ABC Studios // 2008 // 1080 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // September 21st, 2009
"We all remember the bed time stories of our childhoods. The shoe fits Cinderella, the frog turns into a prince, sleeping beauty is awakened with a kiss. Once upon a time and then they lived happily ever after. Fairy tales, the stuff of dreams. The problem is, fairy tales don't come true. It's the other stories, the ones that begin with dark and stormy nights and end in the unspeakable. It's the nightmares that always seem to become reality. The person that invented the phrase Happily ever after should have his ass kicked, so hard!"
Season Four of Grey's Anatomy horrified the nation, not just with the eye-gouging coupling of George and Izzie, but with the ham-handed way in which the whole train wreck was handled. This court determined that the season had a lot of strong points, but it had almost as many weak points. The evidence from ABC Studios' Grey's Anatomy: The Complete Fifth Season will show that things haven't changed all that much at Seattle Grace, save that the highs are perhaps a little bit better and the lows are so, so very much worse.
Here be spoilers.
Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek (Patrick Dempsey) bask in the glow of renewed commitment, George (T.R. Knight) prepares to retake his intern exam, Izzie runs the clinic, Karev works to get over his psycho girlfriend of last season by bedding everything that crosses his path, Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith) take their first hesitant steps towards intimacy, and the horror that was Gizzie is fading fast.
Of course, things can't go well for long. The hospital takes a major hit when its rating as a trauma center drops dramatically; in reaction, Chief of Surgery Richard Weber (James Pickens Jr.) announces sweeping changes in how the program will be run. At first, everyone is focused on honing their skills, but then that pesky real world starts to intrude: new trauma surgeon Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd), fresh from Iraq, fascinates Christina (Sandra Oh), but his PSTD presents a major obstacle to their relationship; The Chief's attempts to restore Seattle Grace's reputation suffer a setback when a water pipe bursts in the hospital; Meredith and Derek have their usual ups and downs; Sloan (Eric Dane) tries to deny his growing attraction to Meredith's little half-sister Lexie (Chyler Leigh); Bailey (Chandra Wilson) contemplates changing specialties, to the Chief's great consternation; Erica walks out on Callie and Seattle Grace when she learns that Izzie stole a heart intended for one of her cardiac patients; Callie then finds herself attracted to the stately Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), the new pediatrics attending; Sadie (Meredith George), a med school friend of Meredith's, shows up and before long has her fellow interns performing procedures on each other for practice; in the aftermath of that debacle, Meredith and Christina find themselves pissed off at one another.
Did I miss anything?
Oh yes, Izzie (Katherine Heigl) starts having sex with her fiancé Denny (Jeffery Dean Morgan, Watchmen), which wouldn't be all that remarkable, save that Denny died at the end of Season Two.
It's OK. Take a moment to process before moving on.
Fear not, we'll get to the Great Ghost Boink. Eventually. Season Five is a schizophrenic mess, with highs and lows that would make a roller coaster designer weep with envy. We'll start with some of the highs:
* Christina and Owen: Easily the most compelling storyline of the season. There's instant chemistry between the two, and it's a joy to watch Christina leaving her comfort zone. There is a lovely shot in "Beat Your Heart Out" -- Owen and Christina are walking down the hall, not speaking, looking straight ahead. But right as their paths diverge, Christina brushes her hand ever so slightly against Owen's; the faint hint of contentment on Christina's face delights. Of course, the producers didn't really trust the actors to sell it on their own, so we got the sequence in slo-mo with stirring music: SEE, YOU MORONS!! SHE LIKES HIM!!! YOU WILL ACCEPT IT!! IT'S WUV! TWUE WUVV! YOU WILL SUBMIT!! (Sorry. A viewing of Watchmen the other night filled my pretentious slo-mo requirements for the foreseeable future.) Sandra Oh nabbed an Emmy nomination for her work; a pretty strong case could be made for Kevin McKidd as well.
* Tyne Daly as Derek's Mom: Or, When Stunt Casting Goes Well. Tyne Daly rocks, anytime, anywhere. The revelation that she was a naval nurse means that she can make quick accurate assessments, and the additional authority that she gets for being Tyne Daly means that she speaks Truth; the result is a series of rapid pronouncements that we simply accept: Meredith really is perfect for Derek, Lexie and Sloan isn't that crazy an idea, and -- most importantly -- Owen hasn't left Iraq behind him. Her appearance is a catalyst that kicks several key plot threads into high gear. (They do the same "Voice of Truth" thing Mary McDonnell as well, when she simply explains why Bailey is a pediatric surgeon. Because who is dumb enough to argue with Laura Roslin?)
* Eric Stoltz: Stoltz was compelling as serial killer William Dunn; he walks such a fine line that you're never quite sure if he's messing with Meredith or truly reaching out; he and Ellen Pompeo do great work in these three episodes. In addition, he did a solid job directing two episodes ("Brave New World" and "These Ties that Bind").
