Shonda Rhimes on "Sanctuary" and "Death and All His Friends"...
Original Airdate: 5-20-10
When I was a kid and I did something crazy, like climb on the roof or eat detergent to see how it tasted, my mom would say -- in that weary, exasperated, “I’d rather be on the beach” tone that all moms have – she would say, “Shonda, what do you have to say for yourself? WHAT?”
I tell you this because I am quite sure that if you saw the finale and you are reading this blog and you…I don’t know, like babies or Mer/Der or happiness or dancing it out…if you like those things, you are shouting, “Shonda, what do you have to say for yourself? WHAT?”
(I’d like to point out that the dark and twisty among you might not be shouting at all. You might be saying, “I get you, Sister! Solidarity!” Or maybe I’m just desperately hoping that is true.)
My point is, if you are asking what I have to say for myself, my answer is this:
I don’t know what to say for myself.
Honestly, I don’t. So I’m going to ramble for a while and see if I come up with something.
Ready? Here we go:
When I pitched this finale at the beginning of Season 6 (those of you who know me know that I pitch the end of the season first and we work towards it), when I pitched a gunman shooting up the hospital, it seemed fine.
Really it did.
And then 20 or so episodes later, I started to write it and it did not seem fine. It did not seem fine at all. On an almost daily basis, I would come into work and throw myself down on the sofa in the middle of the office and burst into tears like a…well, like a bitch baby. And I would tell the other Grey’s writers, “I don’t think I can do this. It’s too horrible. People are getting hurt. That man is shooting them.” Buckets of bitch baby tears. And Tony and Hammer and Pete and everyone on the writing staff would murmur encouraging things. My assistant Miguel would say, “You can do it! It’s going to be great!” in that cheerful Miguel way. And so I would suck up the bitch baby tears and keep writing.
But here’s the thing. It hurt to write this finale. It literally hurt me. Because in order to write these episodes, I had to walk in the shoes of Gary Clark. I had to think like a shooter. A person who would shoot Reed and Alex and Charles. A person who would shoot Derek. By the time I finished writing part one, I was sick. And depressed. Because my McDreamy – and I think you all will forgive me for believing he is more mine than anyone else’s because c’mon, I wrote my dream guy saying my dream things which is the reason I am single and the reason he is mine – my McDreamy was lying on my beloved catwalk dying. Mer is screaming and he is dying. And, before you have me shot up with Thorazine and placed in a strait jacket, yes, I DO I know it’s a only TV show, I’m not insane, but dude…it felt too real. It felt WAY too real.
And here’s the thing you need to know: in my first draft of Part 1, Gary Clark shot Bailey. Bailey. He shot her. And I wrote it and then I couldn’t sleep, for days and days, I could not sleep and I had to remove it from the script. Bailey getting shot was just too much for me. She’s our anchor. She’s the soul. Mer is the heart but Bailey is the soul and so I had to delete it. Because there was no way I could go on if Bailey had a bullet wound. The world would just be too…broken. Derek was devastating enough but both Derek and Bailey…it meant I couldn’t go on.
And then I got to Part 2. I had shattered a world and now I needed to put it back together. Okay…wait:
Here is where many of you are yelling at me, where those of you who weren’t yelling maybe decide to START yelling. Right here. Right now. You want to know why I didn’t do a happy season finale. Why happy things were not happening to happy people in the happy finale. Why I would do what I did to Meredith. You are hollering, “I hate you and your stupid dark and twisty mind, Shonda Rhimes!”
(Except for y’all who roll with the dark and twisties. You don’t hate, you relate, right? Y’all are out there, still with me, right? Still got your dancing shoes and tequila bottles raised high in the air in solidarity, right? Crap. Not even you guys?)
I promise you, there was a reason for this.
Meredith is whole and healed. I love the scene where she tells April that it took her forever to find Derek and then it took her forever to realize she wanted to be his wife, have his kids. That’s a changed woman. The very fact that being pregnant makes her happy makes her a changed woman. And then she lost the baby. It took my breath away. That wince that Meredith gives before she says she is having a miscarriage, it took away my breath. Reed dies and Charles dies and it’s sad. But the miscarriage, that’s devastating. For Mer. For the audience. For everyone. But you don’t know how much you wanted something until you have lost it. You don’t know your true feelings until a thing you have is gone for good. And that’s what I wanted for Mer. I wanted her to realize just HOW BADLY she wanted a baby. Because Mer is me in a lot of ways. And I always thought I did not want a baby. Until I did. And then suddenly a baby was everything. I wanted her to be sure. Absolutely sure. See, she is a character who spends her life trying not to repeat the mistakes of her mother. She is trying to overcome. And so I needed her to be sure. I’ve said that Mer will never have kids but then I started to think of that as a challenge. How do I make Mer TRULY WANT to have kids? And so I told this story. It’s horrible and it’s sad.
