Tuesday, May 19, 2009

'Grey's' Finale: A Mixed Bag of Touching Sweetness and Manipulation

*Warning: Spoilers from the Grey's Anatomy finale*

I wanted to wait a few days before I wrote something about the Grey's Anatomy season five finale because my initial reaction to the last few minutes of it was negative, very negative. Made me feel manipulated. I was ticked off.

Thus I decided to chill for a few days, put a little distance between me and the finale so I could think about it and blog after my shock had worn off. But I remain annoyed, not by the bulk of the two hours, though, which featured wonderful scenes including Paris Gellar and Matt Saracen as inspiring patients, the beautifully complicated Cristina and Owen love story, the blue Post-It Note wedding with the simple yet moving vows ("No running away." "To take care when old, senile, smelly." "This is forever."), the agonizing thought process that went into deciding whether Izzie should have the brain surgery and then her signing the DNR, the reaction of the staff to the notion of George serving in the Army (particularly Arizona's backstory about the importance of Army trauma surgeons). I'm simply annoyed with the conclusion and it's coloring my reaction to the entire finale.

Grey's fans of course knew that Katherine Heigl, who plays Izzie, and T.R. Knight, who plays George O'Malley, have had creative and professional disagreements with the show's execs/producers/writers for some time. Heigl complained that she wasn't given meaty material last season and made noise like she wanted to leave the show. Knight, according to news reports, wanted out of his contract because his character's storylines had all but disappeared. Given all of that, I couldn't help but feel as though the season finale was more about the off-camera antics than the natural, creative flow of the ABC drama.

Yes, I could see it as plausible that Izzie could die from her cancer and her risky surgery. That makes sense, no matter how upsetting it was to see Alex clutching her in his arms as she started coding. But deciding to have George hit by a bus and mangled beyond recognition? While it's true he was heroic ("a hard-core hero" as Meredith said) and that he saved a woman's life in the process, but the symbolism of being hit by a bus seemed like payback to Knight. And to have BOTH Izzie and George code simultaneously, and then feature Izzie in the same prom dress she donned when she was boarding the elevator to visit her fiance Denny who, unbenownst to her, had just died . . . this was all way too much for one finale, for five minutes of TV.

I'm not alone in being unhappy with Grey's final minutes. Here's a sample of different folks' responses to the finale, in which the fate of Izzie Stevens AND George O'Malley were left in limbo (Are they both gone? I'm not convinced.):

New York Magazine's Emma Rosenblum, in a post whose headline called the finale "A Betrayal," wrote:

"T.R. Knight's George . . . got little to no screen time this season until the finale, where he signs up for the Army and is promptly hit by a bus. This plotline really disappoints: [Show Creator] Shonda Rhimes claimed this episode would be true to the characters, but if you're familiar with George's five-season arc, his Army enlistment seems mighty suspect. He had just started his hard-won residency at Seattle Grace after failing his boards the first time around, so why would he leave now? And then he gets hit by a bus. The only believable thing? No one notices George's absence (since he was never around this season). The five minutes from when Meredith finally realizes that the no-faced man is George to when he shows up, ghost-like, in an Army uniform, is certainly not enough time to ready our tear ducts for the final farewell. No weepy goodbyes? No musical montages?"

The Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik wrote:

". . . [T]he ending for O'Malley feels excessive to me. There was . . . an expectation that T.R. Knight, the actor who played O'Malley, would be leaving the series as well, but they deftly wrote him out in Thursday's finale by sending him off to Iraq as a military combat trauma surgeon.

Was it surprising when he appeared to be the victim of a fatal traffic accident -- hit by a bus after saving a woman by pushing her out of the way of it? Yes, it was surprising. And while I suspect some will say it was a cleverly done ironic twist and even a comment on the battlefields that America's streets have become, to me it was mostly about shock value.

And while some longtime fans are arguing that there is wiggle room for the two 'dead' to return, I believe that is mostly a matter of denial on the part of those fans. But even if they are right, it is only further of evidence of the ways viewers' feelings are abused by the producers. If either of these two characters show up in any form next year -- even as ghosts -- I am going to wail away for days on this blog about the cheap and low-down way the show exploits its fans."

The web site Double X called what happened a broken contract with the loyal viewers:

". . . George's death was a big ol' eff you to the actor and to the audience. Last night George, who has been noticeably and woefully underused all season, enlisted in the Army as a trauma surgeon, which would have been a perfectly acceptable, if totally lackluster way to send him off. But getting shot at in Iraq was too good a fate for George, who instead became 'roadkill' (as one of his doctors put it) after pushing a stranger out of the way of a bus. His friends only realized it was him underneath all the swollen damage a few seconds before he coded.

George is a character Shonda Rhimes has spent five years making us care about — and she didn't even give him his own death scene. Instead he got a brutal, shocking, expedient death he had to share with the show's real star (Izzie). His violent end wasn't necessary to the plot, the character, or the story. It was just some grizzly afterthought."

However the Los Angeles Times' Mary McNamara said she thinks that the ending is indicative that Grey's Anatomy's future might on the uptick, creatively speaking after what she saw as an underwhelming season:

"All I have to say is: They better both be dead.

Grey's Anatomy limped to its season finale . . . with a two-hour episode that looked very much like one-hour episodes pushed together as we all waited in less than breathless anticipation to see if the endless and increasingly monotonous rumors were true and both T.R. Knight . . . and Katherine Heigl were leaving the show.

. . . For a moment, it seemed Knight would be deprived of even a picturesque death scene -- Izzie collapsed in Alex's arms (causing even the jaded TV critic who saw it coming to sob mildly) but George, of course, had no face. But creator Shonda Rhimes is anything but heartless and so we followed both into the Afterlife, which turns out to be an elevator, where Izzie in her prom dress met George in his dress uniform (which actually he cannot have actually received yet but whatever). The two looked at each other enigmatically and lovingly."

As if you need reminding, below is a clip of the last five minutes that everyone's STILL talking about:

What did you think of the finale? Do you think the touchingly poignant moments outweighed the shock and the uncertainty of the fates of Izzie and George?

Image credit: ABC.


Marketing Mama said...

I'm still upset about the season finale. I loved how they switched places for the wedding and the post-it note vows. Izzie's death was sad, but okay with me... George enlisting in the army? Kind of believable, given his recent display of talent in the ER and admiration for Owen .. finding out George was the no-faced man right at the end of the episode? Crazy. Watching him die within moments of finding out it was him? PISSED ME OFF. The whole prom-dress/elevator scene was contrived. I hated it. At least they could have put Izzie in her wedding dress. Why have them meet on the elevator? (was it going up or down???)

I think Izzie will be dead for sure, but there's still room for George to turn around and go back... and then be a guest star or something. Ugh.

Thanks for writing this!

Meredith said...

I agree that having Izzie in her wedding dress WOULD have been better than having her wear the Denny-affiliated pink prom dress, the one she wore when she was sobbing on the floor and refused to change.

SPOILER!! I read over the weekend that neither Heigl nor Knight attended the show's wrap party. That doesn't bode well for a return for either character. We shall see . . .