Thursday, September 28, 2017

REVIEW: 'Grey's Anatomy' - Meredith Has a Bold Idea to Help Treat Owen's Sister in 'Break Down the House' & 'Get Off on the Pain'

ABC's Grey's Anatomy - Episodes 14.01 "Break Down the House" and 14.02 "Get Off on the Pain"

Meredith and the team are focused on helping Owen's sister after her shocking return. Amelia faces a conflict over a patient. Bailey is forced to give Grey Sloan a facelift after the fire. The doctors are introduced to a few new faces that spice things up around the hospital. Meredith struggles to come up with a new plan for Owen's sister. Jo makes a surprising choice regarding Alex. Andrew's sister's controversial research leads to a shocking discovery.

After so many years on the air, there's not much that Grey's Anatomy could do that would completely surprise its audience. And yet, this two-hour premiere works because there is a sharpness on display in the writing and a confidence in the twists featured throughout all of the stories. Yes, some of them end in very predictable places that are bound to create some very big drama moving forward. But these episodes were pretty amusing as well while also doing a strong job at focusing on the characters. In the later seasons, the show has frequently been at its best in episodic spotlights. Those episodes keep the ensemble down to just a few characters as they deal with some kind of medical or personal crisis. These opening episodes are very much ensemble driven. Yes, the return of Owen's sister and Nathan's fiancé, Megan, is the big shocking development that motivates most of the narrative throughout these episodes. But the balance of storylines is interesting. Plus, the characters seem to be making sound decisions for rational reasons. Over the years, some of these characters have gotten very annoying. Jo still doesn't entertain me all that much. It's taken a lot to make April sensible and sympathetic. Maggie can frequently be hit or miss. And Amelia can often be the worst person in the world because of her reckless pattern of making things about her. And now, the show seems to be doing things to perhaps course-correct or at least give a number of characters interesting storylines to make them more compelling as a result.

But before digging too deeply into the twist that comes later on in the premiere, there's so much to talk about with Megan's return. For a long time, the show didn't even say that Owen had a sister. She was only introduced once Nathan entered the picture. That was the reason behind their grand feud. Her disappearance was the reason why the two of them couldn't stand each other for a long time. They've mended fences since then. They've gotten along as colleagues and occasional friends. They've moved on with their lives. And now, Megan has returned to shake everything up once more. It's a tad disappointing that Bridget Regan couldn't return in the role this season after her flashback appearance last year. But Abigail Spencer is a terrific recast as well. This is a very difficult and painful situation. There is so much raw emotion involved regarding how she has been cared for over the years. And yet, Megan is really funny as well. She wants to know all of the gossip about what has been going on in her absence. She wants to know about Owen's two marriages from Meredith. She's probably not the best source of information for that. She also wants to know who Nathan is dating. And again, Meredith isn't the best source for that either.

It's all made further complicated by Megan needing to have a surgery in order to give her a functioning bowel once more. She's been freed from her captivity but needs to return to Iraq in order to be with the child who she has looked after as her son. That's a personal twist that was very unexpected. Her captivity wasn't as gruesome as everyone feared it would be. She couldn't leave but she did have freedom to look after this kid after his parents died while performing surgeries throughout the community. Of course, she's severely injured as well. She needs this operation. It's just a matter of how much recovery time she is willing to tolerate. She wants to return to her child to be there for him as all the complicated paperwork is figured out so he can enter this country. But this isn't a simple solution for the doctors at Grey Sloan. Richard and Bailey don't see a solution to her medical problems. It's Meredith who has the brilliant solution. But that carries the awkwardness of her relationship with Nathan and the desire to keep that a secret from Megan. They both agreed that if their respective loves came back to life they would immediately run to go be with them. For Meredith, that's impossible because she has clarity over what happened to Derek. For Nathan, it was always a mystery as to what happened to Megan. And now, it has this happy ending.

