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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Grey’s Anatomy may have found a way to reinvent itself for season 16

Illustration for article titled Grey’s Anatomy may have found a way to reinvent itself for season 16
Photo: Kelsey McNeal (ABC)

Geez, Grey’s, a little “Previously on…” would have been helpful here. So in case (like me), you’ve been away from this show for a bit, here’s a quick summary: Teddy and Owen just gave birth. Amelia is now dating the cowboy guy from Nashville. Because nobody at Grey Sloan hospital ever seems to understand rules about things, Meredith committed insurance fraud, and got DeLuca thrown in jail and herself, Richard, and Karev fired as a result. Because Karev can never have a simple, easy relationship, Jo went into a 30-day treatment facility. And, unsurprisingly, Maggie is still the worst.


Where to start? It’s almost commendable that on the brink of its 16th season, Grey’s can still find medical maladies to mimic its many interpersonal ones. Here, it’s an adorable hiking couple that unfortunately took a step backward while taking a selfie. The wife hung on to the husband—with a broken arm!—for hours until help came, but he still eventually wound up in a coma. She’s then ready to pull the plug on him several times, knowing that he would hate living in a coma-like state. After she hung on for so long, then the doctors have to convince her to keep hanging in there.

Which, after all, is the ultimate question about relationships: When is it worth it to pull the plug, or to hang in there? Look at Teddy, who’s had a crush on Owen since God was a boy, and had to see him get through Cristina and Amelia before he’s finally ready to be a true partner to her. Her faith in their relationship has lasted a long time. Same with Karev, who, even after going through horrible relationships like Izzy and the amnesia lady, is ready to make a bonafide commitment to Jo, because he knows she’s worth it. (And dang, Camilla Luddington really sold that therapy scene.) But the opposite is true for Maggie and Jackson, because, thank the high heavens, he sees that their relationship is done. Of course she doesn’t, missing his easily translated metaphor about their relationship of course to make it all about her (“Am I the thing that’s broken beyond repair?” Really?). Is it because she lambasts him for going off and saving two people’s lives instead of defending her from non-existent bears? Probably? There’s also the fact that they are brother and sister and this whole setup is wrong, so hopefully we can all move past that.

Interestingly, though, Grey’s may also be moving on from the hospital that shares its name. Richard, now diminished to a humiliating but entertaining housecall gig, shoots for a job overhauling the worst hospital in Seattle. He won’t get it because the person who interviews him doubts his abilities because of his age, but Alex might. Honestly, it’s a bananas, throw-all-the-babies-out-with-the-bathwater idea that has served the show well in the past (remember, this series is afraid of nothing, not even plane crashes involving half the cast). Starting over at an entirely new, in much worse shape institution? This show has been around for 15 seasons. Why not start over somewhere completely new?

It might help expand its show beyond its usual, typical parameters. We’ve seen hurt, spurned lovers before (Maggie, get over yourself). DeLuca is not much more than McDreamy lite. It is unconscionable that a grown-up, professional person like Amelia would expect to march into someone’s office to casually suggest a threesome, and can still be shocked by an unplanned pregnancy. One exception: We’ve seen the overwhelmed new mom a bizillion times before, but Kim Raver sold it pretty well. But Grey’s may be a victim of its own success: There are now so many cast members, all with their own plotlines, that the hiking couple was basically the only patient situation this entire episode. Sure, there was a lot of place-setting to be done for the season. But the medical drama and oddities are what has always set Grey’s apart. If we just want to see soapy hospital relationships, well, General Hospital is still on ABC in the daytime.

No one is ever going to quit expressing astonishment that Grey’s Anatomy is still on the air. But if the show wants to keep itself fresh for season 16, a whole new hospital, led by Alex, of all people, is an inventive way to do that. Plus we have Meredith doing her Rory Gilmore community service, Richard and Catherine at odds, many fan favorites still on board. There are reasons why this show is still around. And the multitude of drama Grey’s poured into its 16th season finale is a good example of why it’s still here.


Stray observations

  • “I’m generous with my money and my tongue in bed, so you’re going to regret this and when you do… I’ll still be here.” Never change, Grey’s.
  • Hah, the annoying dog’s name was Dumbledore.
  • “You left me in a car on an unfamiliar road in the woods surrounded by fog and bears and wolves!” Someone explain to me why Maggie is not the worst, I’m begging you.
  • Jackson’s new date Victoria: Such a better fit for him than what’s-her-name.
  • Grey’s, you already did the “couple on a date that gets distracted by a medical case” with Cristina and Burke. But guess a little recycling is understandable at this point.
  • “He offered to milk me.” “I don’t even know what to do with that.”
  • Thanks for reading, everyone: This is just a drop-in on the show premiere. But if you’re interested I might be able to drop back in later in the season. And the show’s renewed through season 17, so it’s not going anywhere for awhile.

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.