10 Shows and Movies That Have Brightened Up Quarantine Life

As we navigate a global pandemic, here are 10 shows and movies that might bring some much-needed joy into the mundane.

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

Jenn's Pick: Top 15 Jeff/Annie Moments

In 2013, Jenn put together a list of the 15 best Jeff/Annie moments. Revisit and discover those memories!

Friday, May 7, 2021

Girls5Eva and Why Fun TV is So Necessary [Contributor: Jenn]

Not everything written about television has to be a critical analysis.

I know that’s a shocker, especially coming from the person who takes immense joy and pride in critically analyzing plot and character development. I like to pick apart scenes and try to get inside the minds of the showrunners and writers. I make grand, sweeping analyses that clock in over a thousand words most of the time. But sometimes television isn’t meant to be pulled apart and examined with a fine-tooth comb. Sometimes television is just meant to be fun.

2020 was an awful year, and though widespread COVID-19 vaccine distribution and a new president are making me a feel a little more hopeful, I have to admit that the world is still pretty gross. When the world feels heavy and dark, the last thing I usually want to watch is something equally heavy and dark. That’s why I spent so much of the last year watching or rewatching good comedies — Ted Lasso, Mythic Quest, Never Have I Ever, Julie and the Phantoms, etc. — that lifted my spirits. Did I care that a Netflix series about a girl and a bunch of ghosts from a 90s band was occasionally cheesy or not aimed at my demographic? No! Because it made me smile and the songs made me bop. I needed television to be my companion last year. And I needed it to be my hype woman; I wanted reminders that people are still good and that there’s still hope.

So no, I didn’t feel guilty for watching things that were just fun and maybe a little silly. And nor should you. Life is too short to do things that don’t add joy to your life. My friend and audio editor for our Community Rewatch podcast, Chels, often reminds me of this because she intentionally doesn’t use the phrase “guilty pleasure.” Her argument is that you shouldn’t feel shame about the things that bring you joy. If you love reality television more than the shows nominated for Emmys or you love Netflix rom-coms way more than anything nominated for an Oscar, don’t feel guilty about that. It doesn’t make you any less of a person!

Girls5Eva is a series that did make me laugh and feel joy. Is it a little out-there sometimes? Duh-doy. With Tina Fey behind the scenes, the series often gives off some Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and 30 Rock vibes. But when I say that the show is absurd or wild or out there, I’m not being dismissive; I think a lot of people equate “absurd” with “bad” and that’s just not the case. I think comedies like this are great because they’re unashamedly, authentically themselves. That’s something important I ask of television: Whatever you choose to be, commit to it. Don’t try to apologize for what you are; if you want to be a little silly, embrace your quirks and the absurdities.

The most important thing when it comes to more absurd shows is that they’re grounded in something. Sometimes television series get too carried away with their cartoonish characters and wild situations and miss the point that in order to be relatable, they need to be rooted. And Girls5Eva generally is grounded in reality. It’s rooted in the love that these four women have for one another and the fact that they’re all equally longing for something. They spend most of the eight episodes of this show just being glad they can be together again.

GIRL GROUPS RULE

A quick rundown for those of you who haven’t watched this Peacock television show: A bunch of women were in a girl group 20 years ago and decide to reunite but face challenges in this new landscape of music and life. The series stars Sara Bareilles, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Busy Philipps, and Paula Pell as the women from Girls5Eva. (Ashley Park recurs as the fifth group member who died years ago and Erika Henningsen plays the younger version of Paula’s character, Gloria.)

Created by Meredith Scardino, this show is all about the struggles that the adult women face to get back in the music game after being away from it for so long. It’s about motherhood and relationships and comedic shenanigans. And it also features some really fun original music. What I loved most about Girls5Eva is that it’s pure serotonin and really lets all of the actresses lean hard into being comedic giants. Busy Philipps, in particular, has an absolute blast with her character, Summer. Summer is a genuinely loving and enthusiastic person but the way Busy gets to draw out words and chew scenery is absolute perfection. Busy has always been so great at sitcom deliveries (R.I.P, Cougartown) and Girls5Eva is no exception. Likewise, Paula Pell plays Gloria, the openly gay woman in their girl group who’s also a dentist. If you like her character on A.P. Bio then you’ll find her Girls5Eva alter-ego to be equally fun and satisfying. (And honestly pretty similar in tone and delivery.) Paula has a great knack for subtle little comedic bits and physical comedy which gets to come out in this show.

I really also enjoyed getting the chance to watch Renée do some comedy work! She’s so fun as Wickie, a very confident and bold woman who can be sort of a narcissist. Her interactions with Sara Bareilles’ Dawn are so great and the two play off each other quite well. I love that we get the chance to see Renée embrace this fun character. She too gets to chew scenery and do some fun physical comedy. And I love Sara Bareilles. The show treats Dawn sort of like Parks and Recreation treated Ben Wyatt: More often than not, she’s the “straight man” in a world of comedic and quirky madness, but occasionally (like with her song “I’m Afraid” which made me cackle so much) Sara really gets to lean into some silliness and that’s where she shines.

