Why mess with a good thing? As the twelfth season of “Grey’s Anatomy” comes to a close, it’s clear the doctors of Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital are here to stay for the long haul. The season finale was more subdued than those that came before it, lacking the dramatic punches that Shonda Rhimes, the series’ creator, delivers oh-so-well. But, perhaps, the episode called “Family Affair” is the beginning of a Renaissance within the “Grey’s” world, one that has been blooming throughout the twelfth season. More nuanced and mature, the show has entered a new era.
Going back 10 years, Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo, “Daredevil”) was still rocking the early-2000s side bangs and sneaking around with McDreamy in on-call rooms and the show felt as young and perky as its interns. The episodic structure split up its time between medicine and the characters’ dramatic personal lives, with surgery centered at the core of the series. The medicine was teaching the naive interns about surgery just as much as it was guiding them through their own problems. The two were never separate.
But that was over a decade ago, and the interns that have made it to the present day are big-shot surgeons with “grown-up” problems. As the series has taken the time to explore storylines following the death of a spouse, custody battles and personal addiction, the medicine has fallen to the background. But maybe that’s ok, because the new “Grey’s” is able to develop the characters, using surgery as a tool to grow into themselves as people rather than just doctors.
The finale seamlessly set up this transition into the next season as the doctors left the hospital’s grounds for the majority of the episode. Even the big, edge-of-your-seat medical emergency happened on Meredith’s living room table (because when has there ever been a baby delivery on “Grey’s Anatomy” that has gone smoothly?). These characters have gone through everything together, and the time has come to delve into their relationships and provide answers that are essential to the show’s future. In a more-optimistic-than-usual season finale, the series left the audience with one looming question that needs to be answered in the stories to come: Can you have more than one great love?
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of season 12’s conclusion is the announcement of Callie Torres’ (Sara Ramirez, “Spiderman”) break from the show. Although both Ramirez and Rhimes left the door open for the veteran “Grey’s” to return, her absence will be a significant loss to the show. As many of the original cast members have dwindled away from the series in the past years, Callie Torres has grown into a central and complex character that has brought many issues, both within the show’s storylines and in the Shondaland mission to normalize television, into the conversation. Her role as a Latina, homosexual female surgeon has brought depth and diversity to “Grey’s” that will be sorely missed.
Yet even as characters have come and gone, the Shondaland original has proven its viewers are not ready to part with the decade-long series. With steady ratings and a Thursday night spot in television real-estate gold, “Grey’s Anatomy” is ready to tackle season 13 without slowing down.