The “Grey’s Anatomy” premiere kicks off with a drizzle-flooded flashback of Meredith as a confused child watching her mother give up her half-sister — though baby Meredith is oblivious. It’s a set up for the inevitable drama that will come from that half-sister now being the head of cardio at Grey Sloan Memorial. This is what audiences prepared for at the end of Season 10, but as any true fan of “Grey’s” knows, don’t think you’re going to get a chance to ease into anything.
Post-flashback, the first half of the episode is all action. Within the first ten minutes there’s big storms (what is this show without some bad weather?), out of control helicopters, fathers needing emergency brain surgery after trying to get a frisbee and get away gurneys almost impaling teenagers with cancer trying to have sex.
If reading that is a lot, watching it was even more intense. While the show is no stranger to over the top medical emergencies, it seemed like the first half of the episode was trying to cram so much trauma in that it wouldn’t give audiences a chance to realize they live in a Cristina Yang-less world now. It was a bit too heavy and the melodrama distracted from the stories that really mattered.
Though the gurney and the lost kidney (Seriously, Edwards? How do you lose a kidney and keep your job as a surgeon?) provided for heightened stakes, “Grey’s” proved once again that it’s at its best in the quiet moments.
Stand out scene of the night goes to newcomer Kelly McCreary who has taken on the role of Maggie Pierce — Meredith’s half-sister. Heart strings were pulled as she lamented to Richard, who is secretly struggling with the fact he’s probably her father, that she had planned to win Meredith over with talent and charm before revealing they were sisters. Instead, OR drama has pitted the two half-siblings against each other. The scene erased any uneasiness about Maggie replacing Cristina and pulled audiences to her side.
Though Maggie won us over, Meredith is setting up obstacles for the rest of the season. Within one episode she’s getting in the middle of Jo and Alex — who has taken over as her “person” in Cristina’s absence — being pissy with Maggie just because, and then shutting down McDreamy when he gives her everything she’s asking for. Remember “pick me, choose me, love me” Meredith? McDreamy stands up to the plate and picks his family over the dream job and it’s not enough for Mer. Are we in for another dark and twisty phase? Does Cristina moving to Europe warrant a Meredith downward spiral, even when she’s getting everything else she wants?
Shonda Rhimes has deemed Season 11 to be “Meredith-centric” but is it going to work if Meredith also knows that’s what it is? Hopefully Karev is willing to stand up to her and call her out instead of enabling her. After all, the reason to love Alex is his brutal honesty.
The overwhelming amount of patient trauma left little room to dig deeper into the boardroom controversy. Bailey and Karev will be fighting out who gets Cristina’s empty seat for the next several episodes. Meanwhile, Richard Weber will struggle with the presence of his maybe daughter — and the stress that Amelia Shepherd overheard his secret during an AA meeting.
Now that the premiere madness is over (“Grey’s” did open up the ABC “TGIT” line-up) hopefully the show plays to its strengths. If there is major trauma, use it to propel the character drama rather than a distraction.
“Grey’s Anatomy” airs Thursday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.