I'm going to get it out of the way up front... Shonda Rhimes is a genius.
She is one of our generation's master TV story tellers.
In this week's landmark episode of Grey's Anatomy, where Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) dies in a car accident, after having saved the lives of four others - we see the masterful hand at work.
A lot has been said about the latest turns of events in this medical drama by fans - many loud angry sobbing voices online, but as Patrick Dempsey and the team agree, it was time. It was the right thing to happen for the themes they are exploring.
The show is, after all, called Grey's Anatomy. Dr Meredith Grey played by Ellen Pompeo, in a stroke of devotion for the craft of acting, doesn't pursue celebrity, so practically exists only in this parallel story world. This enables Pompeo to deliver each episode a rapturous performance, often under praised and under appreciated. Sometimes her character in the last few seasons acts like a kind of scaffolding for the more colourful Yang's, McDreamy, McSteamy etc, tableau which attracts more obvious fan affection.
When Sandra Oh's character, Dr Christina Yang left Seattle last season, she said to Dr Meredith Grey, 'Yes, he's very dreamy, but you are the sun'.
Shonda Rhimes has been on record saying that Grey's Anatomy was never about Meredith and Derek's love story, it was always about Meredith and Christina, the twisted sisters. Their love story.
Long before Frozen's feminist stance on sisterly love, what it means to be there for 'your person', Grey's Anatomy was meditating on this weekly.
Who are your people? And, who are you?
The tension last season between Meredith and Christina was an accusation that Mere wasn't into her career, that she'd chosen motherhood and that she needs to accept the costs associated with that. 'Bad Ass' is how Grey's would say it. That Meredith couldn't possibly expect to be as 'Bad Ass' (excellent) as Christina, because she chose motherhood and that comes with a certain amount of sacrifice and energy, so accept it. The tension was that Meredith wouldn't. It was a challenging mirror to be held up to Meredith, but it was ringing a truth within. How does anyone do both, or either, exceedingly well? Is it possible?
In this season we've seen Meredith go it alone, really. Looking around her, trying to pull together her professional dreams, with reconciling her wishes to be a present and excellent mother (as her mother was not), while of course needing the relationship with her husband Derek to mature, to that of support for her dreams.
So, it shouldn't really have been, 'Going it alone'. She had Derek right there and she'd sacrificed a lot to become a mother to their two children for the previous 2 years. However, just as they had agreed to allow Meredith to pursue her research and get back into her working life, Derek too had a professional offer he couldn't refuse. The President had personally asked him to lead a once in a lifetime brain mapping project, in Washington DC.
This season, we saw their relationship falter and Meredith insist that Derek not stay for her, but to go to DC and do what he wanted to do. Through extraordinary hardship, she pulled through managing her children and a streak of over 80 consecutive patients who lived due to her surgical decisions.
Dr Meredith Grey came to the discovery that it's not that she needed Derek, it's that she wanted Derek.
It's a big difference and a truly enlightened meditation on relationship. That at best, they are choices, not codependencies.
Derek's lightning moment was when he was able to ask himself 'When did clipping an aneurysm become not enough?' It's an important question for all excellent career climbers. You can shoot to the stars, but when did you stop being content with excellent, just where you are?
Will you regret not enough time with your partner, not enough time with your children. Finding that balance is the quest. To be fulfilled professionally and to be with your people.
It's going to circle back to Meredith. When you lose the person you love with your whole soul, will you regret choices where you didn't take every opportunity to be with that person?
Or, can she release herself and try to find meaning for her life - going it alone?
I'm very interested to see where this goes in the next chapter of Grey's Anatomy.
What will Meredith take from this? What will her learnings be?
Thank you Shonda. Thank you.