As I noted above, the show contains original songs which are so great! Dawn’s song made me laugh the hardest in the show, but the theme song, “Famous 5eva,” will get stuck in your head. As proof that the show really leans into its silliness and absurdist comedy, even the more “serious” songs in the show, lyrically, include funny jokes and references. It feels very realistic because these women are learning how to write their own stuff and embrace their imperfections. For example, here’s a lyric: “Already graduated from salad school.”

There’s a moment in the show too that took me out in the best way: It’s a scene where Dawn and Wickie are seated at a piano singing together. And for just a moment, I wasn’t looking at these two characters but at Sara and Renée, vocal powerhouses, doing a beautiful little impromptu duet. 

If you’re a fan of Broadway and musical talent, then Girls5Eva really is for you. As stated earlier, we get a Mean Girls: The Musical mini-reunion with flashback scenes between Ashley Park and Erika Henningsen, but Andrew Rannells also recurs in the show as Kev, Summer’s husband and former boy band member. Other notable guest stars include Vanessa Williams, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert (yes, he’s great).

Of course, even though I found the show to be pure fun and can accept it as such, I still have a few qualms. The episodes are fairly inconsistent in terms of length and focus; some characters (like Gloria, even though she has one storyline to herself in episode 5) seem to get less development because of that and often shenanigans take up more time than character development. There aren’t a lot of truly serious moments in the show which does mean that it feels a little bit lighter and fluffier by the time you reach the finale. And even though I watched all eight episodes, I’m still not sure the show knows if Dawn or Wickie is supposed to be the main character; the argument is made for Dawn since she seems to have the most screentime and the series begins with her as the catalyst. But Renée as Wickie gets a lot of character development with her arc so I’m also not sure if she’s the lead.

WHY WE NEED FUN, GOOD TV

Even though I have some qualms, they don’t override the point I made at the top of this post: I’ll always have qualms even if the show I watch is just for fun because that’s how I’m wired as a person and writer. But the point of Girls5Eva isn’t necessarily to provide me with fodder for a deep dive on character analysis; it was to emphasize the realities for adult women in the music industry (“Alf Musik” is a great episode for that) and demonstrate what happens to female friendships when you get older and go through marriages, divorces, and kids. Ultimately, it’s a show about women chasing their dreams, no matter how much the world may tell them they can’t or shouldn’t.

There’s a scene in the season finale where Summer, Dawn, and Gloria verbally run through the risks of doing something wild to fulfill a dream. Summer lists all the things that could go wrong and the women agree that there’s so much they’re risking if they do something. But then Dawn asks what’ll happen if they choose to not take a risk, and Summer talks about how they’ll all probably still be happy and successful women but will also likely have this nagging thought in the back of their mind that’ll always wonder what could have been.

I loved that moment because it’s so relatable: We all have the chance to do something that’ll cost us. But are we willing to take that risk and be able to look ourselves in the eye, knowing we did everything we could to fulfill our dream?

Girls5Eva is fun, bright, and full of catchy pop music. (And for a show about women, I was pleased to see a variety of women credited as directors and writers for the eight episodes. It doesn’t always happen, people.) If you have Peacock and are looking for something quick and light to binge — it’s only eight episodes at roughly 20-30 minutes each — then this girl group is for you! 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

WandaVision 1x06 Review: “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” (Ghosts) [Guest Poster: Hannah E.]


“All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”
Original Airdate: February 12, 2021

Pietro returns from the dead, Wanda sees a ghost, and Vision talks to a witch, all as Halloween comes to Westview.

Spoilers for all nine episodes of WandaVision!

Starting the episode before last, WandaVision strung together three weeks of absolutely incredible television culminating in “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”A lot of people consider this the show’s best episode and while I don’t have it quite that high, I really love this episode. Not only is it extremely well-written, it’s just fun to watch. I’ve seen it five or six times and it holds up on every watch.

Starting with the weakest point of the episode, I do think everything to do with SWORD begins to have diminishing returns at this point in the season. As I’ll get into later, it’s normally a strength of the show that almost everything, plot and theme, is tied to Wanda. Westview is literally a physical manifestation of Wanda’s psyche, and through that the show has a great avenue to dive deep into her arc and the themes that accompany it. Vision is a natural extension of her, and his plotline dovetails nicely with hers while sharing the same climax and themes.

Then there’s SWORD. Apart from existing within the same TV show, it has very little connective tissue to Wanda. Where everything inside the Hex thrives on its strong themes and characterization, SWORD exists solely as a plot device. The typical role of an antagonist in a story is to provide conflict and push the main character forward, but both of those roles are already filled in better ways by other characters in the narrative — Wanda’s grief functions as the main antagonist, and Agatha serves to externalize Wanda’s inner conflict. That means SWORD’s, and more specifically Hayward’s, role in the narrative is already redundant twice over. Everything that happens in this storyline starts to feel expendable because it is. 

