Friday, November 13, 2009

Kim Raver on 'Grey's Anatomy,' Humanizing of The Chief, All Good Things

*Warning, spoilers ahead from the recent episode of Grey's Anatomy.*

I’m not big on trying to revive an occasionally creatively sagging TV show by haphazardly tossing a bunch of new characters -- particularly of the young and sexy variety -- into the mix just to see if the chemistry changes.

In the "absence" of its lead actress and beating heart of Grey’s Anatomy, Ellen Pompeo (she wasn't a vital part of storylines because Pompeo was pregnant and then on maternity leave) -- as well as the absence of major original cast member Katherine Heigl (who’s going to be taking another leave of absence from the show for a maternity leave) -- Grey’s spent several weeks this season trying the let’s-throw-a-hospital-merger-and-a-whole-mess-o-new-doctors-into-the-show to see if sparks of the dramatic and romantic kind ignited. And I hated it. Hated the Mercy Westers versus the Seattle Gracers. Hated the ER-ish tone. Didn’t – and still don’t – like the crop of new characters because they haven’t been fleshed out. They’re like fresh new moving parts of the scenery, akin to remodeling a kitchen when there’s something not quite right about the house surrounding it.

However last night, both Pompeo and Heigl were back, full-time (at least Pompeo was walking around instead of having to passively lie in a bed) on Grey's, though I thoroughly and vigorously don’t buy that Izzie would just abandon her new husband Alex because he supposedly “got her fired,” not after Izzie recovered from what should’ve been fatal cancer diagnosis, not after her emotional wedding ceremony to Alex as he married a woman whom he wasn’t sure was going to live out the year, not after Izzie died in his arms and was brought back to life by her now former colleagues. Alex even went to live in the woods in Derek’s trailer for her. And Izzie would leave Seattle and cut off all contact with her friends and husband because her job was the “one” thing she had left? What about the mere fact that she had a life to live? And a husband?

Izzie seemed ready to heave her career overboard after Denny died and she spent some quality time in that pink prom gown, but now her job at Seattle Grace is everything to her? She willingly risked her job for Denny with the whole L-VAD wire business, but her marriage to Alex doesn't mean as much? Sorry, I just don’t buy Izzie’s current behavior which seems out of character for someone who’s always valued relationships.

However there were two strong elements going for Grey’s last night: Kim Raver and, at long last, the humanizing of The Chief.

I was not a fan of Kim Raver when she played Audrey Raines in 24. I found her to be a whiny tool. But as a high-powered magazine editor on Lipstick Jungle, who had a philandering college professor of a husband and then she had her own affair with a much-younger, budding photographer, Raver was a perfect fit. I was saddened when the Lipstick Jungle was canceled, in part, because I wanted to see more of Raver’s Nico Reilly.

Last night Raver was introduced on Grey’s as Teddy Altman, a cardiothoracic surgeon extraordinaire who left a promising surgical practice after her best friend was killed in one of the Twin Towers on 9/11 and signed up to be an Army surgeon serving in Iraq, where she met Owen Hunt. Close friend and erstwhile love interest of  Owen's, Raver’s character seemed more fully human in a single episode – admitting to weaknesses, demonstrating strengths and an emotional range – than all of the Mercy Westers combined over the course of recent episodes. When Teddy celebrated the rain (because she’s been in the desert for so long) and then kept her cool while a child coded on the table and she waited for Cristina Yang to make the right choices in surgery, I crossed my fingers that she’ll be in this for the long-term.

Then there was Chief of Surgery Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.). For weeks and weeks, he’s been an automaton, acting rashly and emotionally closing himself off to everyone, alienating his former friends and his wife. Last night we learned that it 's because he’s started drinking again. The Chief has always been a complex character, particularly with his relationship to Meredith Grey and his lingering guilt over his extramarital affair with Meredith’s mother which was a contributing factor to Meredith’s lousy childhood. But too often, The Chief's stories get pushed aside for newer, younger, sexier characters. But I like characters, multi-dimensional ones with whom you can empathize or at least somewhat understand on a number of levels. I’ll take those kind of characters over McSexy drones any day.

Do you like Kim Raver's character? Any predictions about The Chief? Think Izzie's actions are out of character?

Image credit: Randy Holmes/ABC.

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