Thursday, February 2, 2017

REVIEW: ABC's 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Scandal' (February 2)

Reviews for ABC's Shondaland shows from February 2:

ABC's Grey's Anatomy - Episode 13.11 "Jukebox Hero"
ABC's Scandal - Episode 6.02 "Hardball"

Due to the demands of Peak TV, it is becoming more and more difficult for this website to devote the time to full length episodic reviews. And yet, there are still thoughts to be had about the ongoing adventures on a number of series. TGIT is back on ABC. So I thought it would be good to still write down a couple of brief thoughts about each episode on a weekly basis. Of course, you can still expect full reviews for premieres and finales. If ABC should make screeners available, those episodes would get detailed analysis as well. But for now, this will be the way to continue to provide content for these shows while also being a lighter workload for me.

Grey's Anatomy - "Jukebox Hero"
Richard and the attendings set out to make Eliza's first day at Grey Sloan a bumpy one. Meredith tries to track down Alex. Written by Zoanne Clack and directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan

Over the last few seasons, Grey's Anatomy has been at its best when it can cut down on its big cast and tell intimate, very nuanced stories. Last week's return episode was a little surprising considering it came after the show went into hiatus with a lingering mystery. And yet, it was a compelling hour because it was about one case and the tragedy that came from it taking place in prison. "Jukebox Hero" is a little all over the place to be honest. It's hard to really latch onto one story and feel all that invested in it. Arizona, Maggie and Murphy helping a mother who gets into a car accident on the way to the hospital receives a lot of attention. And yet, there are just way too familiar cliches and predictable moments to truly work. Meanwhile, the fight between Richard and Bailey seems to be giving purpose to a number of characters at the moment. It was fun watching how the doctors ice out Eliza and make sure she can't change things in the hospital. But it's also a story bound to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. That makes sense because it's clear to understand the opinions on both sides. It's just unclear what the purpose of it all is. And finally, Meredith spends the hour on the fringes looking for Alex. It's clear Ellen Pompeo is getting a lighter workload this season - which seems to be benefiting people like Jessica Capshaw the most. But it's the show once again delaying answers on that hiatus mystery for as long as possible. Alex does show up in the end - in Meredith's bed of all places. But I can't say I care too much about how or why he's not in jail right now because that wasn't a great story in the fall. C+

Scandal - "Hardball"
After a tight race and shocking conclusion to the election, flashbacks reveal what happened on the campaign trail and just how far Olivia was willing to go to win. Fitz and Abby are faced with an unprecedented national crisis. The gladiators are determined to get answers. Written by Matt Byrne and directed by Allison Liddi-Brown

The flirtation between Mellie and Marcus isn't some new creation that first appears in this episode. It was hinted at a little bit last season. And yet, this is the hour where it really comes into focus. They become the latest grand love story of Scandal. One that began on the campaign trail. One that was corrupted once again by Olivia. One where impossible choices need to be made in the end. Mellie has to choose between happiness and power. That's a very potent thematic through-line for this hour. It gives the episode a nice hook. Mellie lost the election. Of course, things are so complicated right now following Frankie Vargas' assassination. She could continue to fight or she could become Cyrus' Vice President in order to unify the country. Of course, it's not surprising that the quest for power wins in the end. That's one of the hallmarks of the show. These are monstrous people who will do whatever it takes to get as much power as possible. They may be blinded by love at times. But they are still on that search for power. Elsewhere, Olivia and the show may be spending too much time fixated on Cyrus being the man responsible for Vargas' assassination. It makes sense. Plus, a feud between Olivia and Cyrus is compelling and new. It's just been talked up so much over these first two episodes. Scandal is known for big, grand twists. So, it's hard to trust that the obvious answer is the right one. My theory is that Jake is somehow involved with it. But that largely comes out of Cyrus and Jake not really having much screen time in these opening episodes. The audience hasn't seen things from their perspectives yet. That could be the game changer in this mystery moving forward. And finally, how great was that scene between Olivia and the new FBI director? It's great that this show has a number of strong black women in powerful positions within the government. But it's also great that it bluntly comments on it still being an uphill battle to be respected in those positions of authority. B