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'Grey's Anatomy': It's not a finale without a body count

120260_577_pre "Grey's Anatomy" has a history of strong finales. With the exception of Cristina's wedding -- which I'll excuse because that was the year of the writers' strike -- each season-ender has been poignant enough to move me to tears. This year, I was too stunned to cry.

The finale, "Sanctuary / Death and All His Friends," turns the hospital from a sanctuary into a battle field. Mr. Clark returns, still upset by his wife's death at the hand of Webber, Lexie and McDreamy despite the board's ruling that the doctors made the right decisions.

This time, he wants revenge of the "eye for an eye" variety, and he's got the jacket full of ammunition to prove it.

It's been 11 years since the Columbine High School massacre, and only three since the Virginia Tech massacre. Despite the fact that "Grey's Anatomy" takes place in a hospital, not a school, the episode couldn't help but recall those memories. Like a school, a hospital is a safe place. It's somewhere people go to be taken care of and nurtured. To be honest, this episode was hard for me to watch.

Death is a common occurrence on "Grey's Anatomy;" someone dies in nearly every episode. However, it's never been a violent, intentional death at the hand of another human being. I don't know what the body count was from Mr. Clark's shooting spree, but I expect we'll find out next season. What I do know is that Seattle Grace will never be the same.

The good

Even in the midst of hospital chaos, the Seattle Grace doctors never lose their signature "Grey's" style of speaking. Arizona's line, "Do not alarm the makers of the tiny humans," was spot on. Later, when things got more dire, Cristina still sounded like Cristina. "I can't do this if you're in there staring at me with big, sad, don't kill McDreamy eyes." The best thing about "Grey's" is that the characters remain consistent. They may be consistently childish or consistently boring ... but they're consistent.

As always, Chandra Wilson blew this episode out of the water. The range of emotion Bailey experienced in tonight's episode was epic, for lack of a better word. The work that Wilson puts into her role really comes across on screen. You get the impression that the emotions are genuine, when in actuality, an enormous level of thought and commitment must go into each scene.

I was thrilled to see Callie and Arizona reconcile. I've made no secret of the fact that I think Sara Ramirez and Jessica Capshaw are the strongest actresses on the show, and their interactions make for some of the most emotional scenes, and some of the most funny. My only concern is that a reconciliation in such a time of crisis can't last.

Dr. Webber really shined tonight. At the beginning of the season, I was so disappointed in him. We'd invested so much in his character just to see him let the hospital down. Tonight, he proved himself a Chief again, and I hope that while Derek is recovering, he cedes the throne to Webber. When he told the officer, "I'm the Chief -- I'm the former -- look, this is my hospital," I truly believed him.

The bad 120260_467_pre

I've been a fan of Mandy Moore's for years, but I don't think her performance added much to the episode. As this week's big name guest star, all eyes were on her. So why was her dialogue so unnatural and so exposition-heavy? Though the writers remembered to keep the regular characters witty, Moore's character fell flat. I hope she returns for an episode or two next season to redeem herself. After enduring a trauma like this, it would seem odd for her not to forge a relationship with Bailey.

I'm probably going to get reamed for saying this, but I think that the episode would have had more emotional weight if one of the regular doctors had died. Reed and Charles were the only people killed that we recognized, and not only were they the new alien Mercy Westers, but they were also our least favorite Mercy Westers. It almost feels like they were introduced just to be killed.

After Columbine, rumors spread that the shooters asked victims whether they believed in God, and shot them if they said yes. Those rumors were later disproved, but when Mr. Clark asked the hospital staff whether they were surgeons and then shot them if they said yes, it hit a little bit too close to the mark. Since when is "Grey's Anatomy" the show that's "ripped from the headlines"? There are ways to establish fictional tragedy without borrowing so heavily from real tragedy.

This season has been jam-packed with big changes. It seems like a lifetime ago that we were wondering (well, sort of) whether Izzie and George would live or die. Certainly, such a tragic and traumatic event will make even bigger waves. I have a feeling that the Seattle Grace we return to next season will be a very unfamiliar, very scary place.

What are your thoughts on the episode? Were you as shocked as we were by the death toll? Who will you miss the most? Chime in with your expectations for next season in the comments below.

--Carina MacKenzie

Photo: (top) Ellen Pompeo, left, as Meredith and Sarah Drew as April.

Credit: ABC

Photo: (bottom) Mandy Moore as Mary. 

Credit: ABC

Comments () | Archives (321)

hollywood.........why don't you infuse a dose of reality in your writings.

in real life police won't be there , but a legally armed civilian might .....oops I

forgot citizens are not allowed to protect themselves in california .....they have

rights......according to the state the right to be a ....victim ....and not fight back

Air the show , I bet gun sales will go up , and it will be doctors and nurses

buying them...

