Shonda Rhound-Up: All in the family

ABC/Mitch Haaseth/Courtesy

Related Posts

Last week brought some heavy emotional woes for the “Grey’s” and “Murder” casts. “Grey’s Anatomy” has been relatively soft so far, compared to previous seasons, but perhaps that changed this week — overall thus far though, it seems like the show has heard it’s fans’ calls for it to bring a little joy and cut the trauma. “How to Get Away with Murder” also seems to be going through a shift in tone and narrative. This week’s episodes for both shows feature stories of parental reunions and chosen families.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’

“Grey’s” doesn’t waste any time jumping right in with Amelia’s (Caterina Scorsone) surgical treatment for her brain tumor. The episode opens with a scene of Amelia shaving her head, with Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Maggie (Kelly McCreary) standing behind her in support. Not a moment later, we see Amelia in her hospital bed, with her husband Owen (Kevin McKidd) at one side and Meredith at the other, thanking every central figure in the series for their support. The moment is strangely brief for the ever-sentimental “Grey’s,” but it’s meaningful nonetheless.

The rest of the episode is relatively focused, primarily on Amelia’s surgery and recovery, and later on Megan (Abigail Spencer), who is at risk of infection after her operation, but is also desperate to see her son, Farouk (Bardia Seiri) — who’s still in Iraq. Maggie and Jackson’s (Jesse Williams) sexual tension is still brewing but was shut down abruptly at the end of the episode, when Jackson’s mother calls Maggie his “sister,” since they’re related by Maggie’s father’s marriage to Jackson’s mother. That’s surely not going to be the last we hear of their potential romance, however.

Amelia’s surgery passes relatively quickly, and our concerns of her waking without her ability to speak or walk are calmed swiftly as well. Her recovery is unimaginably painful, particularly given that she refuses to be given pain medication due to her past addiction; opioids are her “drug of choice.” She can’t speak at first, then she can speak French, then finally she speaks English, but doesn’t remember that her brother Derek has died. The audience is spared the emotional scene in which she was informed that he died quite a while ago.

Overall this episode, especially given the intensity of Amelia’s surgery, seems to signal a shift in the “Grey’s” emotional mode. The heavy scenes thus far have been thoughtful, but not as overly dramatic as they’ve been in years past — which either means the show has changed its tune with regards to the emotional trauma it imparts on its viewers, or (perhaps more probably) the show is saving it’s theatrics for something even bigger, later in the season.

KELLY MCCREARY, CATERINA SCORSONE, GIACOMO GIANNIOTTI

Richard Cartwright/ABC2/Courtesy

Amelia finishes her recovery and plans to go home with Meredith and Maggie, her sisters, but Owen comes to her as she’s packing and asks her to come home and let him help her heal. She says she’s unsure of who she is right now, especially given the impact that the tumor had on her decision making (even her decision to marry Owen, perhaps). The somber look on her face as she drives home with Owen is a suspicious indicator that Amelia might be at the center of an impending dramatic turn.

Meanwhile, Meredith and Megan commiserate on the strange disappearance of Nathan (Martin Henderson) — who, we find out late in the episode, has flown to Iraq to bring Farouk to Megan, under the guise of his need for medical treatment. Meredith poses as Farouk’s doctor and helps Nathan with the grand romantic gesture she told him to perform for Megan in order to ensure her that he has “chosen” her.

The moment in the episode where Meredith affirms Nathan’s love for Megan to Megan echoes a bit of the energy from her “choose me, love me” monologue to Derek, much earlier in the series — which either the “Grey’s” writers or Pompeo herself picked up on, seeing as she looks up and nods, as if looking to Derek.

‘How to Get Away with Murder’

This week, Annalise (Viola Davis) takes a case “for the greater good,” as the episode’s title suggests. The public defender’s office is seeking the assistance of private attorneys to help with its exorbitant caseload and Annalise volunteers, to the apparent chagrin of the Chief Public Defender, Virginia Cross (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), who is aware of Annalise’s reputation.

For the record, in the wake of her alcoholism and arrest for murder, folks seem to have forgotten that Annalise is a case-winner, an ardent defender and a powerhouse in court.

Annalise is assigned the case of Ben Carter (Rene Moran). Ben has spent the past 12 years in prison for his girlfriend’s murder — and meanwhile he was in jail, their daughter grew from an infant to a teenager who is now effectively parentless. Annalise takes Ben’s case on the foundation argument that he was judged for his appearance in the original ruling, due to his history with gangs and the tattoos covering his face.

When Ben and Annalise finally meet, she learns that Ben’s girlfriend suffered from postpartum depression. He was there when she died, but arrived in the room too late — he could only reach after her as she fell from their apartment window. She wasn’t murdered; she committed suicide.

BILLY BROWN, VIOLA DAVIS, RENE MORAN

ABC/Mitch Haaseth/Courtesy

While Annalise is dealing with her case, the Keating Four are dealing with life sans-Keating. Connor (Jack Falahee) drops out of law school. Michaela (Aja Naomi King) excels at her internship at Caplan & Gold, which makes her boyfriend Asher (Matt McGorry) self-conscious of his own lack of internship. Laurel (Karla Souza) begs Bonnie (Liza Weil) for an internship at the DA’s office, ostensibly to help her career, but actually to access her father’s records. She also enlists Michaela’s help to take down her father as the evidence for his organizing Wes’s (Alfred Enoch) murder grows.

Even without Annalise, the Keating Four (plus Frank and his meatballs, apparently) refer to themselves as a family — for all of their past (or present) dysfunctions, they rally around each other when it’s necessary.

Annalise’s case vexes her. Former allies of hers — her ex-boyfriend Nate (Billy Brown) and her former assistant Bonnie — conspire against her in the DA’s office. She learns that Jasmine (L. Scott Caldwell), whose case she worked last week, overdosed after her release, and this hits especially hard given that Annalise shared a cell with her while in jail.

After visiting her therapist late at night to avoid going to a bar, Annalise finds a package waiting on her doorstep. The package contains video evidence of her client Ben’s girlfriend’s suicide — in the clip, she can be seen jumping from the window before Ben leans out behind her, crying. Frank (Charlie Weber) does some helpful digging, and finds that the Chief Public Defender, Virginia, found the footage and had it sent to Annalise.

Back in court, Annalise has Virginia stand witness and forces her to admit that the video footage, pulled from an ATM camera near Ben’s apartment, was in Ben’s file when Virginia was his lawyer. She could have saved his case, but because of her enormous workload at the public defender’s office, she didn’t have time to go through all of the ATM footage.

Annalise not only exonerates Ben, but uses his case as the foundation for her fight against large scale injustice within the carceral system.

The episodes of “Murder” thus far this season seem to operate in a different direction than previous seasons have. This change appears intentional: The dramatic narratives of Annalise and the Keating Four/Five have been sidelined so that the show can centralize Annalise’s own healing — which she has thus far found through holding the justice system accountable for its history of systemic injustice.

This season of “Murder” is on a justice mission, just like its lead character.

Sophie-Marie Prime is the assistant arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].