Apr 1, 2011

Grey's Anatomy: The Musical?

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"Nobody Knows Where They Might End Up
Nobody Knows"
When a show lasts as long as Grey’s Anatomy has, a musical episode is always a possibility.  And usually, though extremely campy, musical episodes of television can be a lot of fun. Scrubs had a manic energy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer killed with loopy lyrics in the surprisingly emotional songs, and Ally McBeal was predictably hallucinogenic. So, it would have been easy to look forward to the Grey’s Anatomy musical episode, ready for the amazing songs and strange rationalization for why everyone is singing (demon curse?).  However, while Grey’s has shone during almost all of their season finales, there have tended to be problems with “Event” episodes.  It’s hard to forget the crap-fest that was the three-episode ferry crash that signified the end of the show’s creative boom that had lasted two and a half seasons (I was so in love with those seasons I even joined the Facebook group Bug Me During Grey's Anatomy And I'll Insert This Scalpel Into Your Spleen).  Two years ago, episodes like the ferry crash eps and other, mediocre episodes (occasionally filled with ghost sex) had all but convinced me to stop watching Grey’s. But around that time the show STOPPED SUCKING, stopped being overly preachy and started investing again in
interesting stories and compelling character journeys. The last half of season six and all of this season in particular have been, while not quite as good as the first two seasons, solid and intriguing. I have been excited to watch Grey’s Anatomy again, sometimes even live on TV! [Spoiler Alert] - DO NOT CONTINUE IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE GREY'S ANATOMY MUSICAL EVENT.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised that the musical episode "Song Beneath The Song" was another great, compelling hour of television. Instead of making up all new songs, Grey’s creator Shonda Rhimes instead stuck with what works. She filled the hour with songs that have become as much a part of the show as the characters, songs like “Chasing Cars,” “How to Save a Life,” and even the long-forgotten opening credit theme. The episode revolves around Callie Torres, played by Sara Ramirez, as the doctors of Seattle Grace fight to save her and her unborn baby after a car crash (Buckle Up!). In her physically abused state, her brain is working overtime, recalibrating and readjusting to the reality it finds itself in. Her subconscious is projected outwards, viewing the world as a musical as if to try to make sense of the world. It’s all incredibly melodramatic, and it is also almost completely pitch perfect (okay, not really, but I love the word play).
"All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am"
The cast is filled with singers and non-singers alike, and none shone as brightly as Ramirez, Chandra Wilson (Bailey), and surprisingly Chyler Leigh (Lexie). For some reason almost all the male singing went to Kevin McKidd (Owen Hunt), who left something to be desired. He was all growly, which is in-character but strangely off-putting. The episode brushed by quickly, with no extra cases for the doctors to worry about. Actually, it seemed like all other surgeries were cancelled so that everyone could focus on Callie.

And let’s talk about Callie for a minute. When she arrived many years ago to Seattle Grace, all dancing in sexy underwear and living in an abandoned room in the hospital, she was easy to hate. She was a brash, loud and ‘hard-core’ Orthopedic Surgeon who didn’t try very hard to fit in with the main cast of characters. But over the seasons she has become an integral part of the show, and that's why the pain the characters were feeling in last night's felt genuine. Sure, it felt a little weird that Mark called her his best friend (over Derek), but as an audience we’ve seen their relationship grow into a real friendship, a journey that has also happened between Callie and Arizona, Alex, Addison, Bailey, Christina, and even Meredith, who joined up on Team Callie after the now infamous Underwear Incident that closed out season two and began season three. Callie is now the consistently most-liked character at Seattle Grace, and her life means something. Thank God she lived (although, all doctors who become patients at Seattle Grace live, other than George and those Mercy Death West shooting victims).

Shonda Rhimes crafted an hour of television that stayed true to the world of Grey’s Anatomy while also exploring an interesting new story-telling device. It was far from a perfect episode. While it was inevitable that some strange special guests turned up, I wish that Kate Walsh could have done more in her five minutes of screen time as Dr. Addison Montgomery. I was hoping she’d stick around for another episode at least, but it seems like Peter MacNicol will be back polarizing fans next week (I love him, but, as previously mentioned, I am an Ally McBeal fan). Also, “The Story” that Callie sings at the end is beautiful, but after an episode of Ramirez singing placidly to the camera it was strange to see her sing so violently. Not a completely bad choice, but a strange one. Finally, there was a minute long sex-ish scene between many doctor couples while Callie was battling for her life. Grey's has tackled the idea of embracing life in the midst of a crisis (most notably in the Alex/Izzie sex during the bomb scare eps of season 2), but this time it seemed a bit crass and unnecessary.

Ultimately, though, when the episode ended, I'm glad that my first words were the same as Callie's post-surgery and not the same as Meredith's when she woke up from her coma back in season three (I can't get that ferry crash out of my head). The episode was definitely more “Yes!” and less "Ouch." Grey's Anatomy is back, people!

Episode: B
Season So Far: A-

UPDATE: So, I watched the episode again, and I can't believe how lenient I was. I stand by the fact that it was a somewhat solid episode, but it's probably more of a B-, C+ range in terms of grade. It was really inconsistent. It was a great first 5 minutes, though.
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