In short, there’s no better way to describe Be Still, My Soul than by admitting it is a perfect hour of television.
First, kudos to Kelly McCreary for her impeccable performance this week and for finally making us care about Maggie. She and her mother Diane (played by LaTanya Richardson Jackson) gave us a truly heart-wrenching story to cry about. Whether it’s watching Diane’s health deteriorate in front of our eyes, Maggie’s denial getting the best of her, or the noticeable parallels to Meredith’s own tragic story with her mother, this episode didn’t hold back as it brought this tear-jerking storyline to its expected and heartbreaking conclusion.
What’s even more impressive about this incredible episode is that it shows just how much Meredith has grown over the years. Her chilling voiceovers in the opening and closing moments reveal that her mother Ellis had left an unfinished note when her Alzheimer’s got bad, saying “Important! Tell Meredith not to…”, which gives our heroine the opportunity to decide the ending to that message herself. It’s a brilliantly empowering moment for the character, and I must commend the show for effortlessly weaving in Maggie’s turmoil with her sister’s growth without relying on the usual heavy-handed Ellis flashbacks.
Also remarkable is that this marks Ellen Pompeo (Meredith)’s first time behind the camera. It’s no surprise to learn that she’s multi-talented because all of her creative decisions were outstanding. From the nifty editing to the perfectly framed aerial shots, Pompeo brings every scene to life with precision and emotion by sticking to what’s important: the characters. That final shot alone, of Meredith, Maggie and Amelia sitting at the dining-room table with the lasagna in front of them, is a towering directional achievement for the show and already one of my favorite moments on television this year.
Bits & Scalpels
– The teaser with Maggie in oncology is one of the show’s most beautiful and stunning opening sequences, made all the more impactful with the choice of music.
– Of course Ellen Pompeo’s directional debut happens on the week of the show’s 12-year anniversary.
– Emotional montage of Maggie’s mom getting treatments with Bailey’s voiceover in the background.
– Diane’s reaction to hearing that Ellis’ ashes were scattered in an OR scrub room: priceless.
– Did the dinner scene remind anyone else of the inappropriate laughing at George’s funeral in season five?
– Awesome parallels: Richard helping Maggie out of the ambulance as Diane gets pulled out just like Meredith and her own mother.
– Nifty editing during the long shot when Richard, Amelia and Jackson are giving Maggie updates on her mom while the camera hovers around them.
– The Meredith/Riggs scenes were out of place, but surprisingly didn’t make me love this episode any less.
– One of the episode’s most devastating moments: a speechless Maggie out in the hall with her back to the wall. Sidenote: that scene also featured the show’s first ever character (possibly a nurse) in a hijab.
– Who else cried when Meredith started telling Maggie to record Diane’s voice in her mind?
– I love how Diane’s life advice is so sad yet juxtaposed by the light tone of the entire scene, just before that heart-stopping and shocking death.
– Richard and Bailey finally made up. About time!
– Loved the music choices this week. Very spot-on.
– Goosebumps worthy final shot as Meredith’s voiceover brilliantly captures the entire episode’s theme with two painful words: Goodbye, mom.
Meredith (opening voiceover): When my mother’s Alzheimer’s got bad, I was going through her bills and I found a notepad. Written on it were the words “Important! Tell Meredith not to…” and that was it. She never finished that sentence. Tell Meredith not to what? Not to drink too much? Not to pet strange dogs? Not to give her heart away? Not to leave the sprinklers on? We didn’t exactly talk a lot in those days. I regret that. I wish we had.
Maggie: I love my mother enough not to say “screw it” and throw her down a damn drain!
Maggie: I feel like I left the house with the oven on and went about my own business and came back to find the whole house engulfed in flames. And no one will let me in. No matter what I do, I can’t get inside. I can’t save anything.
Maggie: She’s gonna go and I’m not ready.
Meredith: You’re never ready. You just do it. Talk about whatever she wants to talk about and record her voice in your mind and memorize everything. And just keep sitting there.
Diane: You’re never gonna look back and say, “I wish I’d been more uptight”.
Richard: (to Bailey) Ellis never forgave me. She went to her grave without forgiving me. It robbed me of so many things, so many things. Let’s not do that to each other.
Meredith (closing voiceover): I think about my mother’s note all the time – “tell Meredith not to…” Not to cave? Not to care? Not to give up so easy? Not to fall in love? Not to have children? Not to tell a lie? She left me wondering what to do, what not to do. She left me knowing everything was up to me and me alone. And she left me with no one to ask, so I would decide what she meant to write. Tell Meredith not to be afraid. Goodbye, mom.
Must Download Tunes
Atlas: Heart by Sleeping at Last
God It’s Late by Aron Wright
10,000 Miles by Sleeping at Last
Closer by Kyle Neal
A tight script, career-best performances and a heartbreaking story at its center make Ellen Pompeo’s directing debut a flawless, gripping hour of television unlike anything this show has ever done.