Thursday, October 16, 2014

REVIEW: 'Grey's Anatomy' - Meredith Goes Through Her Mother's Journals Again & Maggie Makes a Decision in 'Only Mama Knows'

ABC's Grey's Anatomy - Episode 11.04 "Only Mama Knows"

Secrets from Ellis Grey's past come to light when Meredith watches old videos and reads through her mother's journals. Meanwhile, Maggie rocks the hospital with an unexpected announcement and Alex gets new responsibilities.

"Only Mama Knows" is very evocative of the early days of Grey's Anatomy - back when Meredith was struggling with her mother, Ellis Grey, while she was still alive but stricken by Alzheimer's. The hour even frequently cuts away to footage from early seasons to showcase the new meaning those scenes have with the knowledge that Ellis and Richard had a daughter. Even in her moments of lucidity, she never told Richard the truth even when she was pleading for the life the two of them could have had together.

Something I really admire about the show right now in its eleventh season is its desire to play around with memory and perspective. Meredith was adamant that her mother was not pregnant and she didn't have another half-sister. Maggie was simply making all of this up because she wanted something. She digs around her early childhood memories throughout these last two episodes. She comes to accept it while getting fragmented memories of the tumultuous year in which she turned 5 years old. Eventually she recalls the first few months of living in Boston in secrecy - waiting for Ellis to give birth before continuing to live a normal life. It made little sense to her when she was 5. She could have easily forgotten about it in the years sense. But now, it all makes perfect sense to her. Even though Ellis has been gone for awhile now, Meredith is still learning new things about her mother - while she's still actively trying not to become her mother.

From Maggie's perspective, she came to Seattle in the hopes of getting some answers about where she really comes from. It's an urge that all adopted children get at some point in their lives. She got here and it was a huge wake up call. I loved the episode earlier this season that did everything from Maggie's point-of-view because it showed how the regular characters come across to outsiders. That's a feeling we don't often get because we've spent so much time with these people. Maggie doesn't know anything about them except that Meredith is her half-sister. The two of them have butted heads since the moment Maggie arrived. She's gotten her answers and now she's ready to get back to her comfort zone elsewhere.

Everyone is pushing for Maggie to stay. A cardio head just never seems to want to stay at this hospital. But only a select few are aware of the true reasons behind her resignation. Two new people are let in on the big secret - Derek and Bailey. Both of their reactions are pretty awesome. He actually gets to smile again and embrace another sister to his ever-growing family. Bailey's largely just glad that Richard didn't sleep with her. But she's also there for him. The hour concludes without saying whether or not she will stay at the hospital. However, it does build to the first moment where Meredith and Maggie are civil and friendly with each other. Meredith shares their mother's journey from the year of Maggie's birth. Ellis was aware she was pregnant. She did everything to make sure her baby was healthy. And yet, she was aware of how she'd be perceived if she was pregnant but didn't have another child later in the medical community out in Boston. So, she hid it from everyone. She took care of Meredith. And she gave Maggie up for a better life than one she could have provided. Maggie ended up with great parents. They send her singing fish! Meredith was stuck with Ellis, who was always a terrible mother. That contrast is interesting. By bringing Ellis back to the show, Grey's Anatomy does have a renewed sense of energy this season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Only Mama Knows" was written by Mark Driscoll and directed by Nicole Rubio.
  • Maggie is very accomplished as a surgeon at a very young age - just like her mother. Couple that with her inability to remember Wilson's name a couple episodes ago and may Maggie be following the same unfortunate trajectory as her biological mother?
  • I'm just really over the grand Meredith and Derek fight. It really does seem like a no win situation for both of them. I just want them to move on because it's not fun or interesting watching them fight like this.
  • Annet Mahendru was pretty great as the mother of the girl with an eight pound tumor in her belly. It's just a brief role but she made it heartbreaking and incredibly thematic to the big story with Meredith, Maggie and their mother.
  • However, the whole Maggie situation is still weighing heavily on Richard. This story arc has been wonderful for James Pickens, Jr. The show is finally giving him something to do again.
  • The board vote was unanimous for Bailey last week. That's gotta hurt, Alex. And it does. But now he's been asked to run the entire Peds department which is an important position too.
  • Kate Burton really is fantastic as Ellis Grey. This episode was a nice reminder of that. She has tragic in the show's early years. But her new scenes here show that she is still a wonderful character. Just look at the nuance in her smile before saying "Where were we?" in the concluding moment.