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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Grey's Anatomy takes a "Flight"

This season of ABC's Grey's Anatomy doesn't end with happiness. In fact, it doesn't leave viewers with any good feelings at all. It's an uncomfortable hour of misery, with nothing resolved at the end. Which doesn't mean that it's bad by any means; the quality of the series is still quite high. The finale, "Flight," is just extremely unsettling.

Seattle Grace Mercy Death, er, West, sends six of its doctors to another hospital to perform a tricky surgery. En route, the plane goes down. It breaks apart, and the people and pieces are strewn throughout a forest. One doctor does not survive, and the rest are injured, as is the pilot. It's a gruesome scene, not made any better by the fact that the survivors are stranded, with no sign of rescue as the season comes to a close.

The worst part of this plot is the death of Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh). Coming unexpectedly early in the hour, Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) holds her hand, confessing his love as she slips away. This is a truly heartbreaking scene. Despite the fact that Mark has a serious girlfriend, the chemistry between he and Lexie has never gone away. The expectations are high going into "Flight" that they will soon get back together, and Mark even tells her they are meant to be just before she passes. Sadly, this is now impossible.

Even more tragic is the fact that Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), searching for missing husband, Derek (Patrick Dempsey), doesn't make it back in time to say goodbye to her sister. Meredith finds Lexie, but assumes she will be all right while Meredith searches for her spouse. This is a mistake she cannot take back, and leads to an incredibly powerful moment of Meredith breaking down. Pompeo is mesmerizing as the grieving sibling who has lost so much, and now loses the only family she really has ever bonded with.

Losing Leigh will be a blow to Grey's Anatomy. She is a terrific actress who brings a joyful spark to an often angsty show. Her character helps Meredith come out of her dark shell, and she certainly brings joy to everyone she touches, including the fans at home. Unlike some past deaths, where there isn't too much regret that the character is gone, Lexie is a hard one to take. Next year will not be the same without her.

Soon enough, viewers learn that Mark is also injured pretty badly, though his damage is internal. There is a second suspenseful scene where Mark appears to say goodbye to Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), ready to join Lexie in the afterlife. This doesn't happen, thank goodness. While there would be a certain poetry to the two former lovers dying together, Mark has a baby girl that he must raise. And so, for now at least, Grey's Anatomy spares him.

As "Flight" closes, Arizona, Meredith, Cristina (Sandra Oh), Derek, Mark, and the pilot, Jerry (James LeGros, Mildred Pierce, Mercy), sit in the woods, darkness drawing in around them. Rescue needs to come soon if Mark is to survive and Derek is to keep his hand, something Derek could not happily live without. What a depressing way to end the season, no matter how great the acting and storytelling of "Flight" is!

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, no one even knows their friends are missing. Owen (Kevin McKidd) is too busy all day to take the phone calls from the destination hospital, asking where his people are. Sending his phone to voice mail may make sense at the time, but considering Cristina is one of those lost, this is not something Owen will easily be able to forgive himself for.

Owen and Cristina are not in a great place. They have been fighting for most of this season, and have been separated for quite awhile. But there is obviously still a deep affection between the two. Cristina does say she will soon be moving away, but it's not an easy decision for her to make. Perhaps the plane crash will realign her priorities, and the couple will decide to give it another shot. One can only hope.

Cristina and Owen's relationship is very interesting. While he is not the first romance to come along for the seemingly chilly Yang, she really values him in a way that is a bit surprising for her character. Cristina may seem tough, but when she talks about Owen, she does so with a vulnerability and rawness. Even after the abortion and the cheating, these feelings do not go away. They may have hurt each other deeply, but that doesn't mean they are necessarily done.

Teddy (Kim Raver) is done. She is offered a very prestigious job working for the army, but turns it down. Owen has been a great friend to her since her husband died, and she wants to repay the favor, seeing how deeply Owen is hurting over Cristina. Staying true to who he is, and continuing to support his friend, Owen refuses to accept her giving up this grand opportunity, firing her so that she must go. Tearily, they hug, and she departs.