So why did WandaVision include it at all? I think the answer lies in the broader cinematic universe WandaVision takes place in. Marvel had two main motivations for adding this plotline: The first is that they were taking a pretty big risk in anchoring a show around two minor characters from the movies and filming it as if it were a series of period accurate sitcoms. Most of the episodes in this show mark the biggest tonal and visual departure the MCU has ever had. By including SWORD, Marvel was able to give fans something that felt safe and textbook MCU. That’s why they filled the supporting cast out with familiar faces like Darcy and Jimmy. The second reason Marvel had for including SWORD is that they wanted to re-introduce the “real” Vision to the MCU and needed a way to resurrect him. It’s crucial to Wanda’s character arc that her Vision die at the end, which means they needed some outside force to make a second one. 

For those reasons, the SWORD plotline never really feels like it belongs in the show. Hayward is by far the least compelling character of the entire show. The writers attempt to give him a few motivations for acting the way he does, but there’s never enough time or interest devoted to him to make it land at all. Thankfully the writers seemed to recognize this and minimize him as much as possible for the rest of the season.

The best part of the SWORD storyline is Monica, and that’s because she’s the most closely tied to Wanda. Her grief for her mother plus the time she spent inside the Hex gives her a tangible connection to the best part of the show. There’s a particular line in this episode that really stands out to me every time I watch it; when Darcy tells Monica that her lab results show her cells changing at a molecular level because of her many times entering and exiting the Hex, Monica replies with: “I’ve seen enough bloodwork to last a lifetime. Cells metastasizing, cells in remission. I know what Wanda’s feeling and I won’t stop until I help her.”

One theme the show consistently returns to is reliving trauma. Wanda’s biggest moment in the MCU prior to this was when she had to kill Vision at the end of Infinity War, only for Thanos to rewind time and kill him again. And the nightmares we see Wanda have are literally reliving her past traumas, seeing Vision’s corpse in episode four and then seeing her brother’s corpse in this episode. The above quote from Monica shows that she too has had to relive trauma, going through the endless cycles of her mother’s cancer. One moment it seems like the cancer is in remission and her mother will live, the next she’s dying again. That line is the only time in the SWORD story where it feels thematically connected to everything happening in Westview.

That leads me to the Hex side of the episode. Like I said earlier, the strength of this show is how tightly rooted it is in Wanda, and this episode explores her character so well. Especially the way it ties Westview into her arc; the town is created by her and adapts itself around her desires, which is why this episode takes place in the theme of a 2000’s sitcom. Prior decades of the genre placed heavy emphasis on how perfect the married couple was, but the 2000’s opened the door to dysfunctional marriages. In an episode of Dick van Dyke, Wanda and Vision’s tension would feel out of place; but in Malcolm in the Middle, it feels at home. By advancing her show forward a couple decades, Wanda is able to tell herself her marriage will be happy by the time the credits roll.

It’s also no coincidence that it’s Halloween, or as Billy tells us a holiday all about the “thrill of getting to be someone else for a day”. Everyone on Halloween dresses up and pretends to be someone else. Of course, Wanda has been pretending for her entire time in Westview, but she was so deep in denial she didn’t even know it. This is the first episode where she has a full understanding of the role she plays controlling the events of Westview, which is why the town now consciously acknowledges everybody is pretending to be someone they’re not. Wanda can’t emotionally handle her own life and finds her only solace in pretending, so she dives even deeper into her only coping mechanism by making it Halloween. 

The episode’s best moments are between Wanda and Pietro. It’s a real shame that all the attention paid to his character became about the question, “Is he or is he not the Quicksilver from the X-Men universe?” because the writers did some really tremendous character work in his scenes that seems to go unnoticed. Wanda is thoroughly unconvinced he’s really her brother until he says the one thing he remembers is the feeling that she needed him. Elizabeth Olsen plays the scene so beautifully subtle; in that moment you see Wanda so desperately wants to believe her dead loved ones are out there somewhere, in some way feeling her love for them, that she’s willing to believe this imposter is her brother. Grief is the villain of this series, and here it makes Wanda act against her own better judgement.

Pietro, who is really Agatha, knows exactly how to exploit Wanda’s sadness. As soon as he appeals to her grief, she’s willing to open up to him. It really highlights how profoundly lonely Wanda is that she’s so quick to open up to a man with a stranger’s face, and makes it all the more insidious that Agatha is using her dead brother to manipulate her. This scene is one I go back to time and time again when people complain that Wanda didn’t get enough “comeuppance” for her actions in Westview. What Wanda does to the people of Westview, controlling their actions and emotions to serve her own purposes, is exactly what Agatha is doing to her through Pietro. Wanda never would have opened up if not for believing she was talking to her brother, so Agatha parades the memory of him around like a carrot on a stick. And once Pietro earns Wanda’s trust, Agatha uses him to push Wanda into keeping the Hex running. The more Wanda understands of what she’s doing in Westview, the more she has doubts; Agatha, through Pietro, invokes the memory of Wanda’s dead parents to convince her that what she’s doing is okay. Agatha can’t mind control like Wanda, so she finds other ways to push Wanda into giving her what she wants.

