The memory of last season’s bloodbath looms large over this week’s Grey’s Anatomy. With a camera crew invading Seattle Grace to shoot a documentary about the hospital’s recovery efforts, the entire episode is shot from the POV of the filmmakers, giving the hour a very voyeuristic vibe.
“You actually feel like you’re getting a behind-the-scenes look at our characters’ lives,” suggests series creator Shonda Rhimes. “You see our characters in a very different way, because we’re approaching them in a very different way.”
Rhimes has long toyed with the notion of doing a docu-style installment, but it was coexecutive producer Stacy McKee — this week’s scribe — who figured out how best to execute it. “Stacy was obsessed with [ABC’s summer docuseries] Boston Med,” notes Rhimes. “So she came in one day after watching an episode and said, ‘I think I have it! I figured out how we can do our own version of that.’ And we used the shooting as our jumping-off point.”
However, by ensuring that this season’s story lines also move forward, Rhimes & Co. avoided getting the episode tagged as a mere gimmick. Case in point: It’s during the hour that Alex figures out “what kind of surgeon he really wants to be,” reveals Rhimes. “It seems [pediatrics] is his thing.”
• Mandy Moore reprises her role of patient-turned-mercenary from the finale. “Her character is one of the Seattle Grace 13,” notes Rhimes of the Lost-esque nickname she gave the survivors. “She was forced to sort of be a doctor, too, so it felt important to me to bring her back and close that chapter.”
• Through the use of confessionals, we discover how truly unhinged Cristina has become. “She has a long journey [before her],” says Rhimes. “But when she gets a little bit better, she comes roaring back.”
• Lastly, Callie and Arizona make “a huge decision” that will usher them “into a new chapter,” teases Rhimes.
Moreover, the boss lady stresses that Thursday’s episode is a continuation of this season’s overall theme of recovery and rebirth — but not closure. “Closure is the wrong word for every last one of my characters,” she says. “I spent a lot of time really trying to get this right, speaking to grief counselors and reading the Columbine book and really thinking about this, and not wanting to minimize this. I don’t think there’s such a thing as closure. I think you move on and become different, and you’re changed, but I don’t think it’s ever closed.”