“Grey’s Anatomy” is without question a show that knows how to commit to a bit — and this season finale took the shooter-on-the-loose convention to a new, and shocking, level. Two people lay on the ground — one dead, one bleeding — well before the credits even finished. As the two hours wore on I couldn’t even keep up with the body count. But to give the writers credit, we got resolution — no cliffhangers. Given that there’s one major storyline, I’m going to take this one chronologically.
But it started out on a relatively happy note — which is usually an ominous sign in the “Grey’s” universe. Meredith takes a pregnancy test, and it’s positive — and because she’s happy married Meredith, she’s thrilled. It’s lovely to watch, actually, and Cristina snaps out of the misery that she and Callie began the day with to hug it out. Meredith hasn’t even had a chance to tell Derek yet, but he pages Meredith and Teddy pages Cristina and they go their separate ways. “I hope it has his hair!” Cristina calls over her her shoulder.
It’s a busy day in the ER and tensions are high — Arizona’s down there for a little girl with a hot appendix; Alex is working with Callie, who won’t speak to Arizona; Teddy won’t talk to Owen, because she doesn’t want to hear about how he told Derek to give her job away. Upstairs, Bailey’s examining her patient, Mary (the adorable Mandy Moore, who I wish had more to do in this episode), who needs a blood transfusion before undergoing surgery to get rid of her colostomy bag. Charles is working with Bailey on Mary’s case. Mary, who hasn’t eaten in preparation for the surgery that’s now delayed, sends her husband to go and get a pizza.
By this point we’ve already seen Mr. Clark (Michael O’Neill, who was so great as Secret Service Agent Butterfield on “The West Wing” that it’s hard to watch him snap), who’s suing the hospital over his wife’s death, asking around trying to find Derek. And there’s a new patient in the ER — a guy who got into a fender bender and then was shot when he got out to give the other driver his insurance papers. In his search, Mr. Clark encounters Reed, who’s too busy to help him and tells him to find a nurse. He responds by shooting her, point blank, right between the eyes. Wow. I wasn’t fond of Reed, but no one should go out like that. Alex turns the corner, sees what happened, and promptly gets shot in his right side. He manages to crawl into the elevator, but collapses on the floor.
Meredith finds Derek, who’s swamped with paperwork, and they make a date to see each other that night — she’s got something to tell him, she says. Cristina interrupts Teddy and Owen’s surgery on the car accident gunshot victim and snaps a couple of times at Owen, finally ending things when he can’t answer whether he loves her or Teddy. But we get to see Kevin McKidd’s great tortured look, so all is not lost.
April comes into the supply area where Reed’s lying and trips over her body. She sees the blood, freaks out utterly — and understandably — and goes to fill Derek in on the fact that there’s a shooter in the hospital. While he and hospital security grapple with the lockdown that follows, Cristina encounters Mr. Clark on the elevator and unwittingly gives him directions to Derek’s office. Richard, meanwhile, is eating at a nearby cafe, looking at his six-months-sober AA chip, when the police and ambulance sirens draw him toward the hospital.
No one is overly alarmed about the lockdown, since they don’t know what’s going on yet. Callie and Arizona are stuck together on the peds ward, fighting, Bailey and Charles are in Mary’s room, and Derek stops into Teddy and Owen’s OR and clues Avery in, warning him not to tell them what’s going on until after the patient’s stable. Meredith and Cristina more or less ignore the page, assuming that a psych patient got out, and go off in search of Derek. When they find him, he shoves them into a supply closet and tells them to stay put.
Meanwhile, Mr. Clark’s made his way to the main floor and shoots a nurse while Mark and Lexie duck and everyone else scatters. They find Alex in the elevator and bring him into the conference room to try to help him — there’s no exit wound; the bullet’s still inside his body and things are bad. Outside, helicopters have arrived, along with swarms of police and a SWAT team. Richard can’t get past the barricades to learn what’s going on.
