Thursday, March 5, 2020

REVIEW: 'Grey's Anatomy' - Meredith, Jo, Bailey and Richard Finally Learn What Happened to Alex in 'Leave a Light On'

ABC's Grey's Anatomy - Episode 16.16 "Leave a Light On"

Bailey and Ben face a huge, life-altering decision, while Meredith and several of the doctors reflect on the past.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy.

"Leave a Light On" was written by Elizabeth Finch and directed by Debbie Allen

In January 2020, original series star Justin Chambers announced that he would be leaving the veteran drama. Quickly thereafter, it was reported that his final episode had actually already aired. That was stunning and made it all seem like an abrupt decision. As such, speculation began to form over what happened and how the show would write off the character of Alex Karev. The season has deflected from answering that question for a couple of episodes now. Alex has just mysteriously vanished. He said he was visiting his mom in Iowa but that was proven not to be true. This episode finally provides those answers in a way that hopefully provides closure to the character. Now, the show has grown accustomed to having to say goodbye to one of its long-running characters over the last few years. And yes, the show has found many different ways to write them off. The importance of such decision has to revolve around being true to the character and the audience who has watched them for over a decade now. Derek was killed because there was no understandable reason why he would leave Meredith and their children after the series built up the importance of that relationship. Cristina, Callie and Arizona could move elsewhere to embrace new and exciting professional opportunities or to chase after romances that once slipped through their fingers. The latter appears to be how the show decided to write off Alex Karev too. Early in this hour, the declaration is made that he has moved to Kansas in order to be with ex-wife Izzie Stevens upon realizing that she had their babies. It's a shocking reveal. One where the show made the decision and has to contort the episode around the need to justify it. The strain is absolutely felt. And yes, Alex and Izzie were a significant romance during the first six seasons of the show. To a certain segment of the audience, it's probably rewarding to know that they have reunited offscreen. For the audience of the last decade though, it possibly feels like a betrayal because of all the buildup to making Jo the greatest love in Alex's life. He felt unlucky in love because of his history of dealing with "crazy" women. Jo had her problems but fought for this relationship by putting in the work. The show has pushed that narrative hard. Sure, it has absolutely strained to do so from time to time. But Jo and Alex literally renewed their vows ten episodes ago. That makes it incredibly weird for a couple to renew their vows and get a divorce in the same season. That is just insane whiplash. The show argues that Alex always had these lingering feelings for Izzie. He never got a proper sense of closure with her because she just ran away following her cancer going into remission. He hoped that she had a better life. One that was full of happiness. His feelings for her have certainly been a contention in his relationship with Jo. She felt like she couldn't compete with the previous love story he had. And yet, they both walked into this marriage with significant baggage. They fought to make the other person better. That was the energy that made their connection spark.

Alex has evolved so much over the course of the series. That is on proud display throughout this hour. The framing device puts the original cast members who are still on the show front and center. Alex writers letters to Meredith, Bailey and Richard. He has to explain this decision to the people at Grey Sloan he has known the longest. He also recognizes that leaving Jo like this is the worst thing he has ever done. That means he backtracks significantly in terms of character growth. It leaves him in a place where it seems he hasn't evolved at all. Bailey and Richard's reactions to these letters will better inform their current storylines. Bailey uses his words to help illustrate her point to Ben about fostering Joey. Richard feels distraught because so many loved ones are choosing to leave him now and he is powerless to do anything about it. Richard even offers some thoughts of understanding because he too would want to be there to see Maggie grow up. He recognizes and accepts the choice Alex made. It just rings false that in order for Alex to be a father to Eli and Alexis he also has to admit his profound love for Izzie. That relationship didn't need to be reignited. It's jarring here because it feels so absolute and clear. Alex doesn't want Meredith to talk him out of this decision. He wants her to accept it completely. She is the only person he invites to visit. He wants her in his life even though it may take awhile for her to forgive him. With Jo, he just hopes that she finds someone much better than him. That is so disingenuous and destructive. It's meant to be uplifting in the end when she stands up and pulls herself together to continue being a kickass surgeon. But that impact lessons when she is removed from the decision-making process. When Alex and Jo got married, they did so with the understanding that they were both willing and able to move to the other side of the country. That's where their careers were taking them. It was only through luck that they stayed in Seattle. But again, that proved Jo's willingness to go anywhere with Alex. She just had to be let in on the decision. Alex doesn't give her that courtesy. That just doesn't seem truthful to the man he has been for so many years now. He was been such a strong, noble and respectable person. He destroys lives with this decision hoping that everything will turn out for the best like it happened with Izzie apparently. That shows that he is imperfect. He may not deserve this happy ending. He's just trying to offer his children something he, Izzie and Jo never had. That too can be seen as incredibly positive. But again, the show has spent years depicting the many different ways families exist. It no longer has to be the picture perfect nuclear family of two parents happily married with a son and a daughter. Callie had a baby with Mark and is now raising her with Arizona after splitting custody for a little while. Harriet goes back and forth between Jackson and April, who is happily remarried now. Meredith is raising her children with her sisters, Amelia and Maggie. It seems like Jo is left behind because the show didn't want to write out Camilla Luddington too. She should have job secure even though Justin Chambers wanted to pursue different creative endeavors. But again, the story is told as if this was all inevitable. Jo was bound to be devastated because Alex never loved her as much as he always insisted. That makes him an incredible jerk. One day he may find redemption. This leaves the door open for him to come back and possibly bring Katherine Heigl with him as this new and improved Izzie. But it just leaves an unfortunate feeling deep in the gut of the viewer. This ending for Alex Karev feels like it was flung together at the last minute because of logistical issues behind the scenes. It can certainly be emotional and moving at times. That's only because of all the hard character work that has been done across years that have fleshed out these relationships. They are being destroyed now for seemingly no good reason. Clarity may be found at some point. Meredith and Jo need to process this in a way more than the brief moments of content they end on here. That will more than likely come. The audience may be a different story though. A happy ending probably should be celebrated considering the alternative was another brutal and tragic death. It's just not as easy to feel as happy for this reunion as the viewer probably was with the suggestion that Arizona and Callie were getting back together when Jessica Capshaw was written off the show. It's complicated. The audience will definitely need time to process what has just happened and how to move forward with it.