|Grey’s Anatomy - The Complete First Season|
|DVD TV Shows|
|Written by Mel Odom|
|Tuesday, 14 February 2006|
“Grey’s Anatomy” began life as a mid-season replacement series on television in March 2005, then became one of the most highly-advertised television shows of this year’s Super Bowl with its “Code Black” episodes. The first season is comprised of only nine episodes, but those nine episodes set the characters, the world of Seattle Grace Hospital and the tone for a series that should have a long run on television because it hits the high points of emotional context, interesting medical procedures, characters that feel three-dimensional, crackling dialogue and an organic overall plot growth (read soap opera tendencies, but remember these very tendencies are what drives hit shows like “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “24”).
The episodes, usually prefaced by narration from Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), talk about some facet of life, a life lesson or an observation about the quality and vulnerability of being human. Throughout the episode, the good and the bad of the life lesson or observation is explored in patient arcs that will bring tears or make a viewer glad to be part of the human race. Each of the characters has something to learn and some strength he or she can play to. They’re serving their first year of internship at Seattle Grace Hospital, which has one of the toughest programs in the nation.
One of the best aspects of the show is the music. The sound mix on every episode rings true and underscores the action and the emotion playing out in the story. We pick up on the frenzy of an intern’s life, the struggles, the wins, the losses, all the aspects encapsulated in this fantastic little season as if the songs had been especially written just for whichever individual episode we’re watching. The addition of a surround sound system brings that music out to its best, rendering the songs to their heartrending and frenetic best. Carefully controlled, the music never steps on the story or the dialogue.
SPOILER ALERT: Some of the discussion below will reveal episode arcs, twists and conclusions, which you may want to be surprised about. The entire season is extremely watchable. In fact, most viewers may plop down in a chair to sample an episode or two, then find out they’d spun through the last episode (only to have one of the greatest, most unexpected cliffhangers of any season dumped in their laps!) and find themselves hungry for Season Two. Unfortunately, they can’t decide to just drop in on Season Two. Like Season One, Season Two is organic, growing and building, rising and falling, rushing toward character crashes and reveals.
In addition to the great music, the intriguing medical problems, the soap opera-ish feel and great pacing, it’s the people of “Grey’s Anatomy” who really make this show stand out.
Meredith Grey is the daughter of Ellis Gray, a renowned surgeon. As the progeny of such an illustrious person, she is aware that everyone in the medical field has high expectations of her, which she is sometimes capable of delivering. But she has insecurity about those expectations and is covering up the secret that her mother currently resides in a nursing home, a victim stricken down by Alzheimer’s.
Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) is Meredith’s best friend and confidant. Aggressive and sharp, Cristina lacks a proper bedside manner and looks for every opportunity to scrub up and assist in the operating room. She appears to be the most independent of the friends, so far living in some undisclosed space on her own. But her affair with Dr. Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington), the current attending physician who was next in line to become chief of staff, soon complicates her life in ways she never considered.
George O’Malley (T.R. Knight) is a young likeable guy who ends up as Meredith’s roommate. Shy and insecure, George becomes the scapegoat of a lot of criticism and the butt of humor. While he’s often the comic foil, he’s also often the quiet voice of reason when everything else seems to be falling apart.
Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), Meredith and George’s other roommate, is a distinctly different character, bordering on the almost-too-good-to-be-true. Born in a poor environment to parents who seem more critical than supportive, Izzie got herself out of the trailer park and into medical school, where she paid her way by doing magazine lingerie layouts because she’s got a cover girl’s body.
Arrogant and not totally likeable, but capable of scene-stealing moments and warmth and compassion that seemingly come from nowhere, Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) rounds out the interns. Not too much is learned about him in the first nine episodes, but his character – as well as his relationship to the other interns – deepens in the second season.
Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), also called “The Nazi,” is the doctor in charge of the interns. She comes across crusty and hard, but has a soft side to her too that eventually gets revealed.
Dr. Burke was once promised the position in the hospital as the next chief of staff. However, the current chief feels he’s become too complacent and has called in Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) as a possible alternate. Threatened, Burke becomes wary of the new surgeon. But it’s his relationship with Dr. Cristina Yang that’s the most volatile move he’s made.
Dr. Shepherd first got to know Meredith through a one-night stand that proved to be embarrassing for both of them. Gifted as a truly brilliant brain surgeon, he quickly becomes the darling of the interns as they watch the miracles he performs. Unfortunately, Meredith doesn’t want to deal with a romantic interest who’s her boss. But he’s hiding secrets as much as Meredith is.
Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens, Jr.), the tough-minded chief of staff, knew Meredith’s mom and quickly picks up on the secrets that thread through his hospital as he struggles to keep a handle on everything.
In Episode 1, “A Hard Day’s Night,” the Seattle skyline immediately takes shape and Meredith’s gentle voiceover sweeps us right into the story. Strangely enough for the romantic tension to follow, it opens up with Meredith having sex with her soon-to-be boss, though neither of them knows this. The music blasts through the surround sound system as we and Meredith are introduced to the other interns and the doctors’ staff. The helicopter arrival thunders through the subwoofer, but sounds actually too reminiscent of “E.R.” Thankfully, this device seems dumped for the rest of the season and we are treated to the meat and potatoes of the hungry interns and the relationships that are starting to form. The camera work is crisp and clean, moving swiftly through the show’s excellent pacing. George gets to assist in an operation, actually getting to do the procedure himself. Unfortunately, he doesn’t live up to the task and gets nicknamed 007, meaning he has a license to kill. In the meantime, Izzie gets assigned to rectal exams and spends the day with her hand up someone’s butt. Meanwhile, Meredith gets stuck with a teen beauty queen who poses a medical mystery and gets bored. Dr. Shepherd goes to all the interns and other doctors asking for help. Cristina and Meredith come up with the solution, then fight over the fact that Meredith gets to scrub in for the operation, but they get through it. At the very end of the episode, the viewer finds out that Meredith’s life is even harder than they thought: her mother, a brilliant surgeon, has Alzheimer’s and is in a nursing home.
“The First Cut Is the Deepest” opens up with Dr. Shepherd putting the moves on Meredith again, then moves right into a rape victim who fought back against her attacker and even managed to bite his penis off. Again, the music drives the action and the emotional complexity. Having to complete the chain of custody, Meredith has to penis-sit (keep the amputated member in her sight) all day until the police arrive, which they’re incredibly slow about doing. Feeling down about everything that’s going on in her life, she goes with George to look at the newborns. While observing the babies, Meredith watches one of them turn blue and knows that something is wrong. Even though she knows it’s against hospital regulations, Meredith tries to investigate on her own, then goes directly to the parents. Dr. Burke steps in, stinging from Dr. Webber’s accusation that he no longer goes beyond what is absolutely necessary anymore, and they manage to save the child. In the meantime, the rapist arrives, hemorrhaging and requiring immediate medical attention. Izzie ends up treating an illegal alien who needs help but is afraid to enter the hospital.
After deciding to keep her mother’s house, Meredith knows she needs roommates to meet the bills in “Winning a Battle, Losing a War”. She advertises and interviews, immediately refusing George and Izzie because she works a hundred hours a week with them and doesn’t want to live with them, too. They go to work on her. Dr. Shepherd almost gets run over in the annual “Dead Baby Bike Race” among the city’s bicycle messengers. Then the resulting injuries begin pouring into the ER. The interns are kept busy fighting over the most interesting cases, hoping for those that will require surgery. Izzie and Cristina end up with a brain-dead patient whose name they don’t know. They’re torn over hoping he gets better and potentially taking him apart for an organ harvest. George gets stuck with one of Dr. Webber’s oldest friends, a gay man with liver cancer who’s got the hots for him. Cristina suddenly realizes she’s stepped over the line in her zealousness to go for the organ harvest while she’s talking to the wife in front of the dead man’s child. Dr. Burke also makes his thoughts known about organ harvesting, telling all concerned that he doesn’t like doing them because it ends a life.
Opening with an intimate peek inside Meredith’s house, the viewers are treated to George’s dilemma as he’s treated like “one of the girls” by Izzie and Meredith in “No Man’s Land.” The action quickly moves on to a patient who tripped and fell and accidentally shot several nails into his skull. Cristina screws herself over by trying to steal a patient who is a candidate for a complicated medical procedure she hopes to assist on. Instead, the patient – an ex-nurse at the hospital – has come there to die. At work, Izzie gets a lot of flack from the other interns about her lingerie modeling days (which, as she tells Alex and totally smears him in front of everyone, paid for her medical school so she doesn’t have the $200,000 backlog of tuition loans that he does). She’s also been given a prostate cancer victim who is about to become emasculated to save his life. The patient doesn’t want anything to do with her because he used to fantasize about her. Meredith also goes to visit her mom and tries to figure out what to do about her infatuation with Dr. Shepherd.