Bailey’s patient, Mary, knows something’s up because her husband is late coming back with the pizza and Bailey’s obsessively checking her pager and hanging out. Charles tells them that the shooter’s on the floor, and through the window Bailey sees him take two people out. She tells Charles to hide in the closet, tells Mary to play dead under the covers and crawls under the bed. Mr. Clark comes, in, opens the closet, finds Charles, asks him if he’s a surgeon and promptly shoots him when he says yes. Charles lands on the floor, looking at Bailey, who gets dragged out from under the bed and lies when he asks her the same question, saying she’s a nurse.
Complete terror ensues — at this point no one knows where the shooter is or if they could be next. He’s cold, calculating, and an exceptionally steady-handed shot, and I’m seeing all kinds of references, from the Columbine shootings to “ER.” Mark and Lexie are trying to treat Alex, including putting in a chest tube that makes him scream. Charles is bleeding incredibly profusely, and Bailey’s trying to cope with the emergency at hand and the terrified patient who’s been pushed into nursing duty. On the peds floor, Ruby, the little girl with appendicitis, is getting sicker. Arizona and Callie have it out, and Arizona delivers what I think are some hard truths about Callie not necessarily committing to her and their relationship.
Mr. Clark finally catches up to Derek on the catwalk, and Derek warns him that the hospital’s not safe before he recognizes who he’s talking to. Meredith and Cristina leave the safety of the closet to find out what’s happening when they see Mr. Clark with a gun on Derek. Derek’s trying to talk to him, but Mr. Clark goes into a litany about how he failed to be a man and stand up for his wife, letting Derek decide to kill her. But he’s a man now. Derek tells him about losing his father as a kid, and does his damndest to appeal to Mr. Clark’s humanity. The shooter pauses through tears and lowers his gun when April bursts through the doors, snapping him back to it, and he shoots Derek right in the chest. Wow again.
That brings us to hour two. April, panicked, rushes toward Derek and finds herself looking down the gun barrel, babbling anything she can think of to make herself a human to the shooter. He sees the SWAT team come in, and tells her to run. Back in the closet, Cristina won’t let Meredith out, no matter how much she wants to be with Derek — until Meredith shoves her out of the way. While she and Owen try to get their patient to safety in a hallway strewn with more than a few bodies, Teddy tells him that he needs to choose between her and Cristina.
Meredith’s trying to keep Derek conscious while Cristina looks for supplies and a way to get him to an OR — and finds April. Lexie goes off to get blood for Alex and encounters Mr. Clark on the way back. He recognizes her — she’s the one who pulled the plug on his wife, and he came there to kill Derek, Richard and her. He raises his gun, there’s a shot, and Lexie hits the floor as a SWAT team sniper shoots Mr. Clark. She gets back to the conference room, where Mark is struggling to save Alex, who’s in a really bad way, and tells Alex she love
Mr. Clark finds his way to the peds floor, where Arizona and Callie are with Ruby. Arizona tells him there are only children there, and shields Ruby. Mr. Clark says the police shot him, and Callie gives him some gauze bandages and tells him to go. She comforts Ruby by telling her that Arizona is the best doctor in the world, and you can absolutely see the Arizona-Callie reunion coming.
Cristina, Meredith and April get Derek to the OR and find Avery. There’s no surgeon around to help save him, so it ends up being up to Cristina to do his heart surgery. Derek assures Meredith he won’t die, and Cristina bans her from the OR, saying that not only does she need to stay in the scrub room, she has to sit on the floor so she doesn’t see anything. April’s crying in the scrub room. Meredith tells her to stop and offers up a short speech about how long it took her to find Derek and to come to terms with this life and the idea of a family, and April doesn’t get to cry about it. April reminds her that Reed, her best friend, died today, and Meredith takes her hand.
Meanwhile, outside, Richard’s learning bits and pieces about what’s going on from the police, and learns about Mr. Clark. He takes a minute when the police are distracted from their conversation with him to slip inside. Teddy and Owen get their patient out, and Owen heads back in after Teddy tells him it’s OK to choose between her and Cristina.