* Overall acting: While the plots have gotten completely out of control, acting has remained consistently solid, particularly with the guest stars. Particular standouts are Mariette Hartley, Bernadette Peters, and Kathy Baker as three friends confronted with the ultimate test of friendship in the season opener. Mary McDonnell does a lot with a little in her few episodes as Dr. Virginia Dixon, a brilliant heart surgeon with Asperger's Syndrome; in lesser hands, the role would devolved into one-note parody, but McDonnell makes it work. Props are also due to Amy Gumenick as a high school student forced to watch her friends die one by one after a car accident the day before graduation.
Video is exceptionally clean and crisp; audio is also pretty spectacular. All of the extras are on a separate disc, so they didn't have to do a lot of compression. Ambient noises fill the sound field, particularly in the hospital, and the background music, so important to this show, is crystal clear. The extras are mixed; there's a nice selection of deleted scenes -- the scenes themselves are unremarkable, but the optional commentary by producer/creator Shondra Rhimes and producer is interesting. There's one extended episode, "Stairway to Heaven"; the added scenes help the episode flow better, but don't transform the episode. There's also a featurette on the party for the hundredth episode, "What a Difference a Day Makes," and one on Denney Duquette's enduring popularity. The outtakes are pretty forgettable.
* Bailey Turns into an Emotional Wreck: The hell? I have no problem with Bailey turning to pediatrics -- Bailey rocks so utterly that she's going to be good at whatever she chooses. In the first half of the season they do a great job showing Bailey losing interest in general surgery, but towards the latter half of the season, she has a few too many breakdowns. You can go to the well only so many times.
* Faye Dunaway: When Stunt Casting Goes Wrong. An interesting idea, but crippled by weak writing and a decision to shove it into a single episode. When she finally erupts at Christina questioning her skills, I found myself strangely disappointed that she didn't start screaming "NO MORE WIRE SUTURES!!"
* Derek is a Jackass: For a guy nicknamed McDreamy, Derek spends the bulk of the season acting like McDouchey. Whether it's arrogantly assuming that everyone will clear out of Meredith's house after he moves in; taking all the credit for last year's brain tumor therapy that was Meredith's idea in the first place; being a self-righteous prig when dealing with a serial killer (or with Owen Hunt, for that matter); or wallowing in self-pity over a malpractice suit and lashing out at everyone who comes near him. The only -- and I do mean only -- way this can work is if you accept that Derek is being made to be such an insufferable ass is to demonstrate that Meredith is, at last, fully committed to the relationship. Which is all well and good, except that the character is being changed to serve the needs of the story. That, and the endless Meredith-Derek angst is growing tiresome.
* Erica Who?: OK, so this one really isn't Shondra's fault. For reasons unknown, the network decreed that Brooke Smith had to go, which was a shame because the character was good and the relationship between her and Callie had been developed in an honest manner. The abrupt departure put a cramp in Callie's character arc, as a Jessica Capshaw was trotted in as a replacement lesbian for Callie. The departure also left loose strings that were never adequately resolved. Specifically, given that Hahn leaves out of disgust over the Izzie-Denny-LVAD fiasco, why doesn't she report the hospital? Of course, the issue can't be addressed, because Seattle Grace simply has no leg to stand on -- Izzie should have been kicked out of the program immediately, period. The writers found themselves written into a corner, and just tried to make the best of a bad situation by moving on as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, in order to bridge things, the writing team gave us...
* Sadie: Who just annoyed with every scene she was in. Meredith George may or may not be a good actress, but the problem with Sadie was the writing. The character was little more than walking chaos, and her departure was a blessing.
* The Return of Denny: This whole thing makes me feel soiled. He's supposedly a hallucination caused by Izzie's cancer -- and yet he appears when Izzie isn't in the room. Leaving aside the severe ick of the dead Denny sex, it stretches credulity far past breaking that everyone simply accepts Izzie acting batshit crazy for the bulk of the season -- if she's not masturbating in the on call room (thinking that she's boinking Denny), she's running medical scavenger hunts for the interns. (Of course, it took a while for anyone to notice that Sadie was bluffing her way through the program; so much for those new teaching protocols). The producers basically decided to cash in on the incredible (and deserved) appeal of Jeffery Dean Morgan as Denny, but in doing so they destroyed the legacy of the character, trampling the audience's good will in the process.
Of course, there's the death of George. The character showed so much promise in the first two seasons, but it became increasingly obvious that no one knew what to do with the character. It's hard to fault T.R Knight for wanting out -- over the past two or three seasons George's character has been so ill-used by the writers that read-through's must have become sheer torture. While they did start to remember towards the end that George had repeatedly demonstrated that he had the tools to be a good surgeon, they only did so to set up his demise. Thanks for nothing.
Watching Grey's Anatomy has become increasingly frustrating in the last two seasons. The medical cases, as a rule, remain compelling, strengthened by the strong guest stars, but the torrid, soapy stories of the characters' private lives have gone completely over the top. While the main cast is in many cases making things work (or almost work) that really shouldn't, you can't help but wonder if the show really knows where it's going.
Physicians, heal thyselves.
Review content copyright © 2009 Jim Thomas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ABC Studios
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 1080 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site
* Wikipedia: Grey's Anatomy