Last Thursday brought the return of two prime-time television favorites — medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” and law-centric “How to Get Away with Murder.” The third point of producer Shonda Rhimes’ golden triangle, the politics-driven “Scandal,” will premiere its final season Oct. 5.
In other words, get ready for your Thursday nights to be packed with a three-hour marathon of “Shondaland” (Rhimes’ production company), with “Grey’s Anatomy” starting at 8 p.m., “Scandal” at 9 p.m. and “How to Get Away with Murder” at 10 p.m. With the two-hour season premiere of “Grey’s Anatomy” this week and the ever-present drama between the Keating Five on “How to Get Away with Murder,” there’s already plenty to catch up on.
“Grey’s” picks up exactly where last season left off: just a day after last season’s fire and moments before the arrival of Owen Hunt’s sister Megan (Abigail Spencer). Megan’s return is shocking for several reasons, starting with the fact that both Owen (Kevin McKidd) and Nathan Riggs (Martin Henderson) — Owen’s former best friend, who was in love with Megan when she “died” — thought she perished in Iraq over a decade ago (she was really held hostage for her surgical skills). Though she arrives in high spirits, she requires surgery for a stomach wound incurred during an explosion. Her presence also disrupts the romance between Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and Nathan, who agreed to end their relationship the moment they learned Megan was alive.
Naturally, this wasn’t the only shake-up of the two-episode return. Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) discovers that her girlfriend has vanished after being fired from the hospital. And, in light of Megan’s arrival, Teddy Altman (Kim Raver) has returned after several seasons to support Owen, which throws a wrench in his already-tense marriage with Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone), given that Teddy and Owen have been in love since, well, forever.
Meanwhile, Meredith volunteers to help Megan recover from her abdominal wound, Nathan hesitates to tell Megan of his former relationship with Meredith — so Meredith does it for him, showing some serious growth in stability and self-assurance since her days of fawning over her late husband, Derek Shepherd.
After the first round of surgery fails, Meredith, Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) go back to the drawing board, and Meredith proposes a ground-breaking solution: an abdominal wall transplant.
If all that wasn’t enough, Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) and Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington) are still dancing around their former relationship, which ended abruptly after Alex mistakenly thought that another surgeon was assaulting Jo and beat him for it, triggering a legal turmoil that almost sent Alex to jail … but somehow didn’t cost him his medical license. This season, Jo and Alex still have feelings for each other, but they haven’t been together since Alex’s outburst — primarily because Jo is worried that he might hurt her.
The moment in which Jo’s concerns are best discussed is when her newly chosen confidant, Ben Warren (Jason George), tries to convince her to get back with Alex despite her fears about him. Luckily Ben’s wife and the chief of surgery at the hospital, superwoman Miranda Bailey, tells him he can’t tell Jo how to feel about her relationship with a man. After shooing Ben away from Jo and telling Jo that she’s right to feel however she feels about Alex, Miranda struts away in her cute and comfy black clogs, which she chose to wear instead of heels for once (to the imaginary applause of audiences everywhere). You go, Miranda Bailey.
This conflict is a little bit lost in the shuffle of the episode, and it warrants more external dialogue than it’s afforded in these two episodes, perhaps due to the fact that Jo’s best friend left the hospital after last season’s fire. Thus, Jo spends much of the premiere searching for a confidant and makes her decision about Alex too quickly for her concerns about his violent behavior to be fully worked out.
No “Grey’s” premiere would be complete without a bombshell, and these episodes are no exception. We’re introduced to Carina DeLuca (Stefania Spampinato), who goes home from the bar with Arizona and gets hired at the hospital the next morning. She’s a brilliant ob-gyn whose research basically reverses the misogynistic history of hysteria — she hopes to a way to treat women’s pain through orgasm and create a Viagra-equivalent for women. As badass as this research sounds (from what little we know of it), it led into the last major hook of the premiere, which will no doubt reel in audiences for the rest of the season.
‘How to Get Away with Murder’
Some time has passed since we last saw the Keating Five — now the Keating Four after the death of central character Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch) last season. “How to Get Away with Murder” is notorious for bombshells such as this, made more dramatic by the fact that the show is constructed in a series of flashbacks and flashforwards that peel back minute layers leading up to big reveals.
Surprisingly, the season premiere lacked that kind of tense revelation, leaning instead into its more dramatic narratives and reflecting on the depth of its central character, Annalise Keating (Viola Davis).
The episode opens with a dinner hosted by Annalise, where she and her assistant Bonnie (Liza Weil) are joined by the Keating Four: Connor (Jack Falahee), Michaela (Aja Naomi King), Asher (Matt McGorry) and Laurel (Karla Souza). After introducing an impending revelation from Annalise, the episode dives into the recent past, when Annalise visited her parents.
Annalise spends much of the episode with her family — her relationship with her father remains strained as her mother’s dementia worsens — and coping with the fact that her law license is at risk due to her alcoholism. As fans will know from prior seasons, her alcoholism is often used as a scapegoat for judges and other lawyers who are threatened by Annalise’s intellectualism and resourcefulness. She is an incredibly skilled defense attorney whose history is enshrouded by much darker stories than the murder of her husband by her students.
As her mother points out, people drop like flies around Annalise. Conflicts from prior seasons are merely touched upon, and the emotional core of the episode is reached during two intimate scenes that Annalise shares with her mother.
Meanwhile, the narratives of the Keating Four are relatively scattered throughout the episode. Connor and his boyfriend Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) discuss a potential engagement despite their shaky past. Michaela and Asher’s romance continues as they consider moving in together and prepare for a future that may not involve their mentor, Annalise — though we know from the patterns of the show that they will return to her eventually.
Laurel, on the other hand, has moved into Wes’ old apartment and is still coping with his death, which she believes her father could be responsible for. Adding to her grief is her pregnancy, which was revealed while she was in the hospital recovering from burns and smoke inhalation — she too was in Annalise’s house the night of the fire that covered up Wes’ murder.
“How to Get Away with Murder” is absolutely built around its ensemble cast, with Viola Davis as its cornerstone. However many of the defining aspects of the series’s previous seasons, from the cohesion of its ensemble to its tense cliffhangers, were missing from the premiere. Something is brewing beneath the surface of the recommendation letters Annalise leaves her followers as a means of “letting them go,” because, as any fan knows, the only thing Annalise Keating isn’t brilliant at is letting go.