Published Oct 09, 2013For nine years, Grey's Anatomy show-runner Shonda Rhimes has detailed the ups and downs of a beloved group of doctors at Seattle Grace Hospital, presenting a complicated and highly emotional tapestry of human heartache and compassion. Whether or not such tactics hold appeal, it's impossible to deny that Rhimes knows how to tug at the heartstrings of viewers with her crafty emotional rollercoaster plotlines that vacillate between idiosyncratic whimsy and devastation.
Thematically and structurally, the ninth season focuses on transition, with the box set cover underscoring this with the tagline "Everything Changes" visible beneath the title. Season eight ended in one of the most horrific series cliff-hangers primetime television has ever seen — a fiery, incredibly bloody plane crash left a main character dead, while the rest of them fought for survival in a remote forest — and season nine spends its entire duration focusing on the effects the accident has on the surviving doctors, as well as the events that intervene, setting their lives on new paths.
The season premiere picks up several months after the plane crash occurred, with Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) grieving the death of her sister, Lexie (Chyler Leigh), while neurosurgeon Derek (Patrick Dempsey) deals with the possibility that a hand injury may have abruptly ended his career. Cristina (Sandra Oh), having fled after the tragedy to accept a new position at a hospital in the Midwest, can't bring herself to get on a plane; she's also struggling with her tumultuous marriage to fellow medical specialist Owen (Kevin McKidd). Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) has distanced herself from her wife, Callie (Sara Ramirez), dealing with a leg amputation and the role her lover had in allowing it to occur. Essentially, these doctors are attempting to cope with their losses and move forward while dealing with the guilt plaguing those that were directly responsible and those that chose not to board the plane that fateful day.
Beyond the issues surrounding the crash, the series trajectory of corporeal fallibility persists throughout these 24 episodes, dealing with the heartache of mental illness, as Webber (James Pickens Jr.) copes with his wife's (Loretta Devine) deteriorating cognitive status. While the majority of the significant plotlines tend towards perpetual struggle and emotional strife, there are many celebrations and life-defining moments to balance things out. The normally gruff and saucy Miranda (Chandra Wilson) gets married; Alex (Justin Chambers) falls in love with a kindred spirit; Meredith discovers the joys of motherhood; and, as is the case with every season, a new class of medical interns joins the cast, reiterating the sense of wonder this universe can have. While the original series characters are still the most beloved, the writers are very much aware that the show is reaching a milestone and needs to prepare for the same transitional period its characters are coping with. In tackling this, they manage to successfully balance the plots of the veterans with those involving newer faces to reinvent the show.
As is typical of Rhimes's devilishly creative mind, the season finale ends in yet another cliffhanger that leaves viewers anxious for the premiere of season ten. The bonus features included with the DVD pack are fairly light, but contain a trove of deleted scenes and a handful of outtakes. There's also a strange segment entitled "Happy Trails with Jim Pickens, Jr." which explores the actor's real-life passion for horses and the charity he's involved with — something that presumably stemmed from contract negotiations. "The Long Road Home" takes a look at Arizona's amputation storyline and how the plot was approached, in addition to the special effects that were involved in making her a believable amputee. While the DVD contains an extended episode of the season finale, it's unfortunate that it completely omits an audio commentary. (Buena Vista)