*Contains Spoilers for “Grey’s Anatomy” Season 17*
Most fans would agree that “Grey’s Anatomy,” now on its 17th season, is no longer as entertaining or engaging as it was in its first few seasons. At this point, I’m really just watching because, after investing the time to watch the 16 previous seasons, I want to see what happens to the characters next. But this season focuses heavily on Covid-19 and for me, it’s not working.
I understand the importance of acknowledging the pandemic, especially for a medical drama with so many viewers. However, after a year of so much death and hardship in real life, I want to be able to turn to television as an escape. Unfortunately, “Grey’s Anatomy” only ends up making me feel worse.
First, the timeline of the show does not align with real life. Normally, I would not have a problem with this, but because the situation in the United States seems to be improving, it can be disheartening to not see this progress on-screen. While Covid-19 cases have been steadily declining in the United States since January, and vaccines are becoming widespread, there is reason for optimism in the U.S. But the show has not yet reflected that. This season, the protagonist Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) became extremely sick with Covid-19, and only woke up from a coma in the most recent episode. I think the intensity of Covid-19 in this season of "Grey's Anatomy" is important because it ensures viewers understand the gravity of the pandemic, and yet, it can still be upsetting to watch at times. I watch TV as a way to temporarily pause reality. But somehow, the devastation of the outside world follows me into my “Grey’s Anatomy” viewings.
Additionally, the heavy focus on Covid-19 leaves little room for stories involving other medical issues. Usually, the intense and surprising medical storylines add to why I enjoy the show so much, but now it feels as though all I am seeing in terms of medicine is Covid-19, with the occasional alternative disease or injury.
In Meredith’s comatose state, she imagines resting on a beach, while many of the characters who died previously in the show visit her. Getting to see the return of some of my favorite characters, such as Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) and George O’Malley (T.R. Knight), brought me joy. Still, knowing they are dead and can’t actually come back into Meredith’s life dampened my excitement. Fortunately, in an upcoming episode, April Kepner (Sarah Drew), a living character who left a few seasons ago, will make an appearance, so I am looking forward to that. But of course, one thing that would drastically improve this season would be if beloved character Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) returned, even if only for one episode.
Despite trying to reflect the gravity of the pandemic, I believe that the show writers should try to make the show as positive as possible. With so much devastation in the real world, more light-hearted and happy storylines could be very enjoyable. Instead, they killed off one of the few remaining characters that I genuinely liked, Andrew Deluca (Giacomo Gianniotti). Deluca joined the show in season 11 and in recent seasons has had quite a serious relationship with Meredith. Last season, Deluca was struggling with bipolar disorder and it wasn’t until season 17 that he was back at work, confident in his abilities as a surgeon and with the support of his friends and family. Watching Deluca grow and overcome so many difficulties was encouraging and inspiring, which made his death that much more heartbreaking. Given the state of the pandemic, seeing a fan-favorite character killed off so abruptly felt cruel.
Only three of the original cast members are left — Meredith Grey, Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) — and I would say there are only four other characters who have been on the show long enough for me to feel truly invested in their success. Some of the newer characters have been good additions, such as Levi Schmitt (Jake Borelli) and his powerful coming out story and Atticus Lincoln (Chris Carmack) who has been a love interest for Amelia Shepherd. However, because the cast has changed so drastically since the pilot, it feels like a different show. It is clear that the writers are trying to get the audience to like the new characters as much as we did the older characters, but I just don’t think it’s possible.
The main appeal of “Grey’s Anatomy” when I started it was the show’s unrealistic yet addicting character-driven drama. Recent seasons, especially Season 17, do not have the same type of engaging storylines as before. All of my favorite couples broke up seasons ago, and that is if the characters are still on the show, which most of them aren’t. I watch the show every week, but I no longer even wonder — or really care — what is going to happen next.
“Grey’s Anatomy” is the longest-running medical drama on television, and I have been a fan for many years. However, even as someone who loves the show, I think this season should be the last. Bringing back old characters and facing a global pandemic seems like a satisfying enough end to the iconic series. If the show continues, I fear that it can only go downhill.