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'Grey's Anatomy' recovery: Sealed with lots of kisses

May 23, 2008 | 11:26 am

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Like surgeons, television viewers see death on a regular basis. Especially this season. Whether it was the almost instant failure of the much trumpeted "Bionic Woman" or the last-minute tragic demise of "Aliens in America," TV has had a fairly high mortality rate. So when you see a show, trapped in a potentially fatal spiral, emerge from its coma, blink a few times, then rise from the bed like a wounded action hero, it is worth taking a few moments to rejoice.

"Grey's Anatomy" is totally and seriously back.

The lead item for last night's two-hour season finale would seem to be the much heralded reunion of Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek (Patrick Dempsey). But frankly so many wonderful things occurred in that the Big Kiss, high on a hillside surrounded by luminaries outlining the house Meredith finally has the courage to envision for them both, was anti-climactic. In the best way possible. How could it not be? It was preceded by some of the greatest moments on television this season.

Callie (Sara Ramirez) finally kissed Dr. Hahn (Brooke Smith) in the hottest, loveliest liplock between two women ever on scripted network television, unbroken by the typical horrified/frightened pull-back. Alex (Justin Chambers) broke down in Izzie's (Katherine Heigl) arms after finally admitting that his Ava/Rebecca (Elizabeth Reaser) is mentally ill, just like his mother. Bailey (Chandra Wilson) turned over the keys to her beloved clinic, acknowledging that even she cannot do it all. George (T.R. Knight) grew a spine, took a stand and got the chance to retake his residency test. Cristina (Sandra Oh) got her groove back, performed a tricky surgery and told Dr. Hahn to back off. Meredith thrashed the Chief (James Pickens Jr.) for abandoning her mother and driving her to a suicide attempt, and the Chief told his wife he loved her and he was coming home. Even Dr. Sloan (Eric Dane) had a moment of glory, giving Callie the final push she needed.

I did mention it was two hours, right?

In between there was much commotion over a young man encased in concrete, and two young lovers, who were also patients in Meredith and Derek's clinical trials for a new treatment for brain tumors.  Some of it bordered on the ridiculous -- moments before brain surgery the tumor couple, er, coupled for the first time; the concrete was the result of a bet to impress a (really mean) girl, and in the last three minutes pretty much everyone in the cast was kissing someone. But it didn't matter because it was such a relief to see the show functioning as the unique hybrid it is.

One part "Sex and the City," one part "ER," one part "The Paper Chase," "Grey's" captured hearts and eyeballs with its comely cast, snappy dialogue and unapologetic search for wisdom, not to mention true love. Then, last season, something went tragically awry. What was effervescent fell flat, what was illuminating became preachy, what was quirky turned weird and possibly mentally unbalanced. Meredith's faux suicide, George and Callie, George and Izzie, Derek and Meredith over and over again.

Season 4 debuted with some promise but the writer's strike hit too early in the season to really call it. But while other shows sputtered and stalled in post-strike episodes, "Grey's" kept its shoulders squared and its chin up. Meredith went into therapy and apparently she took everyone else with her. The dark days of Season 3? It's as if they never happened. The final moments of the season finale may have been a bit goopy, but they were intentionally the opposite of a cliffhanger. What "Grey's" viewers needed was a renewal of vows. And they got them, sealed with the kiss of their choice.

-- Mary McNamara

(Photo courtesy ABC)

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