Some people say they didn't buy that all the doctors fell apart, but I did. Who would have expected a shooter in the hospital? And the fact that some of them knew him . . .well, that, in itself, would have turned me on my axis. I bought all of the main characters, though I must admit I wondered several times why SOMEONE didn't pick up a phone. I couldn't believe that Bailey just sat down on the floor and waited for someone to die. Totally not within her character. She would have been hanging out a window demanding that a helicopter lower someone in to help her save the guy! And Grey so WOULD operate while her own life (and her baby's) was in danger. She made a promise to Cristina, and that's the one thing that she will keep. That relationship is in some ways stronger than the one she has with Derek. Whatever the case, I think the two hours I spent glued to the screen were well worth it. Now, if Lost holds up to the tension Grey's did, I'll end the season happy -- and if 24 does, as well, it'll be the best season ever!

As I watched this episode, I could only think about how real this is. Our country has been bombarded with these types of senerios.

I'm a long, loyal fan of this show and yes the writers have had their ups & downs. However, this episode should have touched many lives. We need to pay attention to the message and not about peoples acting and writing skills. Mental and emotional illness stikes at any moment. It was clear Mr. Clark had those illnesses. As we were looking at this episode, did we ask...what would we do and how strong was their SECURITY team!!!!

I did not even know Mandy Moore was in this episode, so no, "all" eyes were not on her. And even if I had, my eyes would have remained on the characters I know and love rather than a one-off guest star.

I thought the episode was awesome. I was totally engaged the whole time. If people didn't like the violence, you know what? The show carried a warning at the beginning and a shooting very quickly. Turn the channel if you don't like it! Problem solved.

I don't think the Mercy Westers who died were introduced just to be killed. I think TPTB hoped they would become popular but realized they were not working. They killed off two characters that few viewers liked that much, but did it in ways that made me kind of like them more, anyway. I'm still glad they're gone. I wish more shows would get rid of bad characters except of keeping them around to drag the program down.

And this episode didn't make think of Columbine or other shootings at all. It make complete sense that Clark asked if people were surgeons before shooting, because surgeons were the people he blamed for the death of his wife. I thought it was very effective.

I loved lots of little moments, such as Teddy helping a bit when Owen went back into the hospital, Jackson's hands shaking, Lexie coming thisclose to being shot, Alex asking for Izzie, Owen when he realized Meredith was having a miscarriage, just so much.

As for the comment below that "practically every doctor fell apart" in the episode... they were incredibly strong! They were terrified but they did their jobs! Was Owen falling apart when he lunged for the gun? Cristina, when she continued to operate with the gunman in the room? Jackson, when he saved Derek? Arizona, when she shielded the little girl with her own body? Callie, when she got the gunman to leave the room? Bailey, when she fought so hard to save Percy's life? Webber, when he confronted the gunman? Derek, when he spoke to the man and tried to talk him down? Meredith, when she told Clark to kill her instead of the others? Teddy, when she accompanied her post-op patient rather than hiding? Lexie, when she went for blood instead of hiding?

Evie, not one of those doctors "froze" or "choked" or "gave in." I don't think you know what those words mean.

Great review again. Carina, you are my favorite reviewer of this show. I thought last night's episode was awful. Way too dark. I love the show, but somehow we were not given the humor and the Meredith and Derek romance this year. My sister IM'd me during the show last night and asked what I thought was going to happen next. I told her Shonda had probably written something about the kitchen sink. What I meant was last night was a hodge-podge of too many things and it wasn't a pleasant show. These are hard times and some of us need our only watched show to be lighter than last night's episode. Usually there is a an unanswered question at the end of the season. I have no unanswered questions at this time. I really thought Shonda missed the boat/ferry last night and this episode ranked right up there with the ferry boat accident of a couple of years ago. I hope she takes a step back and does better next season.

Last night's episode of Grey's Anatomy was huge. As a nation, we should have been angered by the lack of gun control. Mr Clark pointed that out by saying he bought his gun and anmo in a super store.

As a nation, we should be concerned about our security systems no matter where we work, go to school or shop.

Most of the incidents we've had in the US, the police and SWAT teams were there within minutes and strategically planning to get the target. Writers....you failed me on that part!

The ending credits...producers, actors, somebody should have spoke on gun control or rolled some credits about it. Remember, we have families that have already endured this so tribute and respect should have been given to those families.

I hope the next season will bring out more discussions, advocates, better security systems and partnerships so we will not have to continue to strip people of their loved ones.

Agree wtih Joy's comments. I too immediately question why SWAT didn't finish the job once they hit him (when he was about to shoot Lexie) and the same thing about cell phones. The cold shooting was shocking. But i do agree with LA TImes writer about Chandra Wilson - fantastic job for the role of emotions of Bailey.

I think the show got way to soap operay (quicker than ER did). Izzy not only operated on a deer, but also pulled the plug on Denny and was allwoed back. I think the Mercy Westers line didn't work well and this was one way to get rid of some of them.

Oh well - like picking at a scab, i will still watch although I find it totally unrealistic every episode.

I hadn't heard, until I read Rhimes' statement about the finale on the Grey's Writers Blog today, that Rhimes pitches each season's finale first, and then the writing team builds the entire season into those ideas. That explains a lot about why this show's finales always feel so important, earth-shattering, moving, etc.

