The ”Grey’s Anatomy” finale: I do’s and don’ts
”Next week will be wonderful.”
So I promised last Friday, sending good vibrations in the direction of last night’s Grey’s Anatomy season finale. Was the episode wonderful? Well, it’s hard to call anything wonderful that ends with the characters as miserable as they were when last night’s fadeout came. Really, except for Addison — who, glowing like a woman set to stride off to her own whole new show, sweetly shot down glum Karev’s romantic advances at the end of the evening — no character came out on top as the series closed up for the summer.
As a finale, maybe the show lacked a defining happy, warm-gooseflesh moment (like, say, the one that finished the third season of The Office last night). But if you judge it as a regular old episode of Grey’s — if you closed your eyes at some point toward the end and imagined you were watching it a few years from now some random Wednesday afternoon on Lifetime — then it was well above average. A lot happened. There was a variety of good scenes. It didn’t leave you dying for the season premiere next September, as the first season’s finale did, but it definitely made you want to stick with the show, something you can’t necessarily say for a bunch of the episodes we saw in lackluster 2007, beginning with Meredith’s fall into the drink after the ferry crash.
One thing’s for sure: Cristina and Burke saved a helluva date for their wedding. It coincided with picking-the-new-chief day. And getting-the-results-of-the-intern-exam day. And even meeting-a-few-of-the-new-interns day (and, boy, were the new crop of guys dorks). So much was going on last night that when aliens come to earth a few years from now, they will turn on Lifetime one Wednesday afternoon and know, just from all the plots and climaxes piling up, that they’re watching no normal episode of Grey’s Anatomy — this, earthlings, was a 75-minute mega-finale.
Let’s start with Mere and Dere. The first big scene of the evening witnessed Meredith sidling up to Derek (”I’m me again”), with a bristling Derek then bragging to Mere that he ”met a woman” last night. ”So I should I be worried or something?” Meredith said, kind of nonplussed. And Derek said she shouldn’t worry about the woman; she should worry that flirting with her was the highlight of his week. Oh, come on, dude! Let’s skip past the fact that the woman who Derek flirted with last week was Lexie, Meredith’s half-sister and (as we discovered in the last moments of last night) a season-4 Seattle Grace intern. We can talk about how dopey that love triangle will be all next season.
Focus, for now, just on Derek’s feeble attempt to make Meredith jealous. That’s not a guy move. I, a fellow sensitive straight man, was ashamed of and embarrassed for him. Meredith, brilliantly, called Derek out on it later, when they were powwowing briefly in their formal wear before heading out to Cristina and Burke’s wedding. ”If you want to break up with me so you can see other women, just do it,” she said, all tough. Just say, she advised, ”Meredith, I don’t love you anymore.” Exactly right. I dig this brassy broad.
You figured she had him, but give it up for Derek and his reply. ”Meredith, I do love you,” droopy-lidded Hangdog said. ”You’re the love of my life. I can’t leave you. But you’re constantly leaving me. You walk away when you want, you come back when you want….So I’m asking you, if you don’t see a future for us, if you’re not in this, please, please just end it, because I can’t. I’m in it. Put me out of my misery.”
So much longing! This, by my reckoning, is the show at its best. Easily, it was the highlight of the finale. Three whole seasons in, I still love watching these two flailing hot people — he soft, she hard — trade well-turned TV wooing dialogue. It still works; it’s still romantic. Now, unfortunately, there’s a flip side to that, and what still doesn’t work and isn’t romantic after all this time is exactly what happened next.
Meredith didn’t say a gussied-up version of ”I’m in it, too,” as she should’ve. Instead, she didn’t say anything except that it was time to go to the wedding. And there was Derek, hanging. Last night, where was it coming from that she was having her doubts about him? I mean, trying to scare her by bragging about the girl he chatted up in the bar was unsmooth, but it wasn’t a capital crime. As much as I like their goo-goo courtship scenes together, and as hard as it might be to make compelling television out of it, the time is now for these two to be happy together for a long while.
Anyway, everywhere you looked last night, there were unhappy females. Ava’s husband showed up to take her away, but the facially reconstructed cutie made a heartfelt play for Alex. (”You named me Ava, and I was more me as Ava than I’ll ever be as Rebecca!”) Karev, however, played noble and stoic and turned her down, at least until, sitting in a pew a few scenes later at the wedding, Addison made him see that he likes Ava more than he likes her. (We left Karev for the season running after Ava, but she had already packed up at the hospital and gone.) Karev was well matched with Izzie earlier this season — why can’t those two get together? — but Izzie’s still improbably stuck on George, and last night Katherine Heigl did well with yet another cringey speech that is likely to drive some of you mad on the message boards, especially those some of you who believe in the sanctity of marriage and all that poppycock. ”If what you want is to be with Callie, then I will do everything in my power to support you and help you make your marriage work,” Izzie told George. ”Because I’m your best friend and because I love you. I also have to say that I’m in love with you.” It’s still hard not to think that the death of Denny one season finale ago has made Izzie lose her mind.