Besides functioning as some karmic emotional punishment, this scene also serves to show how powerless Wanda can be. In both the comics and the MCU, she’s almost ridiculously overpowered — she’s basically a god amongst men. Since there’s no real weakness to exploit to defeat her powers, writers have to come up with some other way to make her story interesting. In WandaVision, it’s the grief she’s suffering. Agatha’s been trying for weeks to break through to Wanda with no success, but as soon as she plays on Wanda’s feelings of loss she finally starts to get somewhere. Even though Wanda is a significantly stronger witch than Agatha, she’s helpless against this kind of offense. 

The other way Agatha manages to emotionally weaken Wanda is by separating her from Vision. Agatha pretends to be a normal townsperson caught at the border of town, tricking Vision into thinking he’s unearthed her suppressed personality. In a genuinely haunting moment, she tells him he’s dead. That’s the push Vision needs to finally go to the border of town and try to break through. 

The scene of him slowly being ripped apart as he leaves Westview is visually stunning and also a really strong bit of character writing. At this point, Vision doesn’t really have anything; he knows he loves Wanda and his kids, but he doesn’t even know who they are outside of Westview, which he knows is a fake town populated by people in pain. This is a Vision stripped of everything except his most core values. And in this moment we see that helping people is the most important thing to him. As he’s dying, he calls out not for someone to help him, but for someone to help the people of Westview. 

Wanda’s reaction to Vision’s near-death is another scene that perfectly illustrates the two sides of her. In one sense, this end scene is terrifying in how powerful it makes Wanda. We watch characters we’re rooting for, like Monica and Jimmy, barely escape the all-consuming borders of the Hex as another character we’re rooting for, Darcy, is re-written. But this scene also shows how painfully human Wanda is. Even though she has control over Westview, the whole thing rests on a house of cards. Her family could disappear in an instant and she knows it. Wanda may have powers that make her a god, but she only has human capacity to process the world around her. She’s a reactionary character — everything she does is in response to something, not of her own agency. The thing she reacts to most is grief. Everything she does is designed around denying that her grief exists — she creates Westview in response to seeing Vision’s corpse, changes decades when the outside world breaks in, and expands the borders when she’s confronted with the possibility of losing Vision again. She doesn’t do it to hurt anyone. When Billy tells her that Vision is in trouble, she reacts with sheer panic and does the only thing she knows will save him: She freezes time, expands the Hex, and consumes SWORD into her false world. 

Odds and Ends:

  • Agnes’ Halloween costume is, of course, a witch.
  • Billy and Tommy get their powers this episode. In the comics they go by Wiccan and Speed and are part of the Young Avengers, which it seems like Marvel is building up to in the near future.
  • The theatre marque is advertising two movies: The Incredibles, obviously a nod to the Maximoff’s becoming a superhero family, and Parent Trap, about someone pretending to be someone they’re not, a nod to Pietro being an imposter.
  • Vision and Wanda’s Halloween costumes are recreations of their original comic book outfits.
  • There’s a quick shot of SWORD agents carting the missile Wanda threw out of the Hex back to base. That’s going to come back in a big way a couple episode down the line.
  • This week in commercials is a claymation-style ad of a boy turning to bones as he struggles to open a container of Yo-Magic. The concept of magic bleeding someone dry is very relevant to Agatha which is to literally bleed other witches of their power and steal it as her own.
  • Hayward’s secret file is called “Cataract” because something is wrong with The Vision. For that pun alone he deserves to be the villain.
  • Darcy’s about to say the f-word until the Hex catches her and changes it to “fudge.” Glad to see Wanda’s keeping her show safe for Disney’s younger audiences.
  • I would consider this the first episode in which Wanda is actually aware of her actions — unlike prior episodes, she understands she can shift narratives and control plotlines. But even if you’re being ungenerous, the earliest you could say Wanda is aware that she controls Westview is last week’s episode. That means Wanda only spends two days, three at most, knowingly controlling the citizens of Westview. Not to downplay her actions, but that’s really not a lot of time when the lives of her husband and children were dependent on her maintaining Westview — especially because she didn’t know the citizens were in pain. I’ll definitely have more to say on this when I get to the finale, but it just feels like there’s a very gendered way in which certain segments of the audience are fixated on wanting Wanda to be punished more. In comparison to the catastrophic death counts the actions of characters like Thor, Tony, and Hulk have caused, Wanda’s actions in Westview are relatively tame. 

Never Have I Ever 1x07 Review: “... been a big, fat liar” (Uh-Oh) [Contributor: Jenn]


“... been a big, fat liar”
Original Airdate: April 27, 2020

Once upon a time, my mom told me that lies always catch up to you. She said this to remind me that even when you think a lie is small or harmful, it’s like a snowball. With enough time, it accelerates until it becomes an avalanche and destroys everything in its path. If it seems like a dramatic metaphor, you’ve probably never gotten caught in a lie before. But if you have (like me), you’ll relate to the sheer panic that Devi experiences in “... been a big, fat liar.” The thing about lies is that you have to keep feeding them in order for them to survive. You tell one lie, then another lie to cover up that lie, then a few more just to keep a story straight. Because Devi’s a teenager, she thinks she can keep up with her lies or stay ahead of them.

