say, I did not see this coming, but I was already hoping that McCreary would stick around (along with Caterina Scorsone’s Amelia, of course), and this only makes it more likely that she will.
That fact that Grey’s Anatomy can still stun and impress after such a long run is quite an accomplishment. It remains one of my favorite shows currently on the air, a drama I can’t wait to devour each week. Sure, sometimes it gets into ridiculous unbelievability, such as the incredibly high disaster rate in the city and mortality rate of the docs, but it’s still entertaining television, a soapy drama of the highest order. This is, in large part, due to the talented cast who have created dynamic, layered individuals. The key to Grey’s success is the characters and their personal stories, not the events done for ratings, which the writers give just enough weight to to make them mean something to the players. Plus, the soundtrack is very fitting, including all the recent covers of songs pushing genres. Well done.
Grey’s Anatomy will return in the fall on ABC.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00KC62VTK,B00FR23O4U,B00005JO9J]