Grey’s Anatomy: Season 12/Episode 9 – “The Sound of Silence”

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“What happens when a TV show aborts an idea?”

More like the sound of silence followed by the death kneel of what could have been a great hour of television.

The premise of this episode is that Meredith is brutally assaulted by a trauma patient and spends the rest of the episode recovering. Cool. It’s been done before but should make for a decently compelling 45ish minutes of television. Let’s pull it up in the DVR and hit play.

We open with Meredith in her classroom teaching and she, as per usual, is narrating over top of everything to set the stage for the episode.  As the camera focuses on Dr. Penelope Blake, Penny Meredith begins talking about how women are less likely to speak up in certain setting because they get overrun or interrupted by male colleagues, The is especially poignant as it was Penny’s  lack of speaking up that was ultimately the fatal blow in the death of Derek Shepard, Meredith’s husband.  Ok – I like it, I see where this episode is going and that the show as a whole is continuing the development of the relationship between Meredith and Penny.

Then we cut to Meredith, Maggie, and Karev stuck in traffic on the way to work.  After realizing that there is a huge wreck in front of them causing the traffic, they all get out to run to help and end up riding to the hospital in the ambulances.

Now at the ER, Meredith is in an enclosed trauma room treating a patient with a handful of other doctors, nurses, etc. and then as the patient stabilizes Meredith ends up being alone in the room with the patient. Ok here we go.  The patient, after having a seizure, is in a sort of fugue state, lashes out and brutally beats Meredith.  This is where the episode starts to lose me a little bit.  Rather than staying in the room and showing us the full on assault, we start to see outside of the room where the ER is super noisy so no one can hear the commotion inside the trauma room.   We also see the blinds moving as the assault continues but all in all we really see a minimal amount of violence given the damage done.

To me, Grey’s Anatomy is usually one of those shows that doesn’t pull its punches and in this instance, it definitely pulled a lot of punches.  A large part of this episode is meant to force the audience to look at things from Meredith’s perspective and to undercut that by not making us watch the full assault just serves to get the episode off on the wrong foot.

Penny is the one that finds Meredith after the assault is over and as her fellow doctors start to treat Meredith, we start to experience things from her perspective.  We get first person camera angles, medical instruments and flashlights coming right at the screen, doctors talking right at us – looking into the camera, but most importantly we experience deafness because, as one of her myriad injuries, Meredith has lost her hearing.

To this viewer, that’s a cool premise for a show and it was executed well until it was completely abandoned.

For about 20 minutes of run time we, the audience, get to experience what it must be like to be incapacitated and deaf in a hospital bed.  There are scenes of doctors looking at x-rays and talking amongst themselves as if you weren’t in the room and when they do turn to look at you, it’s with pity and sadness.  There are scenes where people are talking directly to you, clearly trying to comfort and reassure you but it does no good because you can’t understand them. It was some really good, inventive storytelling and then it happened…..  Meredith got her hearing back and the show lost some of its luster.

A good idea cut off at the knees. Maybe even a great idea given how people watch TV these days. Eyes glued to their phones, half listening at the show playing in the background, only looking up when something snaps their attention away from Facebook, Pintrest, Snapchat, or whatever.  But a show where you have to give all of your attention to it because there is no sound….  That draws an otherwise ADD audience back in and forces them to watch.  It grabs them and holds them.

But as quickly as it grabs the audience it lets them go again.  A very Meredith-centric story gives way to catching the audience up on other plot threads and reminding them of what the other characters are up to.

-April and Jackson are still fighting and he wants a divorce and she doesn’t.

-Amelia and Meredith are angry with each other and Amelia falls off the wagon.

-Jo and Karev are on the rocks a bit because he has become Yang’s replacement as Meredith’s “person”.

All worthwhile plot threads and ones that should be followed, just not in this episode.  I get the show took a three month winter break and you need to level set after being off the air that long but forcing this episode to fulfill that need takes away all the room that Meredith’s story needed to breathe.  The full runtime of this episode should have been devoted to the assault, its aftermath, and executing on a creative storytelling idea.

A show breaking its own mold to tell a story in a different way is absolutely nothing new.  One of the strongest examples that comes to mind is the Family Guy Episode “Brian & Stewie” (Season 8 Episode 17) in which the titular characters get locked in a bank vault for the entire episode.  This episode broke away from the normal Family Guy set up by having no cut away gags, no music, no song and dance for the opening credits, only featuring two characters (both voiced by show creator Seth MacFarlane) and letting its usual inflammatory humor and style of storytelling fall by the wayside to tell a rather heartwarming story of two best friends connect on a deeper level by helping each other make it through the weekend and exploring hard-to-talk-about subjects like suicide. It’s a great example of an already remarkable show finding a way to stand out even further.

But the key to “Brian & Stewie” is following through on the concept and that’s where “The Sound of Silence” fell apart.

WildeBeard’s Rating: QUITTER BEARD – When a guy has a nice beard going, stupidly grabs a razor and only ends up with razor burn.

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