Saturday, April 25, 2015

DEREK SHEPHERD IS DEAD

In ‘How To Save A life’—season 11, episode 21 of GREY’S ANATOMY, Meredith said goodbye to her husband and we said goodbye to another person from the original cast—the beloved character whom we all fondly know as ‘McDreamy’
  

It’s official. The McDays of GREY’S ANATOMY are over. After we said goodbye to Mark ‘McSteamy’ Sloan in season 9, this Thursday, it was time to say goodbye to the guy that survived a plane crash, being shot in the chest, and even a different car accident back in an earlier season of the show.

Derek died in quite a ridiculous way, to be honest. Yes, it was lovely to see him as the hero, the guy who helps people pull themselves together, who keeps a calm head, and to hear him say, “It’s a beautiful day to save lives,” all for one last time. However, for a brain surgeon, it was rather stupid of him to stop his car in the middle of the highway, sideways at that, especially after having just witnessed a horrifying car crash that almost quite literally cut a woman in half. But I suppose the ‘how’ of it doesn’t matter anymore. What we saw next was probably a very refreshing way of seeing the last few moments of a character’s life on GREY'S ANATOMY. Firstly, it was interesting to see it all going down in a different hospital. To have had a major character fighting for their life at Grey+Sloan, with all the surgeons that we know trying save the life, would’ve been something we’ve seen too many times before—from George O’Malley to Meredith herself. Mark Sloan, Callie Torres, Arizona Robbins, Richard Webber, and Derek Shepherd even.

With Derek knowing that what the doctors were doing would result in his death was kind of heartbreaking, as he, in his mind, instructs them on how to save a life, but in vain, obviously. What was even more heartbreaking was seeing Meredith finally telling her husband, “Derek, it's okay. You go. We'll be fine.” Moreso when the nurse asks her if she's ready, and she says, "No, but go ahead." We might have expected a major break-down or to see her just frozen and numb from the bomb that had just fallen on her, but the route that Shonda Rhimes took was impressive. Meredith has grown immensely as a person and as a character, and the way she reacted to her husband dying was a perfect representation of that. For her to explain to the doctor that her husband’s death needs to not have been in vain, and that she needs to learn from it, was disturbingly good. And in it all, I thought that despite Derek being the center of the episode, the true hero was Meredith. But I suspect things will change.

If there’s one thing that Shonda Rhimes knows how to do is to write a big event to conclude anything from a season to a character’s journey, but not let it just have been for that. Derek’s death is going to affect everything and everyone, and Meredith’s goodbye is going to be nothing in comparison to what we're yet to see from her. Remember when Henry died, and Teddy couldn’t get over how it had happened? Remember when Denny Duquette died and Izzie couldn’t get off the bathroom floor? Remember when Lexie died and Mark lost his will to survive? Now, with Derek dead, it’s only a matter of time before Meredith unravels. I’m very sure that Rhimes is going to drag Meredith through hell before she can make her peace with her husband's passing. Her mother died, her sister died, her ‘person’ left. And yes, she said she doesn’t need Derek in her life, like she used to, but his death is going to leave a hole in a way that we can’t imagine.

However, what concerns me is how this will affect Amelia Shepherd. She and Derek have had a complicated relationship but a lovely one, which I have always enjoyed seeing, even on PRIVATE PRACTICE. I've liked seeing them as brother and sister, since she became a series regular on GREY'S, and now I'm sad that I won't get anymore of that. 

Before we see the two-hour special next Thursday, let’s take a moment to realize that Derek Shepherd will never operate in a Grey+Sloan OR again, or have sex in a Grey+Sloan on-call room again, or say, “It’s a beautiful day to save lives!” ever again. 

'MAD MEN': THE FORECAST OF ALL THAT'S LEFT


There’s been a lot of talk lately about how MAD MEN’s final season doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, or that the writers don’t even know where it could go. People have expressed sheer frustration over the fact that there are still many new faces on the show, in each episode, taking up too much screen time, which, let’s face it, all us fans would want to be spent on the established characters. I somewhat agree. I do think that the second part of the final season has already given us some golden moments of the brilliantly-written Peggy-Don relationship, the hilarious anger of Pete Campbell, the masked insecurities of Joan Harris, and the coming-of-age of Sally Draper. But I get greedy. I want more of Roger Sterling, more of Ted Chough, more of Pete Campbell, more of Megan and Betty, and everyone else.

