We knew that the Season 9 premiere of “Grey’s Anatomy” would make us cry. We thought we were prepared. We had tissues. We had wine. We had Mom on speed dial.
We were not prepared. Going into the premiere, we knew two things for sure. Eric Dane would be leaving the show early in the season, and that Arizona’s (Jessica Capshaw) storyline was an enormous secret that Shonda Rimes went to great lengths to conceal this summer. (Okay, so we all kind of figured out what was going to happen ages ago. But still.) We didn’t know how Dane’s exit would go, or whether Capshaw — who is pregnant in real life — would remain a series regular.
Of course, there were plenty of ways things could go for Mark Sloan. After the loss of Lexie, he could choose a new life path, and leave Seattle — though he didn’t seem the type to ditch his daughter.
As the episode soldiered on, it became increasingly clear that we’d be saying goodbye not only to Dane, but to Mark. The father, friend, and mentor had asked that his machines be turned off after 30 days without responding, and he spent the episode hooked up to machines in his bed. But we still got to remember our favorite McSteamy in his best, most vibrant moments — as Derek’s best man and best friend, as an indelible part of Callie’s family, as a man who loved Lexie Grey and saw a future for them, and, finally, as a father, who was so crazy in love with his daughter it made our ovaries ache.
There were a few moments when we thought there might be a miracle. When he was taken off the machines, it seemed to take Mark forever to die. But there were no more miracles for Mark Sloan — he died with Derek and Callie by his side. (Don’t even get us started on the fact that Meredith bailed on Derek that night. Don’t even.) Add him to the list, “Grey’s” fans.
We’ll see Mark’s final lucid moments in next week’s flashback to the plane crash, so we were grateful for these little reminders of his vitality and spark before we see him in his darkest hour again. Mark’s character was truly paid the respect he deserved, and hopefully Dane felt honored as by the goodbye episode.
Oh, yeah, and as for Arizona? Though it was hinted throughout the episode that she’d died at the scene of the crash, that wasn’t the case. Instead, she was home in bed… mourning the loss of her leg.
Capshaw’s appearance in the episode was brief but truly striking as her depression, anger, and feelings of betrayal burst through. After all, it was Callie, her orthopedic surgeon wife, who decided to amputate the limb — and, as we saw in the preview for next week’s episode, she’d made a promise not to do that very thing.
“I am infinitely delighted that Arizona
lives,” Capshaw tweeted after the premiere. “How she lives in this season will certainly be a wild ride. I
thank you all for your support.”
As for the rest of the team? Here are the basics: Owen went to get Kepner back, vowing to be a better teacher. Meredith is known as “Medusa” to her interns, while Bailey — the former “Nazi” — has been dubbed “Booty call Bailey” after her many rendezvous with her fiance. Jackson spent the last month talking to Mark as if he was still alive, so we expect to see some serious mourning there, since he obviously hasn’t quite come to terms with reality. Derek’s hand went numb during his first attempted surgery, so his career prospects are looking ominous right now. Cristina is at a hospital in Minnesota that just doesn’t seem to fit her sensibilities. And Karev has decided to stay, heading up the pediatric department that Arizona had to abandon. Oh yeah — and Cristina, Karev, and Meredith are all having a little trouble getting on a plane. You can imagine why.
Your turn, “Grey’s Anatomy” fans. Tell us what you thought of this episode and whether it was a fitting goodbye for McSteamy.