Of course, keeping all of this a secret isn't a good idea whatsoever. That's a lesson these doctors never seem to learn. It takes the return of Teddy to point out how wrong all of this continues to be. It's poignant that Meredith is the one to explain things to Megan. She doesn't have the personal connection to her in the same way that Owen and Nathan do. But it builds a dynamic between them of mutual respect. Meredith is going to do whatever it takes in order to get her back to her son quickly. As such, it's a crushing defeat at the end of the first hour when the big surgery fails. Meredith doesn't have enough skin to completely stitch her up. That just leads to another breakthrough in medicine that could be life-changing for Meredith. The show has frequently raised the stakes by saying a procedure has only been done a few times around the world. It does a nice job of raising the tension every time as well. And here, Meredith wants to do an abdominal transplant. It seems crazy. But it's crazy enough to actually work as well. It's thrilling to see the med students chase down potential donors and then Jo sweep in to get the credit in the end. That actually made me like her. Her being apologetic later on was less effective. But that's not really the focus of this story. It's instead about the love triangle brewing between Meredith, Nathan and Megan. It's very similar to the storyline Meredith had with Derek and Addison all those years ago. Megan survives all of these surgeries. Nathan proposes to her. And yet, she turns him down because she believes he's in love with Meredith. Now, I don't think the show has done the best job at defining the romance between Meredith and Nathan. They still don't really knew each other all that well. But this story has the potential to get them to actually commit to wanting to explore this relationship. And that is exciting to think about.

That's not the only love triangle brewing either. That also seems to be the direction the story is heading in for Owen, Amelia and Teddy. It is again very reminiscent of the last time Owen and Teddy were involved in a love triangle. The last time Teddy was on the show she wasn't the most engaging character. She was kind of a second generation Izzie Stevens who fell in love with a patient only for him to die. That's a story that worked at the time because of Kim Raver and Scott Foley. It was so successful that the show did the same story a third time with Jerrika Hinton and Wilmer Valderrama. But more importantly, Teddy was always the third wheel in that love triangle because the show was always positioning Owen and Cristina as the great love story. But now, Cristina is gone and things are just so complicated with Amelia. That really opens a window of opportunity for Owen and Teddy. It's just so comforting to see the two of them here together. As Meredith notes, Teddy is Owen's person. That connection means something in this show. It doesn't have to be romantic. But it feels so easy and relaxing if the two of them were together. He acts on that attraction but she pushes away knowing better. She's still interested but knows he needs to figure things out with Amelia. And Amelia is on a horrible rampage throughout these episodes. She's incredibly distant from Owen and his family as they are dealing with Megan's return and surgeries. His family even questions why he wants to be married to her given how she's acting. Then she's incredibly bold and brazen in her handling of this case with a kid in constant pain because of a benign tumor on his jaw. She is successfully able to remove the mass. But she does it without Jackson's support. It's incredibly reckless. But that recklessness isn't meant to be applauded or appreciated anymore. That's the angle the show has always taken with her. She's the best at what she does despite how she annoys people. She's been through so much so that explains her behavior. But now, that's no longer good enough. Now, she has a brain tumor that has been affecting her personality. That's a simple but extremely necessary decision to help fix her character flaws moving forward. Of course, that's assuming she survives the treatment. It's a shocking twist that should re-conceptualize things between Amelia and Owen moving forward. That's intriguing to think about as well. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Break Down the House" was written by Krista Vernoff and directed by Debbie Allen.
  • "Get Off on the Pain" was written by Krista Vernoff and directed by Kevin McKidd.
  • There is a lot of great comedy that comes from Richard needing to show a bunch of med students around. The group being constantly on their phones wasn't great. But the one passing out in the ER and another screaming was great. And so was the glasses following into the kid during Jo's surgery. And so was Richard pushing back after Alex and April complain about them only to then have the same complaints to Bailey. Plus, there's the whole montage of them looking for the donor for Megan's surgery.
  • It doesn't take long for Arizona to fall into a new relationship after Minnick is fired. In fact, it's perfectly fine that the show cuts Minnick as quickly and concisely as it does. She started an interesting conflict last season that just went on and on with no real nuance to it. Plus, she served her purpose of being Arizona's rebound after Callie. And so now, she may be dating DeLuca's sister.
  • The introduction of DeLuca's sister has an immediate impact at the hospital as well. It certainly brings more dimension to his character. He's no longer just the guy hopelessly pining after Jo. Now, he's a little embarrassed that she has brought her sex research to Grey Sloan. And yet, he's also in the know when it comes to Amelia's tumor because it was his sister's research that leads to its discovery.
  • Jo needs to be more confident. She hasn't been an endearing character for a long time. She's very indecisive over what she wants. She needs to find a new Stephanie. Ben can't do that for her. Her sleeping with the glasses guy is incredibly awkward as well. And yet, she makes some bold moves as well including being able to forgive Alex after he beat up DeLuca. The two of them seem back together. Plus, he's being honest with her about finding her husband.
  • The show was definitely hinting at a possible romance between Maggie and Jackson at the end of last season. April was even commenting on it to them. And now, the two of them are awkward to each other. But it mostly forces a conversation between April and Jackson regarding what they are doing. April realizes that it's not healthy to continue living with him and falling into the same pattern over and over again.