George himself didn’t say much because he’d just decided that afternoon to try and have a baby with Callie (who asked him for one in a ditzy speech of stammerings and repeated words that made it seem — don’t you think? — as if Sara Ramirez were channeling Chandra Wilson at her most excitable). He also didn’t say much at the end of the episode because he was shocked to discover that (uh-oh) he was the one intern who failed the exam. That led to an excellent scene outside the hospital where Bailey — love ya, Bailey! — told him he either had to repeat his internship or leave the hospital, right before she put her meaningful hand on his arm. Bailey, meanwhile, was in a blue mood because she was passed up for chief resident; ”Calliope Torres” got the gig.
And that made no sense. How does Callie beat Bailey in the race for anything? It got me trying to outthink the show midway through. Sprinkled throughout the night were scenes of the Chief turning down candidates for his job — first Mark, then Addison, then Burke. When Burke got rejected, I thought, ”They won’t give it to Derek. That’s too predictable. They’ll give it to Dr. Hahn, that dragon lady from the other hospital.” Then, when Callie got the chief-resident gig, I switched that up. ”They’ll give chief of surgery to Bailey!” I thought. ”Huge surprise, and a promising sign that we’ll see more of the underused Chandra Wilson in season 4.” But in the very end, the Chief offered the chiefship to…okay, we’ll get to that in a second.
First we gotta talk about Cristina and Burke and the wedding. Let’s be quick about it. Cristina put on the dress. She even put on the choker. And she got her eyebrows shaved or plucked out or whatever. (Did I miss something? Ladies, people do that?) Meanwhile, Burke recited his vows for the woman surgeons in the OR, and it was yet more proof that Isaiah Washington gets to deliver the best speeches on this show after Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey. (”I am not optimistic. I am not hopeful. I am sure. I am steady.”) But at the chapel, pre-march, Cristina freaked out because she had accidentally washed off the vows written on her hand, and the lag time spent talking her down was enough to convince Burke that she didn’t want to get married. So after another big speech from him to her in the entrance to the chapel, he dumped her! No kidding. And I wonder if, when the writers wrote the scene, they realized how good Sandra Oh was going to be at pleading with Burke; it seems to me no real groom who’d written vows as loving as Burke’s would give up on his bride in that moment, especially if she could do that worried tick-tocking thing with her eyeballs that helped make Oh’s performance here so affecting.
Perhaps that was the one big problem with this gloomy but otherwise surprising and eventful season finale: One of these long-suffering couples should’ve ridden off into, if not the sunset, then at least the summer. (Adele and the Chief, reunited after her miscarriage, don’t count.) Even after Burke ran out on Cristina, I thought that Mere and Dere might’ve been headed toward bliss, but again I was wrong. Post-Burke-breakup, when Meredith walked into the chapel and we followed her every step down the aisle, presumably to announce that the wedding was off, I thought to myself, ”A wedding is not off. She’s gonna get up there and marry the best man!” Instead, she took the floor and, barely looking at Derek, said, ”It’s over. It’s so over.” And it was clear somehow that she was talking about her and Hangdog. Double wipeout.
All that was left was to find out who the new chief of surgery was. And, it turned out, Derek did get the offer, but we watched him, in a flashback, turn it down and tell the Chief that he (that is, the Chief) should keep being the Chief. There was O. Henry irony in this that seemed strangely undercooked: We intuited, based on things he’d said a couple of episodes ago, that Derek was turning down the job so he could keep his girl, the one who’d go on to pull away from him at the wedding, but the show didn’t play up the tragedy of that as much as it could have. That might’ve been the sad little ”Gift of the Magi” shock to end the season on, but as it was, it played a little toothless. To make up for it, Sandra Oh had an amazing breakdown on screen in her last scene, as Cristina got home and realized Burke had taken his trumpet, vinyls, and picture of Grandma and moved out. ”I’m free!” she cried, before she started yanking off her dress and freaking out with such amazing fury that it became impossible to know quite what Cristina meant by that line. The ambivalence of it was electrifying — in that respect, it resembled something you might see on The Sopranos — and it’s the single best thing to mull over while you’re waiting for the show to come back again for season 4.
Until then, fellow travelers, what did you think of season 3? I just wish I’d liked the second half of it a little more, only because then you Grey’s crazies would’ve liked me a little more. But it’s still a good show, right? You’ll be back for next season, but will T.R. Knight? Will Isaiah Washington? Who’ll miss Addison, and who’s excited about Lexie? And lastly, through the course of the year, did I help any of you come to a new, if grudging, appreciation for dear, sweet, dark, and twisty Meredith?