Grey’s Anatomy – “Rise Up”

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“Rise Up”

November 6th, 2008

After what fans are starting to call “Brookegate” (a title I quite like since it emphasizes that the loss of the actress is equally as frustrating as the loss of the character), going into “Rise Up” was a very strange feeling. While we all knew, based on Michael Ausiello’s story at Entertainment Weekly, that this was her last episode, and we even knew that her final scene saw her walking off to her car never to be heard from again, we didn’t know the circumstances that caused it.

After learning the circumstances, though, I don’t think it’s resolved any of the issues currently rising within a campaign against ABC for their decision. What the episode was for Callie and Erica was a reversal of roles, of Callie’s reservations being replaced with Erica’s ethical dilemma about working at the hospital and being part of this staff. As a storyline, it felt natural: it was entirely logical that Hahn would explode with anger after finding out that Izzie was responsible for her patient losing a heart, and this was something that could challenge her position at Seattle Grace.

But it felt like a detour, not the end of the road: rather than send Dr. Hahn off into the sunset, this felt like a storyline set to add a professional wrinkle to the same sex relationship and Erica’s relationship with her fellow surgeons at Seattle Grace. Instead of taking this opportunity to investigate the ethics of this situation, however, Shonda Rhimes has chosen instead to send Erica off into the sunet – the irony is that while there’s a web of deceit surrounding the firing, everything that the character said to Callie in that final scene about this situation was entirely true.

Say what you will about last season as a whole, but I’ve found Grey’s to be much improved overall this year. Things have settled quite nicely: Lexie is coming into her own as a part of the cast, George is handling his ascension to resident well, Christina has a strong new storyline with Kevin McKidd’s character, Meredith is less annoying, and Izzie isn’t sleeping with anyone’s husband. For everything that last year did wrong, it feels like the show is heading back to what works best: complicated (as opposed to completely frakked up) people solving difficult medical situations that are emotionally impactful for the viewing audience.

Take, for example, Izzie’s storyline in this episode. While I don’t quite think it is Emmy worthy by any stretch (neither was the material she won with, but that’s another story), Katherine Heigl is a very good actress and was very capable in these scenes of emphasizing that this particular day was, in fact, “a whole lot of Denny for one day.” Sometimes, I prefer when the show cuts the crap and just gives us a case that directly effects these people: no drawn out allegories (the aging couple, while painfully well-acted and totally heartbreaking, was a bit on the nose in regards to Bailey and Derek’s marriage concerns), no moments of epiphany that let the doctors put together their lives by seeing the patient struggle through…this was all about Izzie dealing with her past, in particular the man who will forever haunt her dreams. Seeing Jeffrey Dean Morgan again was nice, certainly better than when he appeared in Meredith’s vision quest, and I thought the storyline really brought to light the side of Izzie that I didn’t want to throw things at.

And, conversely, it was natural that Erica Hahn was going to be extremely angry when she found out that the woman who committed severe medical malpractice was allowed back into the residency program. It didn’t make any sense at the time, really – one could probably even argue that she bought her way back into the program with the clinic donation, althought these people also clearly love Izzie, think Izzie’s the best, etc. Fact of the matter is that the hospital was on shaky moral grounds, and as a result she has every right to feel frustrated by it. It even makes sense that she’s be frustrated with the way Callie presents it: much as our new trauma doctor was concerned with the level of professionalism in the residents, so too was Erica concerned that Callie was willing to laugh about what was a serious situation.

Of the ramifications of Hahn’s departure, this one was the most frustrating: it seemed to imply that Hahn was still so much of an outsider that this single moment would drag out every single one of her objections to that culture of gossip and scandal. It implies that she was a character that wasn’t a part of the show’s soap opera elements, or that she was above them in a snotty kind of way. While I know that she is relatively new to the show, she was right there with everyone else trying to improve teaching at the hospital, and I don’t think it’s fair to revert her character back to strict disciplinarian in two seconds flat, especially when one begins to consider Callie and Erica’s relationship.

Because, honestly, this episode didn’t, which makes it a really odd point to go out on. This was, clearly, not a decision that was planned out: while this storyline could have eventually signalled the exit of Brooke Smith from the show (which in my book wouldn’t be wise), it needed more episodes to resolve questions about her relationship with Callie and her concerns over working with Izzie. Her final speech didn’t even make sense in context of the episode: not only did it seem unfair to throw that back in Callie’s face without a more calm conversation, but it also doesn’t ring true with Izzie having come through for the heart patient. There seemed to be scenes missing that would have softened Hahn’s image to something closer to being a real character, the character we’ve seen for more or less a full season now.

What we’re getting, then, is more suspicious than anything else: this storyline didn’t feel like it was over. As Alan Sepinwall noted, it felt as if the writers were working along, faced pressure from some source to end the storyline (not necessarily only because of the homosexuality, but also concerns over chemistry/longevity), and saw this episode as the perfect opportunity. All of a sudden, a storyline intended to stretch out over a number of episodes was thrown under the metaphorical bus, and the result is a huge controversy and, more importantly, a piece of character assassination that felt entirely unnatural and, considering how emotionally powerful the “Glasses” scene was in the previous episode, totally out of context.

Really, the real sign will be next week: how do they, in the script, deal with Hahn’s depature? Is she going to report the, or simply resign as her form of protest. While I understand those fans who aren’t going to bother sticking around to find out, I’m too curious not to, especially with Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica) starting her guest-starring arc soon.

Cultural Observations

  • See, I really don’t like Derek: he was a jerk about the whole sleep thing, especially when trying to pimp out Sloane on Christina, but then he goes ahead and is willing to be the one to “kill” their elderly patient. That entire sequence, of first the husband then Bailey keeping her heart alive to avoid making their last goodbye their final one, was heart-wrenching, and made me forget that Derek’s been a moody sort all season.
  • Lexie’s storyline with the bodies was in fact a bit morbid, really, but I really like Chyler Leigh and think that the character deserves more to do.
  • George’s storyline, meanwhile, cracked me up: I really enjoyed the Chief’s personal attacks on him, and the ability to manipulate it as you go along, a joke that paid off nicely in Hunt (I finally remembered his name!) using the doll as communication, finally clueing George in on the truth.

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