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Grey's Anatomy Reveals The Magic Beneath The Medicine

Arizona On the surface of things, modern hospitals appear to be huge analytical monsters built on the solid foundations of science with no room for gambles or magic. They house hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of white technology. The doctors are cool and rational. Every thought and action is based on a mountain of research. And yet, even though it's been forced into hiding, when you look hard enough (relax your eyes. let them go blurry), there's a little bunny hiding inside every surgeon's scrub cap. Grinning. Waggling its eyebrows. Waving at you.

Arizona took the lead in a big way on this episode. I hope she fronts a lot more stories in the future and it's not just because she's a hot lesbian. She brings a lot of emotion to the hospital. And that's how she let's the magic sneak in.

Before she allowed some doctors into her pediatric unit, she had this to say: "These are children. They believe in magic. They play pretend. There is fairy dust in their IV bags. They hope. They cross their fingers and they make wishes. In peds, we have miracles and magic. In peds, anything is possible."

My imagination unspooled. I was ready for Grey's Anatomy to bring some crazy shit by blurring the distinction between fiction and the real. Have imaginary figures interacting with real figures and getting confused about the difference. That's just my thing, you know? I don't want my fiction too realistic. I want my real life more fictional. Impossible? Sounds like a dare to me.

Craig magician

But the episode's magic was more subtle. When Wallace, one of Arizona's young patients, was feeling tired, getting sicker, his mother waved her hands all around his face while casting a spell: "Bad dreams, bad dreams, go away. Good dreams, good dreams, here to stay." When she stopped, Wallace reminded her that the spell's effectiveness required three repetitions. She did it two more times and he drifted off to sleep.

The theme was approached with less effectiveness by Alex saving a premature baby by holding her to his bare chest. And Yang abandoning medical protocol to intuitively perform a very difficult procedure that was technically beyond her. There are gambles and risks and magic in the hospital. But I wanted more. I wanted magic beans and dream animals chanting incoherent jumbles of mystical cure. Burning sage. Milk thistle tea. Visions.

So then Wallace needs surgery and the surgery is IMPOSSIBLE and I was getting ready for the big yawn of Arizona saving him because abracadabra, anything is possible in the magic circle of childhood. To be honest. I was getting pissed off. I want my magic magical, dammit.

But then Wallace is 11 and dead and his parents are crying and, damn Grey's Anatomy, can't you even pull of some cliched magic? I mean what the hell? Where's the fairy dust in Wallace's IV? Couldn't you make him dead for a few minutes and then have some wizard inspire him back to life, telling him that his journey is not yet finished? At least throw in some hobbits.

In the morgue, Wallace's mother begins her chant: "Bad dreams, bad dreams, go away. Good dreams, good dreams, here to stay." but then she breaks down. Hysterical, she can't finish. And it it just this moment. Right here. Where the fate of the whole world hangs, teetering.

*

My wife is a nurse, the director of palliative care for three hospitals all across the city. The short job description is that she attends to the suffering of people as they die. I don't get to see her in action, so I can only imagine. But I do get to read the grateful outpourings in the cards sent by the families of her patients. I see the flowers and the gifts and I eat all the chocolate they give her. And I also get to attend a very fancy dinner Saturday night because she's a finalist for our state's Nurse Of The Year.

Every day, she comforts people as they die. And then at night, she coos and sings our children free of their nightmares.

*

Arizona opted to not say something cool and clinical like "I'm very sorry." or "We did everything we could." Instead, she recited the chant two more times over Wallace's dead body. A spell's effectiveness requires three repetitions.

And so the magic is subtler than my craving for extravagant hocus pocus. Rather, magic is the only explanation for the ability of some people to remain caring people with genuine kindness in their hearts while spending most of their lives steeped in death and hopelessness.

Good luck, Jenna.







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Comments

Carrie

You know, I didn't really like your stuff when you first started writing here but you're totally growing on me. I don't even watch this show but your recap made me cry.

PS Congrats to your wife.

Rachel

I always enjoy your recaps and articles. And I wish your wife all the best. It sounds like she is an amazing person who cares and supports people through the most difficult times in their lives. More people like her deserve recognition and praise.

DianaCLT

What Carrie said.

Also - your wife must be so amazing. So strong. Cannot fathom doing what she does. What an awesome thing for her to do. Good luck!

Jessi

You know, I used to love this show. Then I hated this show. Then I started reading your recaps because I could continue to hate the show, never have to watch it and still have some clue who was alive and who was dead. I take great enjoyment from that. This was an awesome recap. Beautiful.

Also, good luck Jenna!

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