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'Grey's Anatomy' premiere: Saying goodbye to George O'Malley

September 25, 2009 |  7:58 am

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"Grey's Anatomy" viewers were left with one question after last season's cliffhanger finale: Would Izzie and George live or die? 

We got our answer within the first minute of Thursday's season premiere, as George (T.R. Knight) died on the operating table and Izzie (Katherine Heigl) opened her eyes.

Of course, most "Grey's" fans were unsurprised. Both Knight's release from his contract and Heigl's return to the set (for those grueling 17-hour workdays) were well-publicized over the summer. 

As the eternal underdog in everything from his love life to his career, George O'Malley remained a favorite of mine despite his weak story lines in the series' lackluster fifth season. Although his death wasn't a shocker, the panic attack Callie (Sara Ramirez) had when George flat-lined gave the scene the emotional impact it deserved. 

Thursday night's two-hour season opener followed the Seattle Grace staff over the 40 days after George's death, as they struggled through the five stages of grief (helpfully laid out during one of Meredith's famous monotone voice-overs). The time-lapse episode was an interesting choice, and though we sped through six weeks of mourning in two hours, it didn't feel rushed to me. 

After all, "Grey's" has already examined the way many of these characters grieve. We've seen Izzie's seemingly endless struggle to move on after Denny's death, and after Meredith's mother died we watched her work through her issues in therapy and with her mother's journals. I'm not sure the show could have held my attention for another season of crippling sadness. 

This way, we'll be able to watch the Seattle Grace staff deal with the tragedy after the initial bombshell shock wears off. I'm interested to see the way George's death affects the characters for the rest of the season -- especially Bailey and Christina, who don't seem to be coping in particularly healthy ways.

I'm just hoping they'll let O'Malley rest in peace -- meaning, I don't ever want to see him again. After an entire season of creepy dead Denny sex, I think we can all agree that George doesn't need to return as the special guest star in anybody's cancer ghost hallucinations or near-death experiences.

It wouldn't be a "Grey's Anatomy" season premiere without a twist. After some political drama within the hospital, with the Seattle Grace board members unsuccessfully planning to promote Derek to Chief McDreamy, it was announced that Seattle Grace would be merging with rival hospital Mercy West. 

Taking a cue from the sad reality of our nation's economy, the merger may result in a few of our favorite doctors being let go. We're gearing up for another season of competition within the hospital, and possibly for some new Mercy West doctors to join the cast. I can't wait to see who stays and who goes.

Let's discuss! What are you going to miss about George? Who do you think will be lost to the merger? Are you excited about the layoffs, or is the hospital's grim financial situation a little too much reality in your TV? Do you think Izzie's cancer is gone, or are we in for even more dead Denny this season? 

Sound off in the comments below, and be sure to check back after next week's episode.

-- Carina MacKenzie

Photo: Kevin McKidd, Sandra Oh, Justin Chambers and Katherine Heigl in the season premiere of "Grey's Anatomy." Credit: ABC

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