The following story contains spoilers for Grey’s Anatomy 19×1 and other major plot points from previous seasons of the show.
As Grey’s Anatomy opened its 19th season last Thursday, I was excited because the series opener beared the name “Everything has Changed.” Which it has, but at what cost?
Season 18 ended by cleaning house, meaning we got an onslaught of new cast members to replace the previous surgical residents. They’re an interesting bunch, but they are seemingly imitating the season one interns. I can see qualities of all the original interns in this new bunch that I feel is not quite coincidental.
One of the most interesting parallels presented in this episode came from the new interns’ names. Usually, the main residence class that we follow has initials that in some way spells out the word “magic.” Season one was Meredith, Alex, George, Izzie and Christina. George and Izzie were eventually replaced by Jackson and April to spell “MAJAC,” and now the intern’s last names spell out “MAGYK.”
We also see other parallels to the first episode with Meredith’s speech to the new class, classically in an operating room. While it wasn’t an exact replica of her chief, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Furthermore, Link had the same crisis that Derek had when a girl he picked up in a bar less than a week prior walked through the doors of the surgical wing wearing intern scrubs.
While it was a stark departure from what we’ve grown used to in the last couple of seasons, it’s feeling like a repeat of season one. That’s the issue I take here. Why try and bring back the magic of season one when it already exists? The three people that are still here from day one got a total combined screen time of probably about eight minutes, and all their futures with the show are uncertain.
It’s called “Grey’s Anatomy,” but Ellen Pompeo, the actress who plays Dr. Meredith Grey, has confirmed she will only appear on screen in eight episodes this season. While she has committed to doing her classic voice overs for the entire season, why bother?
It’s not altogether too hard to notice that Pompeo is just sticking around for fan service at this point.
Not to say the quality of her acting has declined, but it’s easy to tell by the lack of jaw-dropping storylines and plot points that subtly indicate Meredith may not be the only one wishing for new things.
I want it to be clear that I say all of this as a viewer that has seen every episode, cried all the requisite tears and grown up with the characters of this show. I love it, but we must not forget to occasionally hold a critical lens up to the things we love.
The thing that makes this sting even more is that there have been multiple natural cut points where they could have ended the show and it would have felt right. With some slight alterations, season nine would have been a fantastic point to cut. The Seattle Grace Five had just bought the hospital, and it felt a series goal had been reached. Season 13 closed with an episode so good it deserved to be a series finale, and season 16’s “My Shot” would have made an interesting mid-season end like Kate Walsh’s Grey’s spin-off “Private Practice” did.
While, no, there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with this season opener, aside from the lazy and nonsensical way they wrote Teddy and Owen back into the show after they exited last season on an international flight on the run from the police. Otherwise, the new interns were funny. They made newbie mistakes as to be expected, but is it necessary? I think not.
While I love this medical drama for all the comfort is has provided me through the years, it’s not what it once was, and that’s okay. We don’t need Krista Vernoff and her team to try and reinvent the wheel to bring the magic back, we need them to remember when you love something, let it go.
I’ll still be tuning in Thursdays at 9 p.m., but not because I’m excited to see what hijinks “MAGYK” has gotten themselves into or to see which attending surgeons’ relationship is falling apart. No, I’ll be tuning in out of a sense of obligation to the 401 episodes I’ve already watched, waiting for the closure fans deserve.