Unlike Lexie, Teddy won't be missed so much. At times, she is a character one can relate to. But at other times, she isn't. The arc involving her marrying a patient actually turns out quite sweet, but it has been pretty uncomfortable watching her deal with the death. This story proves that Raver has the acting chops to hang. Considering the unevenness, though, and that her particular story has come to an end, it feels like a good time for her to leave. There might have been other tales to tell with her, but if she is going to walk out before they are all told, now is the perfect time to do so. Plus, it leaves an open spot for a new cardio god, which Cristina would be more than qualified to fill.

Teddy isn't the only one fired. Owen also lets April (Sarah Drew) go because she fails her boards. This isn't a cruel choice, even though April has no where else to go; it's just business. Owen and April have long been friends, of a sort, and it's doubtful Owen wants to release her. There has been no announcement of Drew quitting the series, unlike Raver and Leigh, so this seems like the sort of thing that will be worked out next season. No idea how, though.

Perhaps Owen has to let April go to meet Alex's (Justin Chambers) demands, as the two events happen at roughly the same time, and prior to learning that Alex decides against staying. Which, of course, he is unlikely to go through with, since Chambers just signed a new contract. So might Alex be willing to give a little to help a colleague out? If he learns of April's predicament, he very well might. Alex may act tough, but he's sweet at heart, and cares about the people that he works with.

Alex gets to show this side of himself in "Flight." Arizona is furious that Alex would leave after everything she has done for him. That's why she takes his spot on the plane. This is the opportunity of a life time, but Alex feels guilty for hurting her, of course, and calls to tell her so. His voice mail to her stays in character, but is exactly what he needs to say, within the constrains of being Alex. He isn't the jerk that he started out as, and Grey's Anatomy cannot afford to lose him.

The show can't loose any of the residents, soon to be fellows! Alex, Cristina, Jackson (Jesse Williams), Meredith, and by extension, Derek, all quit in "Flight" or just prior to it. This is a huge blow to the cast. All but Williams were at the end of their contracts, and might not have returned to the show. But now, they've all renewed. So what will keep their characters in Seattle? Perhaps they will be drawn together by this tragedy?

It's such a shame that these dark events have to keep happening to them, though. It has not gotten to the point where these sort of things feel forced into the story, but one has to admit that they do occur a lot. Cristina talks of wanting to leave simply because of the amount of bad luck that happens to the doctors at Seattle Grace. However, they also all have each other to lean on, and that just might be a good enough reason to take the risk and stay.

Webber (James Pickens Jr.) certainly wants them to stick around. He continues his tradition of throwing a dinner for the outgoing residents in "Flight." Strangely, only the main character residents seem to be invited, even though we know there are many more residents that work at the hospital. Regardless, it's a sad scene for Webber to sit at a dinner table and stare at the empty seats where Meredith and Cristina should be sitting. Hopefully, he doesn't take this as a sign of abandonment. He thinks he is losing them soon enough! If he believes they stood him up, he is going to be really hurt.

Which just leaves Bailey (Chandra Wilson) dealing with Ben's (Jason George) impending departure. See, Ben, who is not a main character, accepts a surgical internship in California. Bailey decides to marry him anyway, but they will now have to deal with a long distance relationship. This sort of arrangement might work fine for a few episodes, but both the character and fans will want Ben back. So can't Seattle Grace make room for him in their program? After all, Ben has already left the show before and come back, so it sucks to make him do it again. I smell the next main character for Grey's Anatomy, assuming his summer series, Mistresses, doesn't blow up. And it's a summer series on network television, so what are the chances of that?

This sad, tragic hour brings season eight of Grey's Anatomy, which shows no signs of its age, to a close. Luckily, season nine will bring almost everyone back in the fall! How exciting!

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here to read every Grey's Anatomy review I've ever written. To buy Grey's Anatomy DVDs and streaming episodes, please click here. Article first published as Grey's Anatomy takes a "Flight" on TheTVKing.com

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