This show has no business being this good thirteen seasons into its run. This is not a complaint, but history has taught us that a show’s quality starts to go downhill at some point. So why is Grey’s Anatomy still going strong?
The answer is Meredith. By extension, I mean Ellen Pompeo of course, but before we get to that, it’s worth noting what an astonishing, layered character Meredith Grey is. There’s no one else on television who has experienced half the things she has, and despite all the trauma, the tragedies, and the often unrealistic scenarios, Meredith is still easily the most relatable character to root for. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for Shonda Rhimes’ ability to create complex, three-dimensional characters, and the fact that there’s so much history to pull from certainly comes in handy. After all, most of us who are in this for Meredith’s journey have been since the very beginning.
The flashbacks could have easily become repetitive, but unlike how random and unnecessary they might be on any other show, I tend to find the Grey’s flashbacks absolutely riveting. They are quick, painful trips down memory lane that serve a significant purpose, mainly to help us understand Meredith’s state of mind, and to remind us just how far our protagonist has come.
Which brings us to Ellen Pompeo’s remarkable performance. It’s easy to dismiss performances on a 13 year-old show as anything other than tiresome, but Pompeo is capable of conveying a spectrum of emotions with just a few looks. Even her body language is incredibly accurate, whether she is shrugging at the idea of discussing Derek’s death with Riggs or simply in the way she screams “I’m married” in one of the episode’s most powerful moments. Absolutely amazing.
The show also brilliantly keeps the episode “in the family” with Chandra Wilson as director. Wilson has helmed previous Grey’s episodes before, but nothing as special as In the Air Tonight. She perfectly depicts the harrowing effects of being trapped on an unstable plane by mastering the claustrophobic shots and adding a few shaky cams. These creative decisions added more tension to the proceedings, which made this bottle episode all the more special.
Bits & Scalpels
– Loved the title credits appearing in mid-air with dark clouds in the background. Very ominous.
– It was great seeing Spencer Grammer on TV again as Candice, the flight attendant. I loved her on Greek.
– In fact, all the guest stars were amazing in this episode. From the annoying passenger to the gay couple to the flirtatious pediatric dentist, this one was packed with memorable guests. Who else absolutely loved Ingrid?
– Nice touch with the pilot being a woman. Such a cool little surprise, especially since the show did not make a big deal out of it.
– The gut-wrenching flashbacks to the season eight finale absolutely destroyed me. Cristina, Lexie, Derek…my, how times have changed.
– Priceless moment: the look on Meredith’s face when the anxious passenger asks her to bring him juice.
– God, I teared up as Meredith talked about Lexie. Sniff.
– Badass moment with Meredith using a nail clip, a cocktail straw, and a plastic cup to fix that guy’s brain bleed.
– Who else wanted this to be a 2-hour episode? I do feel like they suddenly just landed at the end.
– Some people seem to think that the pediatric dentist Harrison could be Jo’s ex-husband. Sounds like a stretch to me, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him again because he definitely has more chemistry with Meredith than Riggs!
– The slow-mo sequence at the end was goosebumps-worthy as all the patients are carried out on gurneys after the plane lands.
– The final series of flashbacks has to be one the show’s most memorable, impeccably edited sequences ever as they portray Meredith and Derek’s epic love story in reverse, starting from his death and leading all the way back to their one night stand in the pilot. Incredible.
– Perfect final shot as Meredith refuses to hold Riggs’ hand and instead hands him her purse.
– Can we get a Meredith-centric episode every week, please?
Nathan: Was it bad?
Meredith: I mean, we crashed and got lost. People died. It wasn’t great. What about your plane crash? Did anyone die or lose a limb? You know that’s how Arizona lost her leg.
Nathan: Okay, I’m definitely not telling you about mine now. It can’t compare.
Meredith: It’s not a contest.
Nathan: I was a teenager, total idiot. My mate’s dad had one of those crop dusters. We snuck it out. We got it off the ground pretty high for about four whole minutes before we crashed into a shed. But that feeling of falling straight down…
Meredith: Yeah, mine was way worse.
Meredith: You know, they called us the Seattle Grace Five. There were six of us that went up, and only five of us came back. And now there are only three of us alive. My sister died out there.
Nathan: You have another sister?
Meredith: My kid sister Lexie. I loved her.
Meredith: Do you have any drills on you?
Harrison: Sure, yeah. I always have them in my carry-on. I have them in a special case, you know, like chef’s knives.
Nathan: Wait, really?
Meredith (closing voiceover): One of the most unpredictable things about encountering turbulence is its aftermath. Everything’s been shaken up, undone, turned on its head. So, if you have the choice to avoid the plane crash, to play it safe, do you take it? Or do you get on board and take your chances?
An intense, heartbreaking, and gripping hour of television. What a masterpiece!