It is also what I refer to as the bill. You eat a delicious meal at a delicious restaurant, you get a bill. You buy the expensive bag online, the bill comes due. You want in, you gotta pay. Same with life (or at least life as it plays out in my head). The scales have to be balanced. It’s the hideous game of fate our characters always play. She gets to keep her Derek but the very thing that makes it okay to keep him, that hideous stressful moment where she believes he’s dead? That’s the very thing that makes her lose the baby. The bill was due. And the collection agents came calling. I hate it but it’s the only way I know to do it – let the universe hand Mer a shiny pony and then kick Mer in the face. You don’t get to have everything. There’s always a price.
Cristina. This finale, especially the second half, belongs to Cristina. Owen chooses her, did you see that? Owen, faced with life or death, knows what he wants and what he wants is some Cristina Yang. But more importantly, Cristina truly comes into her own as a heart surgeon. She’s had numerous teachers, all kinds of setbacks but she finally had the right teacher, she had Teddy, and when she says to herself “pig or cow, Cristina” as she stands over Derek’s chest cavity…that was her graduation. When she refuses to stop operating with a gun literally pressed to her head, that was her commencement. Another part of her graduation? The girl who always had a hard time giving of herself emotionally gives like crazy in this episode. She is willing to die to save Derek because she loves Meredith so much and she promised Mer that she would do her very best work. Cristina Yang graduated tonight. Toss your caps in her honor.
Poor sweet Alex. He didn’t have much to say tonight. Because he got shot almost immediately. Which was a difficult choice for me to make. Because I love Alex and he’s so important to the show. You wanna see him TALKING. But he has that incredible moment. Where he’s asking for Izzie. And Lexie’s already said she loves him but it’s so clear that the only person he loves is Isobel Stevens and she’s nowhere to be found. And poor Mark has to watch all of this happening. Now, I will tell you guys this: I’m not so sure that Lexie really loves Alex. I think her realization that Gary Clark is the shooter has her feeling guilty, like Alex getting shot might be her fault. I think up until tonight she’s been walking like a duck. After all, Mer did tell her that her heart lives in her vagina. And her relationship with Alex is all about sex. I think she loves Mark Sloan but I think this Gary Clark thing has confused her. So there is hope. For Lexie and Mark, there is hope. It just may take a while.
Callie and Arizona. Are together! Yay! I don’t like them apart. They are so great as a couple, so funny and sweet and emotional, that keeping them apart was not even an option right now. This baby thing, it is hard. It is an impossible situation. But in the end, they were each willing to give a little. And that means they can make it work. No matter what they end up actually deciding on the baby front. When they kiss at the end, that’s the one bright spot we have to hold on to. They love each other. Nothing else matters.
This was one of my favorite, most painful Bailey stories. For a doctor to have to sit by and wait and watch as someone dies, to not be able to do anything, that is the greatest tragedy. When she pulls Charles onto her lap and tells him he is dying but he won’t die alone…well, there are no words. Because all through the finale, she was doing everything she could until there was nothing more to do. Except sit. And wait.
The Mercy Westers really came into their own tonight. Reed died and Charles died and that was awful but April and Jackson joined the tribe tonight. Mer pulled April in when she takes her hand. April lost her best friend and Mer understands that because she has a best friend of her own. And Jackson…he was Cindy Lou tonight. In the face of everything, it’s his quick thinking that saves the day. Sing, Cindy Lou, sing.
Did you see the Chief take back his hospital tonight? Because that’s what he did. He marched into his hospital and he took it back. He poured out the vodka and took control of his hospital. Except now the hospital’s not a hospital anymore. It’s a crime scene. And that’s not a good thing.
What happens next, in the aftermath of the shooting, is anybody’s guess. Well, not really. Because I know. But I can’t tell you. Until then, I suggest you buy the Season 6 DVD. I had to cut a good 18 minutes out of part 2 of the finale. 18 minutes of incredibly juicy goodness. Callie sings, Lexie gets thrown out of an ambulance, Cristina Yang makes the first cut into Derek’s chest, Bailey gives the Bailey aria of a lifetime. And you can only see it in the super-extended version on the DVD. If I ran the network (and I don’t and, in case he is reading this, let me say that I love my boss Steve McPherson deeply because he is strong and powerful and handsome and very smart) but if I did run the network, I would have put those 18 minutes on TV. But I don’t so the only way to enjoy the juicy 18 minute goodness is on the DVD. Okay?
Now, finally, I want to say this. Michael O’Neil who plays Gary Clark is a kind, sweet, gentle man who abhors violence. This was an emotionally difficult role for him to play. He had to step into the mind of a killer. And he did it with complexity and grace. He made Gary Clark three-dimensional. But we were all clear on one thing: the Gary Clarks of the world are the bad guys. Using a gun and shooting up a place makes you a bad person. I was very concerned that we not glorify the violence in the finale. There’s nothing charming about it. That’s why Reed’s death was done so brutally. I wanted it to not be pretty, not be okay. Because a gun is not the way to solve your problems.
I’ll say it again to make sure you hear me: a gun is not the way to solve your problems.
Have a good summer. We’ll see you in the fall. And thank you. For watching. Even if you are screaming, “What do you have to say for yourself!?” You make this all possible. The gratitude I feel is kinda boundless.