May 18, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Grey’s Anatomy”


There was remarkably little rust on Shonda Rhimes’s GREY’S ANATOMY in its 14th season.  The series, now under the showrunning stewardship of longtime writer/producer Krista Vernoff (Rhimes herself is leaving ABC Studios for Netflix, but will continue to be in uber-charge), smoothly balanced its huge cast of regulars and recurring characters through 24 episodes worth of crises romantic and medical, and along the way even launched the spin-off Station 19.  After all these years, it’s still one of ABC’s highest-rated dramas, outdrawn lately only by the shiny new The Good Doctor.

That isn’t to say that Season 14 was perfect, but Grey‘s has never been the kind of prestige drama that aims for perfection.  No one, apparently including Ellen Pompeo, was heartbroken to see Meredith Grey’s love interest Dr. Riggs (Martin Henderson) vanish from the scene, and the years-long unsuspected brain tumor of Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone) felt like a stretch.  (Weirdly, the same plotline turned up in this season’s Madam Secretary, where the tumor afflicted the President.)  The show’s decision to address the #MeToo movement through a multi-episode story about late hospital owner Harper Avery’s predations felt ham-handed and contrived, even by Grey’s standards.

Overall, though, the series sustained its skill at mixing serious drama with romance and wit, giving just about every character his or her moments to shine.  Grey’s has done a particularly good job of transitioning Meredith from ingenue to a voice of authority within the show, and it’s also put effort into building up the character of Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington) to a level just below the veteran leads, giving her a meaty plot about dealing once and for all with her abusive ex-husband, and then focusing on her upcoming wedding with Alex Karev (Justin Chambers).  One of the finale’s cliffhangers dangled the possibility of Alex and Jo leaving Seattle for a job in Boston, but it seems likely that Vernoff and Rhimes will be keeping them in place somehow or other.

Coming into tonight’s finale, written by Vernoff and directed by Debbie Allen (almost half the season’s episodes were directed by cast members Allen, Kevin McKidd, Pompeo or Jesse Williams), the big news was that this would be the final hour for regulars Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) and April Kepner (Sarah Drew).  Considering that this is a show that has sometimes brutally rid itself of characters, Arizona and April had the most pleasant exits imaginable.  After Alex and Jo’s fancy wedding fell apart, mostly for comic reasons (botched GPS links to the guests, a wedding planner in anaphylactic shock, the couple themselves trapped in a shed–where they’d gone for wedding-day sex–with a skeleton), April had a surprise walk down the aisle of her own with her paramedic ex.  (Alex and Jo ended the episode married as well, thanks to a quickie ceremony on the ferry back to Seattle officiated by Meredith.)  Arizona moved back to New York so that her daughter could be close to ex-wife Callie, and not only was she stepping into a dream job, but texts from Callie suggested their love story isn’t necessarily over.  Of course, this being Grey’s, there had to be some intrigue stocked up for next season, so we had the climactic reveal that Teddy Altman (Kim Raver), who’d finally become physical with eternal pal Owen Hunt (McKidd) in a Paris fling, was pregnant–just as Owen was halfway toward getting back together with his own ex Amelia.

Over the years, Grey’s has cleared out most of its original regulars and shuttled in new characters with remarkable efficiency, using the hospital’s new interns as an engine for change.  It’s something Dick Wolf has been famous for accomplishing, but keeping that rotation going without disrupting the show’s overall tone and flow is far more difficult in a serialized series than in a procedural.  Pompeo seems content to stick around, and at this point it’s not clear that Grey’s even has to have her to keep rolling along.  Eventually the sheer expense of a series with a high-priced ensemble and expensive writers may catch up with naturally eroding ratings, but Grey’s seems to have plenty of life, both creatively and with viewers, to have years of health ahead of it.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."