Obviously, spoilers, lots, and lots of spoilers. The review will cover everything from season one to season 17 so if you are not caught up, or don’t want to have any aspect of the show spoiled, consider yourself warned.
Grey’s Anatomy has been on the air since 2005 and since the new season starts in just a few short weeks, now is a better time than any to look back at the series as a whole.
As the show has been on for almost two decades, there are several distinct eras of the show, usually broken up into about five season blocks. The first five seasons I consider the MAGIC era, these seasons host the original main cast of interns, Meredith, Alex, George, Izzie, and Cristina.
The MAGIC era is considered by most to be the gold standard of Grey’s Anatomy and for good reason. The original cast had such amazing chemistry and that’s unfortunately not a thing I can say about many of the later seasons. The comedy is fresh and the one liners are always perfect. The drama also feels authentic whereas in the later seasons it definitely plays as if it were written.
This is also what I’d consider the golden era of medical gore for the show, there are interesting cases every episode, a myriad of tumors, once-in-a-career transplants, out of this world traumas, and so much more to keep viewers hooked on something other than the insanely attractive doctors.
Moving onto these insanely attractive doctors, I have already mentioned the interns, so let’s talk attendings. The show starts with chief of surgery Dr. Richard Webber, general surgery, Dr. Derek Shepard, neurosurgery, Dr. Preston Burke, cardiothoracic surgery, and added in season two and three, Dr. Addison Montgomery Shepherd OB-GYN and fetal surgery and Dr. Mark Sloan, plastic surgery. All portrayed by 2005 heart throbs.
The chemistry didn’t stop with the interns, though. The aforementioned attendings all have fantastic on-screen chemistry, this shows a lot in the race for the next chief of surgery, all of them are tripping over themselves to impress but they’re just making fools of themselves, and it makes for some entertaining TV.
We can’t talk MAGIC era if we don’t talk MerDer. Our lead character Meredith unknowingly falls for the hotshot neuro attending, Dr. Shepard, the night before her first day as an intern. They both find out they will be working closely with each other in a big moment where they lock eyes from across the room in the hospital and as much as I don’t want to say it, the rest was history.
There were obviously bumps to get to their happily ever after, and it doesn’t stay so happy for long, but the MAGIC era showed the best of them and gives me hope that not all is dead.
As we close the MAGIC era, we must discuss write offs. The first major exits were Isiah Washington’s character Dr. Burke and Kate Walsh’s character Dr. Addison Montgomery. Burke left Cristina at the alter and just disappeared. This exit wasn’t shocking as news broke that he has been using homophobic slurs towards fellow cast member T. R. Knight who played George. Walsh “left” to her own spin-off Private Practice.
Not all these exits were written to be neat and tidy though. This show can just reach into your chest and rip out your heart one vessel at a time. Like for instance, at the end of season five, George was hit by bus and died, and the MAGIC era died with him. This also is sadly just where the deaths begin.
MAGIC slim down even more when mid-season six, Izzie takes her and her stage four brain cancer and leaves the show. Season six is what I would consider the end of the MAGIC era and I would say we are entering the MerDer marriage era that I would suggest spans from season six to the end of season 11.
This is also a good era of Grey’s, it’s definitely no MAGIC but this era has some amazing episodes like season six’s “I Saw What I Saw”, the episode after we meet the Mercy West residents, we’re throw into a clip show woven within interrogations of doctors after a patience died from a mistake. Or Season eight’s “Put Me in Coach” where the Seattle Grace Mercy West softball team goes again Seattle Presbyterian hospital.
This era has a very fuzzy ending. To me, the golden era of Grey’s truly ends with Derek’s death, however a lot of fans called it quits when pseudo-main character Cristina left at the close of season 10. These two major exits really changed the tone of the show, we now have to watch our main character Meredith rediscover herself outside of Derek and Cristina and we have to welcome in their replacements.
These replacements usher in what I like to call the “sister era”. I would say this era extends from season 12 until the close of season 16 and it’s just okay. This era has oodles and oodles of love triangles. Meredith being pursued by Andrew and Nathan then Andrew and Link and then Andrew and Cormac. It’s hard to keep up with but she’s not the only one.
Then you have Amelia, who replaces Derek, her older brother is being pursued by Link and Owen (more replacement characters), and Teddy and numerous love triangles and so on and so forth. This era is very annoying as we rarely see any of the main cast in happy, stable relationships.
As for the characters themselves, I think we see most of them grow for the most part, however, there are a lot of times where the writers torpedo several seasons worth of character development in one episode like when Alex attacked Andrew or when Cristina kept stealing Meredith’s 3D printer.
The writers spent so much time showing Alex growing and learning from his past mistakes just for him to throw away over a decade of development over a misunderstanding. It was just a very irksome decision. I won’t even get into how poorly written I feel his exit was because that would a whole article in it of itself.
Then with Christina, right before she was supposed to leave, the writers have her start acting like a total child towards her best friend and essentially reduce them to school children in their pettiness. These single episode character reductions just feel like they are in such poor taste.
The sister era introduces two new main characters, Amelia, Derek’s younger neurosurgeon sister and Maggie, the love child of Meredith’s mother and Chief Webber.
While I like these characters, I don’t think Meredith needed any more surprise sisters after Lexie.
These three women honestly run the show well, but it’s a different show, just set in the same hospital. We lose the magic of MAGICs training as they have all either grown up, left, or died and the show doesn’t really focus on the interns regularly if at all anymore let alone the residents. It’s just turned into the manufactured drama of poor decision making and love triangles.
Finally, we land on the current era of Grey’s Anatomy, I haven’t really heard of or coined a great name for it yet so for now I’ll refer to it as the post Alex era. This era of the show spans from the end of season 16 to current day.
Season 17 is honestly good television with a huge asterix. If you’re a health care worker who had to deal with the pandemic in virtually any capacity, I recommend just reading some spoilers, hopefully pick up at season 18 and circle back to season 17 when the pandemic is long over.
This past season showed Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic and honestly it was hard to watch. I personally don’t have much direct experience with the virus aside from having a rather mild case myself, so I wasn’t fully aware of the extent of the situation in all the ways the show laid it out for the viewers.
I personally wish that Grey’s would have handled the pandemic like “The Resident” did, a couple episodes about it and then everyone was vaccinated, and we were back to the normal show. I know that’s not how life goes but I honestly don’t want to turn on my TV every week to watch my escape show just for the world’s problems to be jammed down my throat through yet another medium.
The later seasons of this show are growing more and more tedious and boring to watch, however, I have already committed to 383 episodes, so what’s one or two more seasons, right?