by pat howard

GREY’S | 100 down

In Grey's Anatomy on May 7, 2009 at 2:10 pm

As of tonight’s fresh installment, Grey’s Anatomy will have an episode count in the triple digits; we’ve been promised a wedding, but it wouldn’t be the first time such happy events veered from their prescribed plans. Regardless, 100 episodes is quite an accomplishment for any show, especially one with such well-documented tension on set. Is there a showrunner working today more opaque than Shonda Rhimes? And yet, as each season winds down, this woman and her talented writing team manage to bring their stalwart show in for a satisfying landing.

In season two, Izzie got Burke shot while conspiring to steal her dying boyfriend a heart. The next May, the doctors saw their lives coming together, only to have their happy endings wrenched cruelly away. And last year, following a lengthy writers strike, Grey’s did the impossible and moved dark and twisty Meredith a little closer to the sweetness and light end of the spectrum.

For a show about redemption and exorcising the ghosts of one’s past, Grey’s has the set-’em-up and knock-’em-down of breaking a season all figured out, with a little waffling guaranteed in the middle. Most of the new characters that come along (dating back to Addison’s appearance in what became the first season finale) were initially unlikable, but grew into fully developed players in these sudsy stories. Of course, a few have also hit the exits (including Addison, now captaining the forgettable Private Practice spinoff), but in a workplace drama the workplace will always endure.

The best of the press I’ve seen for tonight’s landmark episode is a package put together by Variety. The ‘Sackmates Scorecard‘ alone is worth clicking through for, but there are also a handful of stories about the music, casting, medicine, and scheduling of the show. The most telling tale in all this promotional back-patting comes from THR’s interview with Rhimes, in which she addresses the show’s future:

I used to say I knew exactly how the show was going to end. But now, after 100 episodes, I have no end story or date in mind at all. I just want us to tell stories as long as we feel it’s relevant. We’re essentially working without a map and have been for a little while now.

And so it goes. I find it hard to believe that Grey’s will live through another five seasons, especially given the restlessness among its core cast members. It’s hard to deny that there are times it’s obvious the writers room, however personal their tortured explanations of each episode, is flying blind. But then there’s that final arc of each season, where things come together, the payoff feels earned, and we’re sent off for the summer with a new hit song and an invitation to return come fall.

Here’s to you, Grey’s. You’ve been relevant for much of your first 100 episodes. Let’s try to keep it that way going forward, and remember, it doesn’t hurt to go out classy rather than overstay your welcome, no matter how many zeroes ABC tacks onto those checks.

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