Fatigued and overworked, Meredith accidentally pokes a hole in her glove and through the side of a patient’s heart while on the operating table in “Shake Your Groove Thing.” Later on, a patient George gets attached to ends up having a towel extracted, left inside her during a previous surgery. At the same time, Meredith is getting hammered by the nursing home to deal with more of her mother’s care, and Izzie has planned a party that grows to truly monstrous proportions. Overloaded, Meredith finally gives into teenage impulse and ends up partying hard and making out with Dr. Shepherd in his car. Unfortunately, they get busted by Dr. Bailey, who is clearly not happy. At the end of the show, Cristina and Dr. Burke hook up with enough sizzle to guarantee they’re going to be an item for a while.
“If Tomorrow Never Comes” gives a sterling Alex story when he lays on the charm to a woman who’s getting crushed by her 60-plus pound tumor, then gets busted venting his real feelings over an open microphone, which the patient hears. The thunder at the beginning of the episode hammers the subwoofer and crackles through the surround sound system. George’s interest in Meredith also resurfaces and he’s teased unmercifully about it by Izzie and Alex, and even gets dressed down by the lady with the huge tumor. Alex moves on to his next case and ends up dealing with a junkie addicted to pain medication, and even that situation turns worse, drawing him and Izzie together. Later, Izzie has to deal with a heart patient and ends up cracking the chest and doing a heart massage.
Episode 7, “The Self Destruct Button,” opens with Dr. Shepherd and Meredith in bed together. He tries to sneak out of the house without getting caught by Izzie and George, but they see him and are upset, thinking Meredith is using sex to score the great assists she’s been getting lately. At the hospital, Meredith has to deal with a teen girl who has gone off to Mexico to do surgery and has ended up with a major medical problem. Alex and Dr. Burke have a patient who deliberately has himself shot multiple times to get “cool” scars. George treats a four-year-old girl who ends up having to have half her brain removed, and also ends up calling a drunken anesthesiologist on his condition, which gets him thrown out of the OR. Izzie gets a guy who can’t let go of his ex-girlfriend who chose to swallow her keys to keep her from leaving.
Episode 8, “Save Me,” introduces a psychic named Cable who appears to have visions. He tells Cristina he knows she’s pregnant and totally spooks her, so she asks off of the case, only to be given one that involves a woman in her forties who is finally pregnant and has to make a decision between having the baby and dying of cancer or terminating the pregnancy. More of Izzie’s past is revealed as she deals with the psychic, who apparently really has gifts. Alex has to deal with a young woman with strong religious convictions who will die unless she has a heart valve transplant, and she refuses the porcine one on religious grounds. Meredith has her faith in Dr. Shepherd tested on several levels as she pushes to take their relationship to the next level and they deal with a patient who gets increasingly paralyzed.
“Who’s Zoomin’ Who,” the final episode of Season One, delivers a punishing surprise to the show’s – by this time! – fans. Initially, George gets a case of syphilis and has to go to Alex for help. Meredith, Izzie and Cristina find out about it and embarrass him. Meanwhile, the STD turns out to be a huge thing among hospital personnel. Dr. Burke gets a real surprise when one of his good male friends turns out to have an ovary, a condition which precludes any chance of him being the father of his wife’s baby. Izzie and Cristina end up with an alcoholic father with a stomach infection who dies, and they want the chance to do an autopsy to find out what went wrong. Chief Webber has to have emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor and Dr. Shepherd calls in a special squad to deal with the problem, including Dr. Bailey and Meredith. At the end of the episode, Meredith meets Dr. Shepherd’s wife! Another Dr. Shepherd.
The bonus features on “Grey’s Anatomy Season One” are few, but they’re good ones. The commentaries alone are worth the time going back through the episodes to hear what everyone was thinking.
“Grey’s Anatomy Season One” should definitely be an addition to the collection of anyone who loves episodic drama television. The cast and crew and writers all pull something unique and very special out of the box. Even though the comparisons to “E.R.” and “Scrubs” – as well as several other medical shows – are going to be there, none of them quite treat the genre the way “Grey’s Anatomy” does. Even if the choice is made not to purchase the collection, it should be watched. Get it and enjoy it. The tone moves from serious to sad to fun to just amazement at the miracle of life. There is a definite shift in the midpoint of these initial nine episodes, and some of the darkness lifts over Meredith’s life. But that’s only so she can really be hammered by the cliffhanger ending of episode nine. Anyone who watches this set will immediately be searching for Season Two, which is only now airing.