When an operating room is running smoothly, all of the individually orchestrated parts blend together to create a living machine enacting a symphony of precise movements and procedure. Although life may literally be hanging in the balance, every step is meticulously planned and practiced to keep the process routine and predictable.
It is with this recognition of predictability that we enter the eighth season of Grey’s Anatomy. Everyone here knows their parts and performs them dutifully. The formula is well established and all the components move with a familiar and satisfying whirr. Meredith Grey, Christina Yang, Derek Shepherd, Karev, Bailey, Callie Torres and countless stock shots of the Seattle skyline are back and in line to deliver. Throngs of patients blow in with helpful lessons, meaningful glances are exchanged over surgical masks and a Jerry Springeresque monologue at each show’s conclusion makes sure we all understand the lessons in the loss and the meaning in the misery.
The season opens with just enough exposition to sketch rough outlines of each characters’ emotional states and bring the audience up to speed with the complex webs they weave. Then, it’s immediately back to business as usual: mass trauma, blood and guts, medical intrigue and all the other things that make a fake hospital live and breathe.
The main, ongoing storylines have all been seemingly reset. The burgeoning relationship between Derek and Meredith that crescendoed with an adoption last season has been sent back to zero due to Meredith’s meddling in Derek’s clinical trial. Karev is once again labeled persona non grata and grunts his way through another round of pariah angst. Christina is essentially returned to her status as a first-year resident under the watchful glare of Dr. Altman, who is taking her back to basics to keep her ego in check.
Familiar beats like these help to sustain a long-running show, with character arcs following a pattern similar to a stone skipped across the surface of a lake. The problem is, it’s usually impossible to make it to the other side with your interest intact. Characters remain dependably true to the few adjectives applied to them early on: Meredith is spunky, Christina is driven, Derek is intelligently cool and George O’Malley is dead.
With the status quo firmly established, a series of what could be called spoilers follow. These are the events that bring patients in the door, push the characters apart and get people to have sex with their coworkers. Death, dismemberment, more blood and guts. Explosions. Stuff like that.
I will say that this show definitely delivers on the action and a considerable amount of realistic gore. As a seasoned veteran of the horror genre, I can take quite a bit. However, even I looked away during the surgical removal of a shard of glass from an eyeball. Glass in an eyeball… Just typing that makes me shiver.
I can certainly understand why someone would want to own these episodes, if not simply as a review of the myriad plotlines to figure out what the deuce is happening. Between the professional relationships, the medical procedures, the ladder-climbing and the break room canoodling with a cast of what feels like thousands, there are a lot of ways to get lost. It’s the “Frat Boy Cologne” approach to plot development: if one plot line is good, then 100 plot lines all at once will BLOW YOUR MIND! What you’re left with is a dizzy feeling and a strong desire to cut something.
The season finale is completely out of left field, but it does offer an interesting starting point for next season. A large contingent of main characters are stranded and injured in the wild. Out in the beyond. Away from the status quo! (Cue dramatic percussion instruments, smash cut between close-ups of eyes over surgical masks, and go to black for another six months)
As a medical procedural, both in the operating room and the boardroom, Grey’s Anatomy continues to make the grade. It has enough implicit and explicit clinical gore to make Dario Argento blush, and enough sex to keep things both McDreamy and McSteamy. Some doubted if this show could get past the silly low-point of Izzy’s cancer-induced spousal hallucinations in season six, but this series seems to be of the rare and resilient breed that can jump the shark and land safely on the other side.
Special features include extended scenes, outtakes and an interesting visit to the Scottish Highlands with Kevin McKidd (Dr. Owen Hunt), which is mostly interesting because this guy pulls off a flawless American accent in the show and, in real life, speaks like he’s got a mouthful of wool. Honestly, his accent is so heavy it should consider bariatric surgery.
Presented in Dolby 5.1 surround for some reason, everything sounds great. This is a widescreen presentation, so you won’t miss a bit of the periphery extras action. Subtitles options include English, Spanish and Freedom (French). There are no subtitles on the bonus features, but the subset of people that this would bother is so small that, seriously, who cares?