While no one would usually compare “Grey’s Anatomy” to “Game of Thrones” — they’re two pretty um, drastically different shows — Thursday’s (Feb. 9) episode gave a big wink to the HBO megahit when Stephanie Edwards (Jerrika Hinton) aptly announces, “Winter is coming!”
And she’s not wrong. There are no flying dragons or heads getting chopped off, but heads (of departments) are still rolling. The disagreement as to who should be in charge of the residents has snowballed into an ugly battle. A line between has been drawn between those who want to give Dr. Minnick (Marika Dominczyka) — and by extension, Chief Bailey (Chandra Wilson), who is going full Cersei as she doubles down — a chance, and those who don’t understand why Richard (James Pickens Jr.) is being replaced.
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Insubordination and blatant disregard for orders is not something Bailey takes lightly. So when Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) ignores Minnick’s OR request, Bailey throws down the gauntlet and suspends Grey. Kicking out the current Chief of General Surgery sends a straightforward message to all: It’s loud and clear there’s a zero-tolerance rule for those not following Minnick’s orders.
However, Grey marches out with ease — because that’s obviously what she would do — and treats it like she’s been ordered to go on vacation. She looks all too happy to be home with her kids, and finally have time to do laundry. Maybe there’s something about having her name on the front of the hospital that gives her the confidence she’ll be back soon, because she truly doesn’t seem worried… And not in her dark-and-twist nihilist form, either. This isn’t a “screw it,” it’s a “no problemo” — and we love it.
But then Bailey emails everyone which doctor will be replacing Grey in the interim: April Kepner (Sarah Drew). Er… what? Kepner can barely decide what scrubs to put on in the morning, let alone make the tough, lives-hanging-in-the-balance type calls the GS Chief must make on a daily basis. She was in the sh*t during her time overseas and she’s toughened up in a lot of ways, we don’t discount that — but Kepner still doesn’t command the same respect as Grey, nor has she earned it. Meredith is one of the best surgeons in the country, while Kepner is…
Well, she’s Catherine Avery’s (Debbie Allen) former daughter-in-law.
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It’s hard to ignore the thread of nepotism happening here: Catherine Avery, who can’t even bring herself to tell Webber she’s the true source of all this turmoil — as it was her idea to hire Minnick in the first place — makes it clear to Bailey that she needs to get this hospital under control. It’s not up to the residents and attendings to decide who’s best fit for what position, Grey-Sloan is not a democracy: Catherine owns the hospital, Bailey is its chief, and in order to keep moving forward with their plan, they are going to put people in power who will follow their lead.
We can’t help but wonder if Minnick really worth all this trouble. It feels like Catherine was trying to fix something that wasn’t broke, and now Bailey is left to pick up the pieces. It hasn’t happened yet, but we expect a further drilldown on this, given it’s a Shondaland show, because clearly this story is in large part about challenging Bailey to stand up and internalize her own power — every half-season, another lesson for her to learn, ever since she became Chief — and bringing Catherine into this means it’s prime time for a conversation that we should have more often: That for people, especially women, of color, you work twice as hard for half as much.
Catherine and Miranda — and Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), of course, whose negotiation with this phrase has consistently provided the best moments of the past several “Scandal” seasons — are women of color who have achieved positions of power, proven themselves way more than they’d otherwise have needed to, and taken the castle.
But, as we saw in last year’s US election, that’s only part one of the fight: Because a woman in power is a very attractive target for the forces she had to overcome in the first place. The throne’s been taken, but now it must be defended — from even the most well-meaning men and women who don’t fully understand the action behind the scenes, because they don’t have any reason to. You don’t need a network of “little birds” and spies to bring down a woman of color: You just wait for somebody to be surprised, or more likely hurt, when they give an order. And if that order involves a third woman in power — especially up against a grandfatherly delight like Webber, who offers no compelling reason to fear him, or deny him anything… You won’t have to wait long.
So if you’re Bailey, you can’t blink, even when you are freaking yourself out and second-guessing in private: She’s doubling down, and she knows damn well why. Catherine clearly knows why. But how could Kepner, Robbins or even Meredith ever grasp it? It’s not reasonable to expect it — and way too complicated to ever explain it, without (again) hurting their feelings. So when this conversation comes around — and it’s got to, right? — we’ll stand up and applaud.
And of course it’s ten times worse — and ten times more like “Game of Thrones” — when everyone involved is basically family: The Avery-Warren-Kepner/Jackson alliance versus the Houses pledged to Webber: His two daughters or daughter equivalents Meredith and Maggie (Kelly McCreary), along with bestie Robbins and like-a-son Karev (Justin Chambers).
…Well, jury’s still out on Arizona (Jessica Capshaw). She’s vocally Team Webber, but quietly has a thing for Minnick… And if she comes to the conclusion that this is about women’s authority being questioned? Well, she’s only slightly less set to blow than Callie (Sarah Ramirez) would have been.
There are strong arguments to be made on both sides, or “Grey’s” wouldn’t be telling this story. Either way, doctors who’ve have worked seamlessly alongside each other for years are going to be at each other’s throats — and the entire hospital, along with its patients, are going to suffer from this internal mutiny. Take the intensity of the plane-crash lawsuit, which similarly embroiled everyone in its drama, add a splash of civil rights and a dash of feminism, and shake that whole thing up with some of the most complex, high-impact bonds and family relationships ever seen on television.
Things are looking grim, and we’re not even including Maggie’s reaction when she discovers her adoptive mother has breast cancer — something only Avery knows, for now– or the fallout from when Jo (Camilla Luddington) eventually leaves Karev for Deluca (Giacomo Gianniotti) — which, now that Deluca’s gotten an honestly contrite Karev back on the board, can only be heating up…
Well, you have to agree with Edwards: “Winter is Coming” to Seattle — and when it does, the shocks won’t be from random calamities like plane crashes and active shooters. They’ll arise from what this group of people — who love each other so much — are capable of doing, when they have to.
“Grey’s Anatomy” airs on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.