Shonda Rhound-Up: Mid-season returns of ‘Grey’s,’ ‘HTGAWM’

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Both “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away with Murder” ended their mid-season finales with massive cliffhangers. Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital was in the middle of a cyberattack, leaving the doctors without the machines they rely on to care for their patients. On her way back from a desperate dash to save a patient, Jo (Camilla Luddington) runs into the abusive husband she’d been hiding from for years.

Meanwhile, Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) had just saved Laurel’s (Karla Souza) baby from an early and violent delivery in an elevator, while the rest of the remaining Keating Four were dealing with the aftermath of an accidental shooting that left one of their classmates dead. All of this put their plan to attack Laurel’s father and avenge Wes (Alfred Enoch) on hold.

On Thursday night, both series dove right back into where they left off from their winter finales.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’

The arrival of Jo’s abuser is chilling. While her world moves in slow motion, he watches her with a disturbing gaze. Ostensibly, he’s arrived to divorce her — ironically, he wants to be remarried. And while Jo is frozen in front of him, Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) arrives to introduce herself; Jo’s ex is the famed Dr. Paul Stadler (Matthew Morrison) — a revelation that makes his presence in Jo’s life all the more horrifying. To further twist the knife in Jo’s side, her text warning Alex (Justin Chambers) that their young patient shouldn’t be given heparin didn’t go through — the kid’s been given a dosage that could threaten his life.

Making matters even worse is Paul’s public charm. His fame and groundbreaking surgical research make him seem trustworthy, so Richard (James Pickens Jr.) agrees to let him help out during the cyberattack.

One of the first places he goes is Meredith’s (Ellen Pompeo) operating room. When we last saw Meredith, her patient was in need of blood. Without access to the blood bank, she allowed an intern — a famously incompetent one nicknamed “Glasses” after his glasses fell into the body of a patient during surgery — to donate blood. When the intern passed out, Paul arrived to assist Meredith. She recognized his name immediately, and knew not to hold him in such high esteem.

Last season, when Alex found out about Jo’s marriage (he had proposed to her and she was forced to turn him down, as she didn’t want anyone to know about her abusive marriage to Paul), he searched for him and found him being honored at a surgical conference. Given that Alex and Meredith are peas in a pod, he told her that he’d learned Jo’s abuser was the famed Dr. Paul Stadler. Now that he’s standing on the other side of her operating table, she’s not about to let him off easy. She allows him to continue assisting her out of necessity, but advises him: “I know who you are. I’m friends with Jo Wilson.”

Unsurprisingly, Paul is manipulative. He tries to play off his relationship with Jo as one where she ran off with his money. He claims that she was an alcoholic, that growing up alone in her car made her unwilling to accept his “help.”

The painful irony and saving grace of this scene is that Jo was listening in from the gallery above. He can’t lie without her knowledge. Meanwhile, Alex has since learned of Paul’s arrival and sends an intern to find Jo.

In another wing of the hospital, Maggie (Kelly McCreary) and Jackson (Jesse Williams) have just returned to the hospital after trying to fly with their patient to another hospital. En route, their helicopter encountered turbulence that sprayed their patient’s blood everywhere — resulting in their immediate need for a shower and some obvious moments of flirtation. Good to know “Grey’s” won’t be dropping their romantic conflict (driven by the fact that they’re related via their parents’ marriage) this season.

All the while, Chief Miranda Bailey is doing her darndest to end the cyberattack with the help of an intern, Casey Parker (Alex Blue Davis), who has experience in cybersecurity. After spending the day getting the hospital’s power back, Casey feels comfortable enough disclosing to Miranda that he’s a trans man.

Later, Jo catches up with Meredith and Alex in the hallway, where Meredith assures Jo that she supports, trusts and believes her. Jo wants to be divorced, and Meredith isn’t going to let her be alone with Paul. The two women meet with Paul. The papers are signed. Jo calls Paul what he is: “a monster.”

Jo enlists Arizona’s help in distracting Paul so that she can check in with his fiancée, Jenny (Bethany Joy Lenz), who is dismissive at first. Jo shares her experiences and offers her support, as well as her cell phone number, before disappearing without Paul’s notice. At first the couple leave the hospital, but they — namely Paul — soon return to scare Jo.

Paul’s time is not up yet, but it soon will be. Especially because, at the end of the episode, he’s seen being treated for a serious head injury after a hit-and-run.

‘How to Get Away with Murder’

Mitch Haaseth/ABC/Courtesy

Last we saw, Laurel (Karla Souza), Michaela (Aja Naomi King) and Asher (Matt McGorry) witnessed Simon’s (Behzad Dabu) accidental death — he shot himself with a gun Laurel brought to Caplan & Gold as a precaution in case their plan to gather evidence against her father, Jorge Castillo (Esai Morales), backfired. Clearly, the plan backfired anyway. The night ended with Asher in jail and the early delivery of Laurel’s baby. As Laurel lay unconscious inside an elevator, Annalise resuscitated the baby. By the finale’s end, everyone’s safety and survival were still up in the air. Especially because the one piece of evidence that can be used to incriminate the Keating Four — a hard drive holding the Castillo files — was left in Laurel’s purse inside the elevator.

