Three themes came together and culminated last week on Grey’s Anatomy episode “Personal Jesus” (25 Jan 18). All of them are very topical and this is one of the things that I love about Grey’s Anatomy. Only four of the original group are still in place as major characters:
Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey
Justin Chambers as Alex Karev
Chandra Wilson as Miranda Bailey
James Pickens Jr. as Richard Webber
There’s now a second and third group meshing their work and personal lives with the life of the hospital and the culture of Seattle, WA. I’ve followed them all since the first episode and have gone through many of the same transitions as the characters. Three increasingly dramatic story lines have been in play for several seasons now.
I think the biggest and most timely given the #MeToo movement is the story of Jo Wilson (played by Camilla Luddington). Over time, we came to learn that she had changed her name and was in hiding from her husband. He’d been abusive – emotionally, mentally and physically. When she and Alex Karev became serious, she had to explain and their subsequent actions landed the husband at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital with divorce papers for her to sign. His fiance, her replacement, whom he’d already started grooming for a similar role accompanied them. At some personal risk, Jo outlined what to expect and offered support and assistance. Through a series of unlikely events, Jo’s husband was admitted and pronounced brain-dead. Since they were still married, Jo had to decide whether or not (and when) to pull the plug. She donated his organs and the story line ended with Jo and her replacement watching the surgery from the observation booth.
Dr. April Kepner (played by Sarah Drew) has wrestled with the conflicts of faith and medicine and relationships even as she moved into the second ensemble of characters. She has found it progressively more difficult to maintain her beliefs and she faces a series of meaningless deaths that seemingly destroys it. She essentially asks why suffer and have faith in God if your treatment is no better than if you’d just cursed him from the start?
Finally, one of those conflicts involved a 12-year-old boy, Eric, trying to open his own bedroom window who is shot by a cop when he tries to use his cell phone. The boy seems lucky, but April realizes from the remarks made by her child’s black father, Jackson Avery, and others that this is something that could happen to her child. The boy dies when the artery wall next to the bullet thins and bursts.
The two we’re-not-racist-but-oh-so-racist officers who have been ordered to guard Eric through the entire ordeal are waiting in an adjacent area, needing a statement for their report. They try to assert that cops aren’t racist, to which Jackson tells them they didn’t make a judgment call, they reacted. He assures them that their reactions are different for people of different colors, and that we can’t keep pretending this doesn’t exist. “So many people that look like him are dying. For what?” he says before storming away. April finally gives them the statement they need: “A little boy was at home and your coworker just shot and killed him. You can’t just kill him. How am I supposed to have faith in a system like that?” – Entertainment Weekly Grey’s Anatomy recap: ‘Personal Jesus’
Finally, Miranda Bailey and Ben Warren (both black) have THE TALK with their 13-year-old son. How unbelievably hard it must be as parents to explain to your children why the law and the justice system isn’t the same for everyone and why the world is so undeniably unjust and cruel, depending on the color of your skin. Watching them all as he raises his hands and practices the message he needs to give the police in order to stay alive was visceral and appalling. How am I supposed to support a system like that? How can anyone else?