She’s wrong. Devi’s lies catch up to her in this episode but the saddest thing is that they don’t just irritate the people in her life; they do serious damage. Until she’s forced to confront her lies head-on, Devi is content to avoid them entirely.

TEENAGE FRIENDSHIP

I have to give grace to Devi because she’s a teenager, but she doesn’t quite understand the weight that lies — even lies of omission — have. She thinks about herself and tries to protect herself rather than address the hard stuff. Again, a teenager. Devi’s insecurities are what drive her a lot of the time though and they drive her to make poor decisions. For example, this episode focuses heavily on Devi trying to prove that she’s a good friend — not necessarily because she understands the pain she caused Fabiola and Eleanor but because she wants things to go back to the way they were. She wants to put a bandage on a problem rather than fix herself and admit that maybe she hasn’t been a good friend.

So Devi overcorrects in this episode while still missing the point. Eventually she does own up to her behavior but only when it’s a last resort. After a disastrous bake sale, Devi admits that she was trying to fix things because she knows she’s been a bad friend. But then something happens at the end of the episode: Devi gets a text from Paxton. In a moment of crisis for Eleanor, Devi is faced with a choice. She can go be with her friend or she can pursue the guy she’s been obsessed with.

Are we surprised at what she chooses? Of course not. When Devi is fixated on something, it’s like she has blinders on. She can’t see anyone or anything else. And that’s actually a good thing — not because it’s right but because it makes her a complicated main character. I love that we don’t root for Devi by the end of this episode. I like that she blows up at her friends, and I like that she’s selfish. It means that we have to grapple with those own traits within ourselves; it forces us to remember that people aren’t just strictly good or bad but that they’re an array of complexities and flaws.

MOMS ARE PEOPLE TOO

Joyce is a selfish mom. That pretty much goes without saying. She abandons her daughter multiple times in order to pursue what she wants. But it’s interesting to see an adult’s selfishness contrasted with a teenager’s in this episode. Because even though Nalini and Elise are portrayed as stringent and tough by their children, we can see glimpses into their behaviors as mothers when we contrast them with Joyce. Nalini and Elise may be tough but they’re loving; they’re incredibly wary when Joyce returns to town because it’s revealed that when the girls were younger, Joyce left them at a carnival to go to an audition. While the teenagers are oblivious to the dangers that a flighty parent can have on a child, Nalini and Elise aren’t.

I love this episode because it shows that actions have consequences and selfish actions can harm entire family units. But it also shows that love comes in all forms as moms. Nalini loves Devi and even though her rules seem strict, we’ll learn in a few episodes that Nalini does everything out of love, even while she’s intensely grieving. She’s a mom but she’s also a human being. And similarly, when Fabiola comes out to her mom, Elise, in this episode we get the chance to see her reaction. She’s shocked for a moment or two because she’s processing, but that doesn’t mean she’s unsupportive. She reminds Fabiola that she loves her and she’s always going to love her, and that she accepts her for who she is. One of my favorite things Elise does is when Fabiola comes out, Elise asks if she’s been trying to tell her for a while. Fabiola says she has been, and Elise says that it must have been hard for her to deal with the weight of that. It’s a small moment, but a lovely one to see a parent acknowledge their child’s emotional burdens and validate them.

Overall, “... been a big, fat liar” is an episode that’s a catalyst not just for the plot but the emotional wreckage to come!

Favorite things:

  • “Nope, he’d just forgotten about her.”
  • “The truth is she was more flowered than a Rose Parade float.”
  • “Did you find out you’re Gryffindor like me?” “No, I’m obviously a Ravenclaw like Eleanor.” “They’re all Hufflepuff.”
  • “You really grew into your eyebrows.” “Thank you.”
  • “They’re too young for love and frankly to have a life.”

What did you all think of the episode? Sound off in the comments below!

Friday, April 30, 2021

Grey’s Anatomy 17x13 Recap: “Good as Hell” (Decision Day) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Good as Hell”
Original Airdate: April 22, 2021

It’s time for some big decisions to be made at Grey Sloan Memorial in the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Most of the episode revolves around Meredith, who is still in a COVID-induced sleep, and the group of doctors trying to help her heal. Mer’s COVID beach makes its return, which features some long-awaited moments between Mer and Derek. While everything in this episode is very predictable, there is a large amount of catharsis for the characters and the viewers that makes for a highly satisfying hour.

STARTING OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT

The episode begins with Mer walking on her mental beach alone. A few seconds later, we see Derek appear and start walking towards her. Mer greets him with a huge grin, and they go for a walk to do some talking, but we don’t get to hear their conversation at first. The scene shifts to inside the hospital, where Owen is waiting outside of an on-call room that Teddy is in. She is quite surprised to see her ex-fiancé waiting for her, and he was waiting to hear how her virtual therapy session was. Teddy’s not the most enthusiastic about therapy, so Owen distracts her by revealing the real purpose for his visit: wanting to show her something.

