Grey’s Anatomy ended its seventh season in a most unusual way. Unlike years past, which featured giant medical cases or events topped with jaw-dropping twists and sometimes horrifying surprises, the seventh season ended quietly and devastatingly, in a finale that sparked bitter debate among fans. So how do you recover from that? How do you come back from a finale so depressing that fans find themselves never wanting to return?
The answer? You do an episode called “Free Falling,” and set it as the first hour back. Grey’s Anatomy is returning for its eighth season on Thursday, September 22, with two back-to-back episodes – “Free Falling” and “She’s Gone.” The episodes, although airing together and following the same story, are separate, and, as such, I will review them separately as well.Free Falling
For the past eight years, I can’t say I’ve ever been truly fascinated by Grey’s Anatomy’s season premieres. They’ve all been good, but none of them have particularly blown me away, save for perhaps the sixth season premiere double-header “Good Mourning” and “Goodbye,” following the first forty days after George O’Malley’s tragic death. But “Free Falling,” I can quite honestly say, is the best season opener Grey’s has ever done.
But first, we must start with a warning. And that warning is that “Free Falling” feels very different from the Grey’s Anatomy we are accustomed to – particularly in the first half of the episode. The season begins not with any of our beloved fourteen characters, but with two guest stars. I actually thought ABC has mismarked the episode and I was watching something else entirely. I had to restart it, just to make sure I was seeing what I was supposed to – and, indeed, I was. The season opens with a scene unlike that of any other episode before it, before quickly tossing us back into the lives of the doctors of Seattle Grace Mercy West.
I’ll say this about “Free Falling:” it’s funny. I actually laughed out loud numerous times. And after such a devastating finale, that was a fantastic thing to find. There’s a lot of humor packed into this episode, though none of it (at least in my opinion) comes from April being Chief Resident, which has been touted as a “funny storyline.” I love April, and I’m excited to see her take on her new role, but it does not get off to a great start in this episode and I’m hoping she can turn it around quickly.
The core of this episode, I would say, is centered around Meredith and Cristina. Shonda promised back at the end of the seventh season that the new year would focus more on the original cast, and “Free Falling” has kept that promise. Meredith and Cristina’s relationship in this episode is perfect in every way, and really harkens back to the early seasons. I’m hoping that it stays this way the entire season, because it was so joyful to watch them interact the way they did in this episode.
There certainly is a sinkhole to be found in this episode – though I think the term “sinkhole” provides a massive understatement. I was in awe of how giant the sinkhole actually was. Despite it being the “big case” of the episode, not much time is dealt on the scene, but I certainly didn’t mind because I was so wrapped up in the characters.
“Free Falling” also shows us a new side to Miranda Bailey. Her first scene within the new season is one to die for, but after that, she becomes very angry for the rest of the episode. It makes sense in terms of story and character (and builds to a fantastic elevator scene at the end), it was just such a shock to see her anger come out in a way I haven’t seen since the second season’s finale, especially with much of her anger directed towards Meredith – someone I feel like she’s always been a great supporter of.
Another character shift that may come as shocking is Teddy. Her personality goes through a drastic change, though it’s one I certainly find welcome after all of the heaviness she’s had since her entrance to the series. Arizona explains early on in a fantastic scene (where, yes, Sophia is present) the reasoning behind Teddy’s drastic personality change, and while it’s a bit of stretch and Teddy does becoming slightly annoying by the end of the hour, I’m still glad to see it. Things between Teddy and Cristina resolve quickly, and it will be interesting to see if they stay that way. I, personally, hope that they do so that, for the first time since Burke, Cristina has someone who is actually willing and excited to teach her.
But it really, in the end, does all come back to Meredith and Cristina. Alex is there, yes, but he’s a bit more on the backburner of this episode (though he’s still in it plenty, don’t you worry) because everyone in the hospital is hating on him (especially Cristina – just wait until you see what she does!). They really lean on each other to help themselves through this difficult patch in both of their lives – and the same seems to go for Derek and Owen, who have been working on Derek’s house (and quite a bit of progress certainly seems to have been made in the five days that elapsed off-screen). Meredith contemplates a new life path for herself, while Cristina makes it understood as to why she’s having such a hard time going through with her abortion. This leads to one of my favorite scenes on the series, where Meredith gives one of her best speeches to someone you may not expect. Meredith and Derek’s relationship woes do indeed carry over from the season finale into this episode, and don’t make as much headway as you may hope. The same can be said for Owen and Cristina, though it becomes crystal clear very early on as to what Cristina’s ultimate decision is, and whether you like it or not, by the end of the episode, it should make perfect sense as to why the decision she made is the one she made. Whether or not that decision sticks, however, remains to be seen.