The show’s return drops right back in on the drama, with Annalise trailing behind Laurel and her baby as they arrive at a hospital. Connor (Jack Falahee), the only member of the Keating Four who didn’t witness Simon’s death, updates Annalise on the shooting and visits Annalise’s ex-boyfriend and confidant Nate (Billy Brown) for help. Soon after, Frank (Charlie Weber) arrives at the hospital, desperate for updates.

Last season, the father of Laurel’s baby was still in question after we learned that she and Frank slept together while she was dating Wes — thus, either of them could plausibly be the father. When tensions rose between Frank and Laurel again, he offered to co-parent her child regardless of whether not he was the baby’s biological father.

When the doctor emerges from Laurel’s room unable to update Annalise or Frank, given that they’re not family, Frank announces that he’s the father. Afterward, the pair is allowed to visit the baby.

Not long after, investigators from the Department of Human Services show up, questioning Laurel’s well-being and Frank’s belief that he is the baby’s father. In the process, Annalise spots Jorge donning a medical gown in the distance. Of course he’s orchestrating a plan to separate Laurel from her baby and have her declared an unfit mother — he ordered the murder of the baby’s actual father, Wes, and believed Laurel had aborted the child months ago.

Obviously Annalise is having none of this garbage. She immediately calls bullshit on the separation of Laurel and her child, declares that she’s Laurel’s attorney, and asks Human Services to have Laurel’s paperwork sent to her immediately. The paperwork, clearly falsified by Jorge Castillo, states that Laurel was coked out during the delivery and illustrates a history of mental health issues.

Annalise immediately calls her therapist, Isaac (Jimmy Smits), for help; if he can do a psychological evaluation for Laurel, she can prove the documents are lies. She also knows that she can blackmail Isaac into helping her, because he and his wife inappropriately discussed her sessions and she can thus report them for misconduct.

Back at Caplan & Gold, Michaela and Oliver speak to the police about Simon’s death. They come up with a story that makes it sound like Simon purposefully committed suicide, but Asher told the police the truth. Even though Asher didn’t have anything to do with Simon’s death, he still picked up the gun afterward — he knew his DNA would be on the gun. Later, Michaela has to own up to stealing her boss’s keycard in order to try to access files on Laurel’s father. Tegan (Amirah Vann), who took Michaela under her wing, knows Michaela is lying when she says Simon “stole” her keycard, because it was Michaela who was holding Tegan’s purse throughout the night.

It seems their cover is fading fast, and there’s a familiar sense that everything is falling apart.

Soon, Laurel wakes up in the hospital’s psych ward. Outside the hospital, Connor screams that Michaela should have said “no” when Laurel asked her for help holding her father accountable for Wes’ murder. He believes that Laurel’s baby is dead and holds Michaela responsible. All the while, Jorge has the baby transferred to another hospital.

After an intense moment of panic, Laurel reveals that Dominic (Nicholas Gonzalez), who murdered Wes and is effectively her father’s henchman, called her the night before to warn her not to upset Jorge. Because she didn’t heed Dominic’s warning, Laurel feels she doesn’t deserve to be the baby’s mother. Later, Dominic is seen asking questions at Caplan & Gold. Jorge clearly already knows of Laurel’s plan, and it could be because Dominic tattled on the Keating Four.

Later, thanks to Bonnie and her connections at the defense attorney’s office, Oliver is able to finally leave Caplan & Gold with Connor. The couple, along with Bonnie, soon arrive at the hospital to find Michaela attempting to call the prison where Asher is being held. Bonnie returns Laurel’s purse to her, only for them all to find that the hard drive is no longer there.

Annalise points out that it can’t be Jorge who stole the hard drive. If he can gain custody of the baby, he believes Laurel will back off investigating him for Wes’ murder. He’s trying to take the baby because he thinks Laurel and the Keating crew have evidence against him — he thinks they have the hard drive.

If the Keating Four don’t have it and Laurel’s father doesn’t have it, who has the hard drive? Whoever it is holds almost every character’s fate in their hands.

In a momentary release of the episode’s immense tension, Asher is released from jail because all the evidence against him is circumstantial. The relief doesn’t last long. (It never can).

It turns out Simon isn’t actually dead — he’s only unconscious in a hospital bed recovering from a gunshot wound to the head. This means the three who witnessed the accident are all in danger again, particularly Michaela and Oliver, who lied to the police.

And now Oliver has a second target on his back: Dominic found out that he was the one who accessed Jorge Castillo’s files at Caplan & Gold. Dominic didn’t get far in the search, however, because Frank attacked him in the parking lot and snapped his neck. That’s problematic for Laurel, who hoped that Dominic might be able to help her get the baby back.

It’s hard to believe that any episode could beat the finale’s level of intensity, but this week’s return may just have it beat. It’ll be a few weeks before there’s another sign of relief on “How to Get Away with Murder,” but this week proved that, even though Annalise tried to let her interns go, these characters are all deeply intertwined — they just can’t shake being tied to each other’s seemingly doomed fates.

Sophie-Marie Prime covers television. Contact her at [email protected].