That something is a Grey Sloan Memorial ICU nurse being discharged from the hospital after a six-week battle with COVID. It is a happy morning for the entire hospital and many doctors, nurses, and hospital staff are waiting in the halls and outside to clap the nurse out. Maggie and Winston are waiting near the nurse’s room for the clap out, and Winston informs the audience that it is his first official day at the hospital. He has joined Meredith’s team of dedicated doctors and informs Maggie that there is no change in her sister’s status. While they are upset that Mer is not improving, they are thrilled that the ICU nurse is the tenth COVID discharge of the week, which is giving everyone in the hospital a fresh dose of hope. The staff claps the nurse out of the hospital, and the nurse’s husband is waiting with flowers for her in the ambulance bay. More hospital staff, including Teddy and Owen, congratulate her outside. Owen hoped that seeing one of their own make a full recovery from COVID would bolster Teddy’s spirits, but it does the opposite. Teddy looks at Owen and says that the nurse should be Meredith before walking away. 

Schmitt and Jo miss out on the morning’s festivities by a few minutes. We catch up with them as they are walking into the hospital and chatting about their plans for the day. Jo is mad that Schmitt is skipping out of their weekly movie night because he wants to hang with Nico. Schmitt thinks Jo is overreacting, but she’s actually manifesting her anxiety about meeting with Bailey to talk about switching specialties. Jo asks Schmitt for his support, as she’s going to need some to weather Bailey’s impending storm. Talking of support, over at the sister house, Amelia accidentally interrupts Link during a virtual exam with a baseball player, Felix, who is a few months post-op of shoulder surgery. Amelia eavesdrops on the conversation and decides to hijack the call when she starts to think that the symptoms Felix is describing might be neurological in nature, much to the annoyance of Link. To be fair, Amelia simply thinks that she is helping her boyfriend and his patient.

Back at the hospital, Teddy, Richard, and Winston check in on Mer. Her stats are starting to get better, but her blood work from the morning shows elevated liver enzymes. They are a little worried about why her liver enzymes are elevated and why she can’t stay awake for more than two minutes at a time, so they collectively decide to order CT scans of Mer’s chest and abdomen to make sure nothing more is going on. Richard wants Teddy and Winston to do whatever they need to do to ensure that Mer doesn’t develop any new problems that they don’t know about. They are in full prevention mode, as they don’t want to see their friend take a turn for the worse again.

Over on the beach, we finally get to hear the deep conversation we have all been waiting for since Derek unexpectedly showed up in the second episode of the season. It starts off with Meredith asking Derek if he was in pain when he died. He explains that the worst part wasn’t the pain, but rather that the doctors were getting it wrong. He didn’t want to leave, but at a certain point he knew that he was going to die, which is what came across in that fateful season eleven episode. Mer tells Derek that she was at the hospital with him, and he tells her he knows with a smile on his face. Derek continues to say that dying is exhausting, which was something he didn’t previously understand. He explains it: “There comes a point where the desire to rest overwhelms the desire to live. You gave me permission to go. You told me it was okay. You gave me everything I needed until my last breath.” 

There shouldn’t be any dry eyes as those lines are beautifully delivered by Patrick Dempsey. These are important words for Mer and the audience, as we have all needed some closure on Derek’s death.

A WOBBLY AFTERNOON

After a commercial break, we get to see the tail end of Jo’s conversation with Bailey. Jo has barely finished her speech about wanting to switch specialties before Bailey gets the word “no” out. Jo gets angry and tells Bailey that she didn’t come to the decision lightly. She would like a recommendation from Bailey that way she wouldn’t have to start over as an intern. Bailey informs Jo that she can’t switch to OBGYN because she signed a contract as a general surgery attending that doesn’t expire for a few more years. Jo attempts to make Bailey understand that she needs to make the switch, but Bailey needs surgeons. Jackson has taken an unexpected leave of absence, so Bailey can’t lose Jo right now, especially with Mer’s recovery status uncertain. At least she hired Winston and now has three top cardiothoracic surgeons on her staff. Bailey tells Jo that they can revisit the topic after the pandemic but for now, the answer is no. I do feel bad for Jo because she is trying to make her life happier and keeps hitting roadblocks no matter what she does.

Link and Amelia are waiting at home for Maggie to arrive to watch the kids so they can go meet Felix at the hospital and get updated scans on him. Link makes it known that he is mad that Amelia stole his patient, but Amelia hasn’t operated in a month and needs this opportunity. He is worried that Amelia is going a bit crazy because of Mer’s status. Amelia doesn’t want to talk about that topic and is saved by Maggie walking through the door. The couple runs out before Maggie can even say hello.