I don't care if there are ripped-from-the-headlines things. I don't care if no major characters actually die and people feel the show is "copping out." I am just seeking powerful drama, performances, character developments -- and this show never ceases to deliver.

I thought the girl that first told McDreamy did an EXCEPTIONAL acting job throughout the episode. It was VERY believable. Very strong episode all around and I liked it. I did have a big problem with the fact that no SWAT member would have let him go after shooting him. Also they would have had a sharp shooter take him out at the scene with McDreamy. That was very unrealistic. SWAT are trained well and would not let that continue for so long. As a hunter, and conservationist, I did not like the references to gun laws. Typical liberal TV.

BEST EPISODE TO DATE. Every minute was intense.

You know...I liked the episode, it was tense and exciting and just what you want from a season ender and I would have said it was great, except for the glaring issues with the story.

1. When the SWAT guy shoots Clark and saves Lexie...what the heck happened to him after that? He did not advance on the target, or shoot him again and then apparently lost him in the hospital...made no sense other than to allow Clark to continue his rampage.

2. When the docs started coming out of the hospital...why did they search them? By that time they knew who the shooter was, and certainly should have known that he doer had been shot.

3. How the hell did Richard get past the SWAT guys into the hospital...it is a pretty bad reflection on the police that they could not even control the hospital perimeter and then later Owen was able to get back inside as well.

4. The hospital system of "lockdown" seemed rather flawed, as many people did not seem to even know what was going on, including Cristine and Meredith as they walked through the "strangely empty" hospital.

5. Were all the phone off in the hospital? Why couldn't Bailey have called for help with rescuing Cooper?

6. If Clark was really there to kill Derrick, why not shoot him in the head like he did to poor Ried? If you want to kill someone, then kill them...he was much more effective when killing "non-essential" personnel. He should have at least tried to kill Derrick again at the bridge instead of just walking away...and perhaps had been stopped by the SWAT team...if they could have found him.

May sound picky, but when you have this sort of story, you really need to be sure that it all makes sense...and unfortunately, some of it didn't.

Well, actually, a year ago there WAS a shooting rampage inside a hospital in Columbus GA. I was thinking about that as I watched this episode.

Seems as though someone (WITH A CELL PHONE) could have notified 911 each time they saw the shooter, then SWAT could have pinpointed his location and took him down before so much carnage had to take place.

Regardless..I loved the show. Sure it was wild and several parts seemed unlikely, but hey...it's TV. :)

I was really impressed with the writing that was done for this episode. I was on the edge of my seat! I am in the medical profession and know about the range of emotions that flood then there is something tragic going on. These Doctors are trained in treating the patients and the writers were spot on with the emotions of this drama.

I think it was a great finale! It was sad and showed great acting on every ones part. I feel so bad for Meredith losing the baby. :( I will definietly tune in next season!!

I also don't think it was right to compare this to any high school shootings. I guarantee you thats not what they had in mind. I think you are the only one who thought that way! You also need to check your facts. There was a lot of comments you made that were wrong.. i.e. the writers strike and it was Charles Percy that died.

I actually liked Reed and Cooper. Though, I could see why they were killed. I could have easily seen April gettin' a bullet. I don't see how people could be so critical over a show. It's supposed to provide a break from reality. I know a lot of people who probably watched this show and enjoyed themselves. Maybe emotionally exhausted afterwards but still, glad that they watched it. I like when we pick on the guest stars who are given minimal dialogue and are expected to come out with Oscar worthy performances. Seriously. Mandy, it's okay. You did fine.

I loved the finale last night, it was the best.... I can't wait till next season. :-)

Such an amazing finale to such a mediocre season. To be honest, I became less interested in Grey's Anatomy a few months ago, but when I saw the promo for this week's episode on TV, I knew I had to watch, and oh boy, it didn't disappoint. Bailey's performance was outstanding and she definitely deserves an Emmy. I actually can't wait until Season 7 starts.

Grey's is a weak night-time soap opera where the writers can't envision hospital doctors dating or fooling around with anyone not on the staff. At this point it's easier to ask who hasn't done who than the converse. Further, viewers are asked to believe that individuals smart enough to complete a rigerous MD program are not smart enough to handle simple problems in the work place. How about a real medical drama next season.

I don't watch Grey's, my wife does, but last night I joined her. Well, it was OVER THE TOP! I admit, I was riveted but I was also laughing sometimes; some of the dialogue was laughable and the characters reactions to the shooter were just strange. Plus, and this is what really made me role my eyes, it took so long for the police to find the shooter!! And the two women saving each others lovers - hilarious!! Sorry Grey's fans, but I will not be watching next season. Now, for the end of Lost and 24!!

Who is writing this dreck? Are you on the Grey's Anatomy payroll?

ER did the same storyline -- twice -- and you're "stunned" by this? It's hack writing, from one of the cheesiest shows on television, one that has always been more soap opera than medical drama.

I can't believe the LA Times pays someone to write like this.

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