The central relationship on "Grey's Anatomy" has always been rocky, even when it wasn't particularly interesting. Meredith Grey and Derek Shepherd have spent three seasons putting each other through the wringer, and it's time for the carousel to stop.
The self-described "dark and twisty" Meredith has always carried more than her share of burdens and neuroses, in the show's central attempt to accurately portray the struggles of modern adulthood. One thing that is often left out of the equation, however, is likeability.
Why does Derek love Meredith so much? Why on Earth does fellow resident Cristina Yang depend on her at all? Meredith is flighty, angry, weird and manipulative, caught in a yo-yo relationship with an arrogant and emotionally distant, brooding (and even married) man. She has constant epiphanies that never go anywhere, and she always ends up in the same place.
"Grey's Anatomy" has always demanded that its characters change their lives for the better, and Meredith deserves the same chance.
Meredith Grey is the heart of "Grey's Anatomy," obviously, and not necessarily an unsympathetic character. But after season three's cycle of miseries, the death of both her mother Ellis and "fake mom," stepmother Susan, and the introduction of her overeager sister Lexie, it's simply too painful to watch her make the same mistakes with Derek that she has so many times before.
She's pushed Derek away, pulled him in again, forced him to compete with the veterinarian. She's shoved him into the role of cheating husband to satisfy her own need to repeat her own family drama and childhood traumas.
Most damaging of all, she made him a witness to her own passive suicide and depression. But the thing that remains, through the bomb threats and drowning in Puget Sound, is the characters' love for each other.
A show that regularly puts its central relationship through such dark passages runs the risk of accusations of sadism, unrelenting negativity, and worst of all disinterest. When every step forward comes attached with its own free-of-charge two steps back, retaining love for the show itself can become harder and harder for even an impassioned viewer.
So perhaps it's the ultimate twist to finally get Meredith and Derek together in something resembling a normal human relationship. You can definitely say nobody was expecting it.
Time for a change
One of the most surprising effects of the writers' strike, in this age of show-runners and audience-savvy production, was the opportunity the hiatus gave writers to retool their shows midseason, and "Grey's" has done just that, as showrunner Shonda Rimes revealed last month. Early episodes in this short season pointed to more pain and cardboard angst, such as Derek's sudden need to settle down and his flirtation with the pragmatic nurse Rose.
Now, we're told that the show's remaining story will take Derek and Meredith into a more stable phase of their relationship.
The signs were there. After she spent three episodes burbling quietly under the waves of Puget Sound, died, and then returned to life, Meredith knew that she was never going to give up her passion for Derek. It even gave her a reason to live.
More happily still, Meredith realized that she needed to separate her "dark and twisty" personal stuff from her realistic, romantic feelings for Derek.
Derek, meanwhile, pushed her away because of the effect her unremitting misery was having on his own mental health. As terrible as this admission was, it definitely lead to brighter places. After all, if the only thing that seems to have any emotional effect on Meredith is her relationship with McDreamy, it's probably best to have McDreamy deliver the news that she is becoming an unbearable black hole of pain and bitterness.
But will it work? Can this relationship, between these two people who have each been betrayed by most of the people that they've loved, possibly work?
It's highly possible. Meredith and Derek have been exposed to the worst and the best of each other, often without any liquor involved, and have learned each other's darkest secrets. And they still keep returning to each other. They've been telling us for three years that the only way they can be happy is if they are together.
If they do deserve to be happy, why not get there now? Seriously, why not just see what it's like, instead of prolonging the misery?
The positive, human-centered approach of "Grey's Anatomy" has always claimed that adversity builds character, and no character has been exposed to more adversity than poor Meredith Grey. If you asked her what she wanted most, she'd say Derek, and there's a bravery and confidence in the show finally giving it to her.
It will be nice to see a less dramatic Meredith Grey. In its attempt to accurately portray the struggles of modern adulthood, the show has always seemed to stack the deck against Meredith. It would be fantastic finally to find her as likeable as her friends and lovers seem to do.