In the ER, Bailey, Schmitt, and Nico evaluate new patient Erica, who suffered some injuries while rollerblading. Nico wants to get an X-ray of Erica’s leg and leaves Bailey and Schmitt to do the rest of the workup. Erica tells the docs all about how she has changed her entire lifestyle since the pandemic began and that she couldn’t be happier, which makes Bailey internally gag. Schmitt is more interested in their patient’s personal life, especially when she offers him some of her homemade peanut brittle. Bailey finds some bleeding under Erica’s abdominal muscles with an ultrasound and sends her for a CT scan to see the severity of the injury.

Over in the CT scanner room, Winston talks to an unconscious Mer before her scans start. He cutely introduces himself and asks her to wake up so they can properly meet. He wants to hear his future sister-in-law congratulate him on the engagement too and cheekily tells Mer, “I heard you were tough, but I didn’t think you were cold.” With that, Winston has more than fully won me over, and he is going to make a wonderful addition to the ever-expanding Grey/Shepherd/Pierce family.

Winston’s talking triggers another moment with Mer and Der on the beach that will tug at your heart strings. Mer wants Derek closer, but Derek thinks that if she gets closer that she’ll never leave. He thinks that’s her fear, which is why she is still on the beach. Mer retorts that his dad died young, but Derek insists that his father’s death almost ruined him. Mer reminds him that it didn’t and that kids get stronger from those kinds of struggles. Derek agrees that that sometimes makes kids stronger, but sometimes it will also create an Amelia. They laugh and discuss Amelia and baby Scout, whom Derek knows all about. 

Derek gets back on topic by telling Mer that people love her and need her. Mer again announces that she is tired, so Derek tells her, “Your body is tired, but your soul won’t let me near you. You’re still fighting.” Mer asks him if he has seen the last year or two of her life and if it was hard for him to watch. Derek simply says that it was harder seeing her alone than with someone, which comforts Mer. This part of their conversation ends with Derek wanting to tell Mer that she is beautiful, but that’s too shallow of a statement. Mer shares that she tells Zola to tell people they are pretty on the inside, so Derek tells her that instead.

Tom finds Teddy in the scan room waiting for Mer’s scans to start. Teddy tells her friend how beyond frustrated she is about Mer’s status and how COVID might affect people in the long run. She fully spirals before she realizes that she is telling her fears to someone who just recovered from COVID and is actively facing those potential bad outcomes himself. Teddy apologizes to Tom, who leaves when Winston pops in to say the scans are ready to start. Down the hall, Owen loses a COVID patient and throws a fit. Richard sees the meltdown and tries to calm him down. Owen doesn’t understand how his patient, a young teacher, died when she was getting better and supposed to be going home this week. He decides to go to a stairwell to call the woman’s family immediately, and he has a full break down crying session while on the phone.

DEEP BREATH

Link and Amelia chat with Felix while they wait for his MRI results to come through. Tom brings the scans in on an iPad, which reveals a tumor on Felix’s spine. Amelia is excited to operate even though Felix’s career might be over if she makes even one small wrong move. Link doesn’t think Amelia should do the surgery because Mer’s status is giving her too much mental stress and Tom agrees. Amelia dismisses Tom without considering their words and tells Link she is doing the surgery. 

Up in the NICU, Hayes finds Jo visiting baby Luna. Jo tells him about Bailey not letting her switch specialties because she needs general surgeons, especially if Mer doesn’t get better. Hayes didn’t know that Mer wasn’t doing well, which is an odd comment considering he can go visit her whenever he wants and you’d think he would, given that he cares about her. Jo fills Hayes in on Mer’s status, which makes him upset. She tries to diffuse the situation by telling Hayes that she needs more from the world than misery and death, so she visits Luna to make her happy.

In another room, Richard asks Teddy and Winston for the results of Mer’s CT scans. The good news is that her chest CT is clear. However, the abdominal CT shows a clot in her liver, which is causing a buildup on ammonia. The increased ammonia is directly affecting Mer’s ability to wake up, so they need to do a procedure to clear the clot. Richard looks to Winston to perform the surgery, but Winston doesn’t feel it is right for him to, since Mer is going to be his family. He makes a very valid point about conflict of interest, so Richard turns to Teddy and asks if she’s up to doing the simple procedure. He asks her three times if she’s sure she can handle it before Teddy coldly replies that Mer doesn’t have time for this conversation.

Teddy starts to prep for the surgery in the OR scrub room and is interrupted by Owen. Teddy wants to know if Richard asked him to check if she was well enough to operate, and it turns out that she is correct. Owen says he told Richard that Teddy can handle the surgery, but if something were to go wrong, he doesn’t think she will recover. He continues to tell her about the patient he lost and even reveals that he cried while giving the news to the family. Owen is embarrassed by his reaction to the death and that it broke him. He ends his speech by telling Teddy that he knows she’s been through a lot lately and just coming back to work and operating on Mer might be too much. Teddy surprisingly agrees and asks him to page Winston for her.

