Thursday, April 23, 2009

USA Today: Welcome Back, Grey's Anatomy

It's fitting that the redemptive power of a well-delivered apology is one of the show's running themes over the next two weeks. If ever a series was in need of seasonal redemption, it's this one. Happily, for those still willing to forgive, the first two post-hiatus outings are Grey's at its moving, funny, broad-stroke best — so good, they may even make up for the midseason slump that preceded them.

There's no question that the Return of Dead Denny story line tested the patience of even the most devoted fans, going on too long, going way too far, and turning Izzie into a sex-crazed idiot while exceeding the bounds of acceptable Grey's silliness. Still, the show has a habit of (or talent for) wandering down seemingly unpromising byways only to arrive at a surprisingly felicitous destination. So it has again, as Izzie's battle with cancer has brought Katherine Heigl back into the fold and the show back on point.

As always, multiple stories play out, most reflecting upon each other. Izzie's cancer and Meredith and Derek's upcoming wedding are driving plot points, but other issues and characters hover around, from George's gift for trauma surgery to Owen's inability to deal with his own traumas.

Parental issues also come to the fore. Next week, Izzie gets a visit from her mother (Sharon Lawrence); this week, Callie gets a visit from her father (Hector Elizondo), a story that finally puts a meaningful spin on Callie's sexuality, rather than reducing it to a tease or a joke.

There are light moments, but you're more likely to remember the somber ones: Bailey pleading sotto voce with a father to hug his dying child and accept the inevitable, or another character finding a way to say "I love you" when the words themselves won't work. This is Grey's as you hope it will be, pinning its flourishes to real feelings and keeping its exaggerations to a minimum.

Even so, TV is not a one-size-fits-all medium: If this show has never worked for you, it probably won't Thursday night. This is not a transformative episode; it's a return to form, proof that within that form, as Meredith says, "We can always try to be better, to do better."

Well done.

By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY

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