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Dead or alive on 'Grey's Anatomy'?

May 15, 2009 |  9:40 am


All I have to say is: They better both be dead.

“Grey’s Anatomy” limped to its season finale last night with a two-hour episode that looked very much like two one-hour episodes pushed together as we all waited in less than breathless anticipation to see if the endless and increasingly monotonous rumors were true and both T.R. Knight, (who plays George O’Malley) and Katherine Heigl, (Izzie Stevens) were leaving the show.

Certainly, Knight has been leaving the show for months now -- George has became such a shadow of his former self hovering at the periphery of the action that I kept waiting for him to burst into a chorus of “Mr. Cellophane.” Meanwhile, Heigl has been threatening to quit ever since "27 Dresses" didn't totally flop.

Izzie was certainly expected to die — she’s battled cancer and the world’s worst storyline (noisy copulation with dear dead Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) all season long. When she staggered down the aisle with that flower in her hair during the penultimate, and very touching, episode to take over the wedding she had planned for Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek (Patrick Dempsey), it seemed doomsday could not be far off. Thursday night’s dithering about whether to let Derek perform some sort of special Derek-like surgery that might result in her not remembering (gasp) Meredith’s name, or anything else, was just so much stage business. Of course she’d have the surgery, of course she’d remember (nothing drags a show down quicker than a lovely main character who is, as Izzie put it, a turnip) and of course, just as things were looking up, she’d croak.

You were surprised? Seriously? Do you not watch this show? That is exactly what happened to Denny (which was actually a nice narrative touch.)

Meanwhile, back on planet George, his new-found interest in trauma led him to enlist, a decision that was greeted by horror and hoots of derision by the majority of his peers proving that there are indeed too many pointy-headed liberals in television. Only Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), the perky pediatric surgeon it is still difficult to forgive for replacing the much more interesting Dr. Hahn (Brooke Smith), had an appropriate response. “That’s awesome,” she said as her girlfriend Callie (Sara Ramirez) did that truly irritating Callie eyeroll/snort combo, which, in the real world, would keep her partnerless for life. Because, of course, Arizona, who lost a brother in Iraq, realizes that no matter how you feel about the war, the Army always needs good doctors.

Mercifully, Meredith and Co. were distracted from their plans of a “George Intervention’ by the arrival of a man who has been hit by a bus, though not before saving a young woman from a similar fate. He is such a mess that it isn’t until The Very Last Minute that Meredith realizes it’s George.

You were surprised? Really? The moment Mr. Faceless came in, having been Hit By a Bus (the phrase so often used to describe the fragility of life), did you not do a quick, major character body count and realize we hadn't seen George for a while? 

The season’s final moments were devoted to extreme measures as everyone battled to save the two and the flat-lines sang on.  For a moment, it seemed Knight would be deprived of even a picturesque death scene — Izzie collapsed in Alex’s arms (causing even the jaded TV critic who saw it coming to sob mildly) but George, of course, had no face. But creator Shonda Rhimes is anything but heartless and so we followed both into the Afterlife, which turns out to be an elevator, where Izzie in her prom dress met George in his dress uniform (which actually he cannot have actually received yet but whatever). The two looked at each other enigmatically and lovingly. But then Izzie seemed momentarily distracted as if she were hearing voices in a distant room and though the screen went black with no life-saving bloop, you had to wonder if next season wouldn’t open with one of those last-second saves medical shows are so fond of. In which case Denny has my permission to use his ghostly scissors to cut whatever wires are necessary and let these people go.  

Strangely, the biggest development of the show was buried in all this life/death hovering. No, not the Mer/Der marriage, which was charmingly, if not legally, reduced to blue Post-It promises and not Cristina’s (Sandra Oh) revelation that she loves Owen (Kevin McKidd) (Why Cristina, why? He cries every episode.) No, the big reveal of this season finale is that  Meredith has gotten better, a very welcome payoff for an often painful season. In the midst of serial insanity, the main character of “Grey’s Anatomy” is finally a woman who, while retaining enough flaws to make her interesting, is recognizable as someone who might actually be a very good doctor.

Which, if we all cast our minds back to the pilot, was the original point of the show. All in all, things are looking up at Seattle Grace.

-- Mary McNamara

(Photo courtesy ABC)