We are in the 12th year and 13th season of the groundbreaking and long running ABC smash hit Grey’s Anatomy. Even this far into the run, the show is the number one scripted program for ABC, a fact that is mentioned with a large amount of surprise in every article written about the show by the Hollywood trades. With the long run comes creative changes. We only have 4 of the original cast members still on the show. Oh, and Bokhee, the best dang scrub nurse in television history. The ensemble cast has also delved into directing, with Chandra Wilson not getting as much screen time in recent seasons due to her directing roles, which she slays by the way. They have so many stories to tell and so much canon to deal with that the show can get a little rocky.
Now, I am not saying Grey’s Anatomy is bad, nor am I saying it is to its pre-Season 8 heights, but the show consistently shows why it remains on the air and has long lasting fans. The work done, especially this season, through their capsule episodes is superb.
For those unfamiliar with the term, these follow a few characters and deal with a single story, instead of crossing into all the paths available at Grey-Sloan Memorial. HBO’s Girls is another great example of a show that excels at these. They try to stick to a single location, few characters, and a storyline that tells us more about the characters themselves than the events around them. This year we’ve received three phenomenal ones.
Last week’s “Who Is He? (And What Is He To You?)” was the Japril sequel that people weren’t really clamoring for, as the couple is very love/hate in the eyes of viewers. Yet, taking them to Montana to work on a case, while also discover some family history of Jackson and see their relationship ebb and flow around those events was great. When Jesse Williams gets big moments on the shows, he does not waste anytime. His acting was superb and I came out of the episode with a better appreciation for the both of them.
The return from the winter break brought us a Jo, Arizona, and Bailey trifecta entitled “You Can Look (But You’d Better Not Touch).” This was my favorite episode of the season thus far, and it gave us three surgeons I would never have put together in a million years. They head to a hospital in a prison to help out a pregnant 16-year-old girl in the maximum security unit, cuffs and all. It was home to some beautiful performances, some great character work for Bailey (which is even more surprising considering we’ve known the character for 13 seasons), and a deep dive into the awful conditions prison hospitals have to deal with. It was the one episode that made me cry this season.
The showiest of the bunch and one of the best directed episodes of the entire series was “The Room Where It Happens,” or the Tennessee Williams-iest episode in Grey’s history. Stephanie, Webber, Owen, and Meredith. One surgery in one OR for one hour. We each went into their minds to find out facts about their past. More about Derek’s death, Webber’s mother, Owen’s sister, and Stephanie’s childhood. It played out like a memory play, as the character from the surgeon’s past popped up in the OR as the surgery progressed. It was a stunning piece of art direction and writing that will never be forgotten.
These episodes show us why Grey’s Anatomy has such longevity in the TV space. It has the stamina to keep breaking records, keep us on the edges of our seats, and keep us wanting more. If you have given up on the show in the past, I highly suggest you check these episodes out, no matter if you don’t know the arc of the season for these characters. The episodes tell you everything you need to know and, who knows, might get you back into Grey-Sloan Memorial for good. Here’s hoping for more incredible capsule episodes.