TV on DVD: “Grey’s Anatomy: The Complete Fifth Season”

Written by Television, TV on DVD

GreysAnatomyGrey’s Anatomy: The Complete Fifth Season (2009, ABC Studios/Buena Vista)
purchase from Amazon: DVD

Instead of lamenting on the things that were wrong with the fifth season of Grey’s Anatomy, such as the sudden dismissal of Brooke Smith and her character Erica Hahn, the complete misuse of the talented Melissa George and the brilliant Mary McConnell, the ongoing storyline with Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the dead fiancé of Katherine Heigl’s Izzie, who showed up as a ghost/hallucination, and the complete lack of any storyline involving T.R. Knight, one of the original cast members and at one time the heart of the series, I’d like to point out three high points of season five.

The first is the addition of Kevin McKidd playing Dr. Owen Hunt, a former Army trauma surgeon who joined the staff at the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital and quickly became one of the most compelling characters on Grey’s Anatomy. To be blunt: Owen is fucked up. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has recurring nightmares from his service in the war in Iraq. Owen is a wreck of a man whose only means of survival is immersing himself in the job. When he finally begins to connect with someone, Dr. Christina Yang (Sandra Oh), he screws that up by choking her in the middle of the night while suffering from a particularly horrible night terror. McKidd is so remarkable in his role that it’s a crime that he was not nominated for an Emmy this year. Sandra Oh deservedly received a nomination this year, yet a majority of the quality work she gave us in this season was with McKidd. I sometimes question why I stick with Grey’s Anatomy and McKidd is one reason I’ll keep it on my DVR. Owen is, flat out, the most authentic character on this show and it is solely because of McKidd’s work.

Next up is the producer’s solution to the whole Broke Smith fiasco. It was obvious that her character’s lesbian relationship with Callie (Sara Ramirez) wasn’t working. The two characters had zero chemistry and Smith’s Hahn was too unlikable. I am glad that the producers did not suddenly desert Callie’s exploration of her sexuality. To correct their casting mistake, they brought in the bright and wonderful Jessica Capshaw to portray Arizona Robbins, the head of pediatric surgery. Arizona and Callie began a relationship and the kinder, gentler Arizona is a much better match for the sometimes clueless Callie.

But it’s not just the positive image of a gay character on television that makes Arizona so nice. She is a ray of hope in a hospital full of self-centered, career-minded egomaniacs. For years we’ve seen these characters on Grey’s Anatomy scratch and claw their way into the operating room. At times it has seemed that cutting people open was the only reason these characters exist. Through Arizona, and Capshaw’s sunny, yet down to earth performance, we are reminded of the hope that doctors are supposed to give us when we’re faced with the fear of the unknown and having someone placing a blade against your skin and slicing open your body.

Finally, there is the one great episode in the fifth season of Grey’s Anatomy that skillfully reminded me why I once loved the series so much. This episode contained some of the show’s sharpest writing in nearly three years, contained nuanced, heartfelt performances that made you love the characters even m ore, and had a couple of shocks that left my jaw on the floor. Too bad this episode is the very last one of the season. To get to that season finale, you have to wade through much of the same mediocrity Grey’s Anatomy had become since it became one of television’s most watched shows. Hard to believe I’m saying this, but after watching the end of season five, I believe that Grey’s Anatomy has potential. Perhaps by shaking things up as the producers did (leaving the fate of two major characters in limbo), the 6th season (premiering this week) will regain some of the drama (as opposed to melodrama), the humor (instead of shtick) and the heart that it had years ago.