There have been have many times where television has been regarded as “mindblowing” or “perfect”, but I can’t think of any episode on any TV show that can possibly top The Sound of Silence – an exhilarating, astounding experimental hour of Grey’s that left me absolutely breathless.
What helped this winter premiere truly stand out among other Grey classics was certainly the buildup. For weeks now, there have been promos and sneak peeks promoting this episode and the fact that Meredith would be brutally attacked by a patient. Add to that the fact that the episode was directed by Denzel Washington (yes, that Denzel Washington), and you know you’re experiencing something epic.
And the buildup certainly comes into the show’s favor. The uneventful few minutes at the beginning of the episode are almost too calm, and it’s extremely eerie — as if the show is prepping us for what’s to come. Then Meredith, in a phenomenal performance by Ellen Pompeo, is left alone in a room with nothing and no one but a disoriented patient. The nothingness once again builds up, the tension elevates, and the attack finally arrives. It’s almost shocking that this marks Washington’s first time behind the camera, because his decision to have the entire attack inaudible and off-screen makes the entire thing all the more gripping and suspenseful. Meredith being shoved into the windows while we witness the action (or lack thereof) from the other side will forever haunt me in my dreams. Absolutely epic.
The episode then plays out entirely from Meredith’s point of view. This perspective is particularly unforgettable, but it also might be TOO unforgettable – certain sequences are forever etched in my mind thanks to their harsh effectiveness. Pompeo gives a series-best (if not career-best) performance here, proving that she’s the beating heart of the show and capably depicting the harrowing effects of victimization and temporary deafness.
There’s a huge chunk of time where the entire show goes silent – a bold and meticulous creative that leaves you uncomfortable for almost twenty minutes. It’s disturbing to witness the power of silence during that timeframe, with the blinking cameras representing Meredith’s eyes and ears as we jump through time alongside Grey’s silent recovery. What’s interesting to note is that the inaudible scenes never become boring or awkward; they’re perfectly executed thanks to the haunting sounds of sirens ringing inside Meredith’s head.
The Sound of Silence reaches its gut-wrenching crescendo when Meredith finally sees her kids in a terrifying scene that’s extremely difficult to watch (and yes I’ve already seen it quite a few number of times). It’s matched by an awe-inspiring yet equally tear-jerking moment as Meredith comes face to face with Lou, her now-stable attacker. The fact that this comes after Mer’s heartwarming speech with Richard about forgiveness is definitely a plus, a speech that might be a bit on-the-nose but is still quite effective.
Of course, at the center of the episode is an emotional, uplifting story about Meredith and Amelia’s differences, a story that certainly comes full-circle by hour’s end. I love that even this subplot is thematically linked to what Meredith was going through: women feeling powerless. Amelia relapsing and showing up drunk at Meredith’s bedside (when she was still unable to speak or hear) is a fantastic sequence, giving the “powerless females” notion a whole other layer. Whereas Mer was physically incapacitated, Amelia was going through a similar ordeal on an emotional level. Everything about their sister/non-sister relationship is mesmerizing, thanks to the multi-layered personas Shonda has created over the years. These are the kind of characters that you simply can’t stop caring bout no matter what.
So just in case you too get asked why you still watch this show or why it’s still on the air, tell them about the characters and about this episode. Maybe that’ll keep them, ahem, silent.
Bits & Scalpels
– I loved the smudged title credits, perfectly demonstrating Meredith’s distorted vision after getting knocked down to the floor.
– That really long scene where literally every doctor at the hospital is working on Meredith, who is screaming and crying in the most painful way possible, is also quite exquisite. I was really holding it together until Alex started crying as they flipped Mer to her side. Yeah, definitely had to pause here.
– Also, the shot of Amelia slowly sliding down to her knees at the sight of Meredith on the gurney is heartbreaking.
– The team thinking she was paralyzed at first because she wasn’t wiggling her toes or fingers, only to have Alex figure out that Meredith can’t hear them is distressing and incredible.
– Loved the shots of the doctors’ faces as seen from Meredith’s eyes, each of them desperately trying to communicate with her.
– Frightening scene when Mer sees her scans while still speechless. Seriously, if Ellen Pompeo doesn’t win every goddamn award for her terrific performance here, I’ll be closing down roads with burning tires (Lebanon-style).
– Penny screaming at Jackson was surprisingly satisfying.
– Alex sliding into bed with a crying Meredith and whispering into her hear…guh, my heart! The fact that the scene culminates with Meredith’s hearing returning (and us getting ours back too) makes it all the more memorable.
– A grumpy Meredith, throwing things at her co-workers, is too funny. Having that amusing scene in an otherwise horrifying episode finally gave me the chance to breathe. Thank you, show.
– Was that the same harrowing music they used when McDreamy was killed? Chilling.
– No useless subplots to weaken this perfect episode, unless you count that 3-second scene of Jackson and April arguing (divorcing?).
– While this episode is definitely Meredith-centric, it’s also a great hour for the Mer/Alex friendship. I loved that she told him to go after Jo because it’s okay to have more than one person. It’s safe to assume those two didn’t get engaged since we last saw them in the fall finale?
– I noticed that, during Meredith and Richard’s speech out on the bench, the camera kept focusing on Mer’s face. I find this type of camerawork absolutely fascinating, it reminded me so much of American Crime.
– So, can Denzel come direct every single episode from now on? Pretty please?
Richard: You can’t work on your family.
Alex: Everybody in this damn room is her family.
Alex: How’s the pain today?
(Meredith slams her hand on the table)
Alex: And the discomfort?
(Meredith thumps her hand again)
Maggie: Well, her energy’s up.
Amelia: I know I’m a mess who talks too much and feels too much, and I know that it drives you crazy, but that is the one way I know how to stay sober, and every time I try to suck it up and shut up and just be cold and normal, I end up drunk. Or on pills or at a funeral. Do you know what I felt like to walk into that trauma room and see you on that table and think to myself, “Great, I did it again. Here comes another funeral”.
Richard: You need to forgive her, Mer. Forgive her for not being Derek. For being the wrong Shepherd. Just enough to remind you of what’s missing, but not enough to bring him back. That’s not her fault. You need to forgive her. You don’t have to like her. You don’t have to love her. But forgive her, okay? So you can forgive Blake for being in that room when a wrong decision cost you your husband. To forgive Derek for dying too soon. To forgive yourself for hating him for dying too soon. Let it go, Meredith, and forgive.
Must Download Tunes
I Surrender by Aron Wright
Pompeo’s powerhouse performance and Washington’s extraordinary directional debut produce an incredible episode of Grey’s Anatomy that’s also a flawless, captivating hour of television unlike anything I’ve ever seen.