It’s bad news in Derek’s OR — he’s a mess, and the bullet is lodged right by the aorta. Cristina has an amazing “What Would Teddy Do?” moment when she decides how to handle the injuries. She’s working her way through it when Owen comes into the scrub room and Meredith fills him in — but clearly something’s wrong in the OR that she’s not seeing, and it’s Mr. Clark standing there with a gun to Cristina’s head. He orders her to stop working on Derek, but God bless her she keeps going, with Owen desperately trying to divert the shooter’s attention to let her work. Meredith bursts in and offers herself as the person Mr. Clark should shoot. Lexie pulled the plug — she’s her sister. She’s the closest thing to a daughter that Richard has. She’s Derek’s wife. Shooting her would be the justice he’s seeking. Tell Derek I love him and that I’m sorry, she says. As the shooter turns the gun on Meredith, Cristina bursts out that she’s pregnant and Owen gets hit instead. A quick-thinking Avery pulls the monitors off Derek’s chest and makes the shooter think Derek is dead while Meredith collapses on the floor, crying hysterically. He leaves the OR and they get back to work, while Meredith tends to Owen.
Charles really needs an OR, and in an effort to help him fight Bailey promises that he’s not dying, and that if he were she would tell him, and wouldn’t lie to him. She and Mary eventually get him to the elevator by dragging him on a sheet, but the police have shut the elevators down and they can’t save him. Horrified, Bailey’s forced to level with Charles that this is the end, but assures him that she and Mary are with him and that he’s not alone. He asks her to tell Reed that he loved her, and as he dies tells Bailey that even though she didn’t like him, Bailey is his favorite doctor.
Meredith and April are tending to Owen, who’s shot through his left shoulder and will be fine. Meredith, however, is in a bit of pain and proceeds to keep working on Owen’s wound even as she stands there having a miscarriage. Another wow. Accompanied by a “whoa.” That’s definitely a new one.
Richard finds Mr. Clark on the surgical floor, and the shooter proceeds to tell him that he bought the gun at a local superstore, but didn’t have enough room in his jacket for all of the ammunition he bought, plus the flask so he could have a shot of courage. Now he’s down to just one bullet, which means he can’t kill both Richard and himself. So he has a choice to make, Richard says — either shoot him and go to prison or shoot himself and see his wife in the afterlife. Richard’s had a hell of a life and he’s not afraid to die, he says. Then the SWAT team makes it in and we hear a gunshot — one way or another, it seems, Mr. Clark is out of the picture.
In the end:
Alex, who in a turn for the worse started talking to Izzie in the conference room, ends up recovering at Seattle Presbyterian. Arizona has a change of heart about kids and gets back together with Callie. Derek’s surgery hits a rough patch at the end, but he pulls through. And Meredith throws away the positive pregnancy test as she goes to see Derek.
- Even bleeding on a table, Alex got off one of the night’s best lines, telling Mark to eat more bacon and have more sex.
- Amazing acting all around, from Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey to Sandra Oh (give this woman an Emmy nod) and Chandra Wilson. Uniformly great performances that pulled you in and remained believable.
- There will surely be plenty of discussion below about how the two least likable Mercy West residents were killed — boy were we set up for this one.
- One of the best parts of this episode was the pacing — the fact that the shooter rarely hesitated and was a genuinely aggrieved and grieving person created both a little more humanity and and an even bigger chill.
- This wasn’t an easy episode to watch, but it’s hard not to appreciate the unflinching way it took on such a tough storyline. The little bit of politics thrown in over the superstore gun purchase will surely add to the discussion too.
- Bravo for not making this a cliffhanger — we needed to see who survived and who didn’t make it during these two hours rather than waiting until the fall.
What did you think? How did this season finale rank alongside other season finales, and other special “Grey’s” episodes? Did anything surprise you?