It’s always a little bit thrilling to watch characters that don’t normally interact with each other have scenes together, and this episode felt chock-full of scenes like this, which only made it seem that much more fantastic. But be fore-warned. As light as this episode is, it ultimately ends leaving your heart feeling hurt and uncertain. And it ends much more abruptly than that of most Grey’s episodes – most likely due to the fact that the second hour is following immediately after.
An interesting sidenote: if this rough cut of the episode proves to translate onto the screen the same, the Grey’s Anatomy intertitle gets a strange little change – after the title appears, it fades into saying “Created by Shonda Rhimes” before cutting back to the show. It’s strange and unexpected, and I’m not sure why it’s there, but it is.
Overall, “Free Falling” is a fantastic entrance back into the show, and for any of those who may have felt burned by the last season’s finale, I urge you to tune in for this episode to see if it changes your mind. It may just do that.
The second hour is indeed an extension of the first, so much so to the extent that it felt like I was actually watching more of the first episode, which made it surprising to me that they went as far as giving the episode a different name. However, this episode does include a few changes – namely, Teddy and Bailey’s massive personality changes from the first hour are dialed back and more in line with their normal behavior, which was very welcome. April’s Chief Resident storyline is also dialed back more as well, in order to place other stories at the forefront.
The second hour makes much more progress in terms of relationships than that of the first hour. Whereas “Free Falling” kept things stagnant in terms of Meredith and Derek, Cristina and Owen, and Meredith/Cristina/Alex, “She’s Gone” deals with it all, and by the end of the episode, I think everyone will be pleased (or, at least, pleased enough for now – there’s certainly still issues not being dealt with) with the resolution.
I’ll admit – some of the things that took place in “She’s Gone” took me by surprise. Namely, something happens between Richard and Meredith that I wasn’t honestly expecting to happen, though I couldn’t be more pleased that it did. To me, the show seems to really have been trying to get Richard and Meredith into a father/daughter type of relationship for its entire run, and “She’s Gone” only further proves that. What will be interesting to see, however, is if the issue ever pops back up later within the season. I, for one, hope it doesn’t, but I also know how Shondaland works.
Alex is much more prevalent in this episode, and he gets a great scene with Arizona. And remember how I said wait until you see what Cristina does to Alex in “Free Falling?” Wait until you see what she does to him in this episode. I actually said “OH MY GOD!” and then laughed out loud. It’s fantastic, and certainly helps pave the road to repair later in the episode (though it may not look that way at first).
Speaking of Arizona, despite Jessica Capshaw’s promise that the heelies would make a reappearance in the season premiere, they were nowhere to be found in this rough cut of the episode, leading me to believe their appearance was cut out for time. Never fear, however, because Callie, Arizona, and Mark all have some great stuff in this episode that should please a lot of fans that were maybe disappointed by their interactions in the last couple of season seven’s episodes.
Jackson takes on a surprising role in the episode in several different ways, and it certainly appears that the writers are working on getting him into Plastics with Mark, who is definitely around for comedic relief in this episode. It’s still hard to determine, even two years after his first appearance, just exactly what kind of character/doctor Jackson is, because they sometimes write his character in so many different ways, and this episode certainly exploits that. Hopefully this time, however, his development will stick, because it’s a good one.
Again, this episode does come back to the originals: Meredith (and Derek), Cristina (and Owen), and Alex. Meredith does something I didn’t expect (perhaps several things that I didn’t suspect), and it certainly puts things into jeopardy with Zola. The episode’s title “She’s Gone” provides a much bigger hint than you might think, especially since it’s on a show where the creator hates to give anything away. By the end of this episode, you will know the outcome of Cristina’s pregnancy – and it may or may not surprise you, depending on what you are expecting to happen. To be honest, in a way, it did surprise me.
The ending, more than likely, will have you in tears. I was gripped as I watched the final moments play out on-screen. It was both heartbreaking and overjoying at the same time – bittersweet, I suppose you could say. Keep the Kleenex handy.
Overall, the duo of “Free Falling” and “She’s Gone” makes for the best season premiere Grey’s Anatomy has ever put together. In the end, I find myself a bit more partial to the second hour as opposed to the first, as it makes more headway with the show’s fragile relationships and dials back on some of the crazy character moods. Either way, these episodes are near perfect and even though I’ve only just finished watching them, I want to dive back into them again. There’s no way I won’t be watching live come September 22. It’s a great way to get back into Grey’s if the seventh season finale left you feeling alienated. By the end of the second hour, your heart will hurt, that’s for sure, but at the same time, things will feel better. Feel hopeful.
I’m looking forward to this eighth season of Grey’s Anatomy. The premiere has shown an incredibly strong promise that this season is going to be fantastic. By the end of the second hour, we have yet to really dive into season eight’s new stories as we’ve just begun to repair season seven’s, but I had such a feeling of elation at how good the episodes were that I just cannot wait for more.
I urge you all to tune into Grey’s Anatomy‘s eighth season premiere on Thursday, September 22. You won’t be sorry. It’s clear we’re only just finding that the best is yet to come.