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TV Review | ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ still strong in 10th season

Published: Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 10:11

When “Grey’s Anatomy” premiered in March of 2005 as the midseason replacement for “Boston Legal” (2004-2008), hardly anybody could have predicted that the show would still be on the air eight years later. But as the medical drama wraps up the first half of its 10th season, it shows no signs of stopping. Despite several seasons plagued with ill-conceived storylines and unpopular characters, “Grey’s Anatomy” has been experiencing somewhat of a creative renaissance in the past few years. Fans who abandoned the show when it went downhill are missing out; “Grey’s” has rebounded nicely and is now — arguably — better than ever.

This upswing has continued into season 10, as characters new and old are faced with fresh medical challenges and increasingly complicated romantic entanglements. Fortunately, though, romantic quandaries no longer define the core “Grey’s Anatomy” relationship. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), now married with two children, have the most stable relationship on the show. 

This development has been a wise one, and creator Shonda Rhimes deserves credit for allowing this once turbulent pairing to evolve into a mature, realistic marriage. There was a time when the show’s central drama hinged on their coupling, but now, these characters have been given room to breathe and to experience the trials of married life together. There may be fewer dramatic speeches and on-call room rendezvous for these two, but the on-again, off-again aspect of their relationship is hardly missed. “Grey’s” has opted to give Meredith and Derek much more adult storylines — and often saves the scandalous sex for its younger, perhaps more carefree characters.

That’s not to say there isn’t any substance to this new crop of doctors. While their roles are certainly less iconic than Pompeo’s and Dempsey’s, these characters are still entertaining to watch. 

Their professional and personal mishaps bring both humor and sorrow to Seattle’s Grey Sloane Memorial Hospital, often recalling the issues original cast members faced in the show’s early seasons. “Grey’s” has struggled in the past to introduce new characters — Brooke Smith’s Dr. Erica Hahn only lasted seven episodes as a series regular in season five — but lately Rhimes has created fresh personalities that click with each other, and most importantly, the rest of the cast.

Season 10 has been most distinctly marked by the disintegration of one its central relationships: Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) cheated on wife Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) in the season nine finale, and the couple, facing serious marital woes, has had to navigate the challenge of working together and raising their daughter amidst talk of divorce. Although it seems that the pair may be headed for reconciliation, their arc thus far has been thoughtfully done.

In fact, the show’s strongest episode of the season was a flashback-filled hour that intertwined a malpractice lawsuit against Callie with the anguish and heartbreak surrounding her divorce. Hector Elonzido reprised his role as Callie’s stern yet loving father — a rare treat — and Ramirez held her own in an episode that revolved entirely around her character. 

With 15 series regulars, the show often struggles to give everyone both equal screen time and compelling storylines. This Callie-centric episode paused other plots in favor of an in-depth exploration of her character. Episodes like this break up the season and help the audience to better understand the sometimes-overlooked characters, and “Grey’s” shouldn’t shy away from creating more like them in future.

That being said, not every character is done justice — Chandra Wilson’s Miranda Bailey has been straddled with various less-than-gripping storylines. “Grey’s” has always had difficulties writing for the no-nonsense, assertive doctor, and season 10 is clearly no different. 

The writers never seem to know what to do with her — she is either relegated to insignificant supporting roles or burdened with problems that arise out of nowhere and fail to effectively incorporate other characters. This year has seen her struggle with what appears to be a severe case of OCD, yet Bailey has somehow lost touch with every other aspect of her character. It’s unfortunate that the writers treat her with such carelessness; Wilson’s role has the potential to be incredibly substantive, if only she had the opportunity.

All things considered, “Grey’s Anatomy” is faring well as it continues its 10th season. There are more shakeups in store for the future, however, with Sandra Oh, one of six remaining original cast members, set to leave after the season ends. Her absence will likely have a significant impact on the show’s dynamic, but for now, fans should be grateful that “Grey’s” is back in its groove — a reward for loyal viewers who have stuck with these characters for close to a decade.

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