The truth is that MAD MEN has never been an indulgent show. There’s always been strong control over how much of a character is exposed to us at a time. There have always been supporting and guest characters who may have only served to uncover the emotions of our main characters, but their presence has always been crucial to the narrative, to the glimpses of the characters’ lives that we see in every episode, and to them being realized almost as though they’re real people. And why should the final episodes be any different? MAD MEN has never been a show about big moments in season finales and premieres. Marriages have begun and ended from one season to another, without us having seen even a glimpse of a wedding. And the turn of the decade has been introduced to us without a hint of a fuss about it. The biggest changes are seen subtly and beautifully, without unrealistic dramatization or melodramatic break-downs. And that’s the beauty of the show. In fact, if it wasn’t for the developments in last Sunday’s episode, I might have thought that the entire thing would end without so much of an acknowledgement of the fact that we would never be seeing these characters again.

I speak of the most recent episode because despite the fact that the show has always shown great restraint with exposition, episode 10 (‘The Forecast’) of season 7 has probably been the most indulgent one yet. And that’s true especially for Don Draper. We’ve seen him telling off people before, we’ve seen him being proud and arrogant before, we’ve seen him being charming and flirtatious before. We know him well enough to know that what we saw of him in ‘The Forecast’ wasn’t uncharacteristic of him. However, there were moments in the episode that showed him as not holding back, not keeping the entirety of his feelings to himself. His endeavor to write the speech, which Roger Sterling asks of him, sends him into examining his own life from that point forward… What he wants from it now, and what more there was to accomplish or what he hasn't been able to accomplish yet, after becoming rich from SC&P becoming a subsidiary of McCann-Erickson, and also after his second marriage has failed.

When Mathis says “…You always had to be at the [Lucky Strike] meetings so [Lee Garner Jr.] could think of jacking you off,” Don holds back, and only says, “You have a foul mouth. Take responsibility for your failure. That account was handed to you, and you made nothing of it because you have no character.” But when Mathis attacks the ease with which Don seems to go about life, Don doesn’t hold back, and says that everybody has problems, and that some people can deal with them and some people can’t. In this moment, he may have been implying that he was probably one of those who can deal with their problems, but we don’t know that for sure. We know that he’s struggling to grab on to something—which he was clearly trying to do, with that waitress in the previous two episodes. On the other hand, he forgets subtlety when he’s trying to write that speech and Peggy asks him to give her a performance review. He chuckles condescendingly at the things that she aspires to be and to have, knowing well that he’s already accomplished those things, and is searching for what he wants from life beyond all the career-related goals. Peggy says, “This is about my job; not the meaning of life,” yet he doesn’t give in, urging her to continue about the meaning of life. Finally, she says to him, “Why don’t you just write down all of your dreams, so I can shit on them.” And the sad part is that he just doesn’t know what they are anymore.

Yet, we see a side of him that we haven’t seen before. It indicates that he is, in fact, on some level, trying to right his own wrongs, without apologizing for them, and simply acknowledging that he is aware of them, and is on a path to find meaning. He continues to ‘survey’ what kind of meaning people search for from their lives, even asking Sally’s friends what they want. Sally, who we had just seen getting disgusted by her mother basking in the ‘inappropriate’ attention being given to her by Glen, is further disgusted by her father responding to her 17-year-old friend’s flirting. She declares that she wants to be nothing like either of her parents. And Don doesn’t hold back with expressing how convinced he is about knowing Sally better than she knows herself. “I’m your father, and you may not want to listen to this, but you are like your mother and me. You’re going to find that out,” he tells her. And in probably his most fatherly moment, he says to her, “You’re a beautiful girl. It’s up to you to be more than that.” Trying to make her realize that eventually, she’s going to want answers about her own lifelike he’s had for a while nowwe see him being more expressive than he’s ever been with her. And this moment had been a long time coming, since we saw him being caught by Sally cheating on Megan with his neighbor, in season 6. And in this moment he’s striving to bridge the growing distance between his daughter and him, probably as a part of his recently renewed quest for the meaning in his life.


And that’s really what these last few episodes are about, as I see it. The show will not end with a big event, or the achievement of absolute fulfillment for Don and the others. But I don’t think that the writers and Matthew Weiner will disregard the need for there to be some kind of an end to the journeys that these people set out on seven seasons ago. Even if they simply end with a minor glimpse of the next thing for the characters, I think that there will be a conclusion. We may want to actually see Peggy as SC&P’s creative director, or Joan finally finding lasting happiness in her personal life, and Don actually finding out what he wants, among a lot of other things, but we most probably won’t. However, I think there will be an end to the journeys in some way. That’s something I don't think we'll be denied.