In the other OR, Amelia is ready to operate on Felix. Link is watching from the observation box and assures her over the intercom that she is the best neurosurgeon for the job. She is nervous that one millimeter in the wrong direction will end Felix’s career, but her nervousness is quelled by Link telling her that she’s got this. Amelia takes a few minutes to breathe before starting the operation. Back in Mer’s OR, Winston arrives to join Teddy on the surgery. Teddy explains to Winston that Mer is everyone’s family, so she will have two of the best cardiothoracic surgeons to help her and remove the clot. Winston’s all in after hearing Teddy’s words, and they start the surgery. Teddy’s confidence is immediately and visibly lifted, which is a relief to see.

ALL A BIT MUCH

The show lightens up for a bit with another excellent beach scene. Mer tells Derek about Ellis drawing a picture of their wedding and how she doesn’t like their Post-It note. They laugh about the fact that their daughter imagines them having a big wedding and suddenly, Mer is wearing a wedding dress and Derek has a light-colored suit on. Mer looks at her dress and states that she hates weddings, but she would give this to Ellis if she could. She asks Derek what he wants her to promise as a recreated vow. He responds, “To torture yourself less.” In an elongated moment, they lean in and have their faces inches apart without kissing and continue to talk. Mer comes to the realization that she doesn’t want to leave the kids and Derek doesn’t want her to leave them either. With that, Meredith and Derek share the kiss we have been waiting for. This scene is fan service at its finest since Mer and Der never had the wedding fans wanted. The pseudo-wedding scene is a thank you from the writers to the dedicated viewers and is much appreciated.

At the sister house, Maggie checks in on Zola in her room. Zola’s math teacher told Maggie that Zola had signed out of class early today, so Maggie wants to see what’s going on with her niece. She finds Zola looking at a photo of her parents and crying. Zola exclaims that she’s mad at everything and that she saw the news about the protests. Her teachers tried to talk about it in her classes, but she says they got weird about it. Maggie asks Zola if she wants to go to a protest, but Zola doesn’t want to go without Mer. She knows Mer would want to be there too and doesn’t understand why Mer isn’t home yet. Maggie tries to help her niece by telling her how Catherine suggests screaming when she gets really mad since it helps. She encourages Zola to try screaming and they let their emotions out together. They hug it out and Zola starts to feel better.

Back at the hospital, Schmitt and Bailey tell Erica that she has some bleeding in her abdomen, has a low blood count, and needs to stay overnight for observation. Nico chimes in that she doesn’t need surgery for her broken leg, just a cast will do. Erica starts accusing Bailey of thinking that she is crazy for changing her life for the better during COVID, but starts to fade and crash before she can finish her thoughts. Bailey realizes that she must be actively bleeding internally and needs emergency surgery.

Teddy, Richard, and Winston talk outside of Mer’s room following the successful procedure. Mer is still sleeping, but her stats are improving. Teddy doesn’t know why Mer hasn’t woken up yet since the clot was removed perfectly. She starts to panic and walks away. Owen, who was sort of creepily listening in the background, goes after her. Elsewhere, Schmitt and Bailey operate on Erica in the OR. The surgery is going well, and Erica is going to make a full recovery. Bailey tells Schmitt that Erica’s ideas are growing on her and that COVID is an opportunity to transform. Schmitt says that’s what Jo wants to do, which opens Bailey’s eyes.

In the other OR, Amelia has removed Felix’s tumor. Tom drops in the observation box to talk to Link, but he doesn’t want to talk about Amelia or Mer. He has been trying to avoid the entire COVID wing because it’s too much for him. It’s sad how heavily Tom is still affected by COVID even though he beat the virus. Tom asks Link when they get to scream at God for the sick joke that He is playing on them. Link thinks the sickest joke is that kids are still getting cancer during the pandemic, and they wallow in their suffering together.

Owen finds Teddy having a panic attack in an on-call room. She is spiraling due to thinking that they could have messed up because Mer hasn’t woken up. Owen tries to talk her down and get her to realize that he is there for her. Teddy desperately kisses Owen, but he tells her no. He is there for her and wants her to feel that by holding and squeezing his hand. Teddy cries on his shoulder, and they seem to be finding their way back to their old ways.

THE RISING SUN

At the same time, Winston tells Richard that he wants to try something that might get him fired. Richard likes the idea, so they call Maggie with a proposal: they want her to bring Zola to the hospital to help Mer wake up. Maggie immediately says absolutely not, but starts to be persuaded by the argument of Mer needing to make the choice to live. She thinks it’s too much to put on a child, yet Richard and Winston assure her that it will be safe since Mer is no longer COVID positive. They know that there is a psychological component to recovery so they want to try. Maggie has had the call on speaker phone, which Zola has overheard. Zola interrupts and says that she wants to go see her mom.

In another room at the hospital, Link and Amelia check in on Felix after his surgery. They inform him that the whole tumor was removed and that he will be fully functional again. He tries to move his arms and finds that they work equally again. With that happy news, Link and Amelia are excited to get home and see Scout. Schmitt and Bailey also check out Erica after she wakes up from surgery. Erica will also make a full recovery, and the doctors are surprised to hear that she wants to go back to work. She doesn’t know what she was thinking and feels that she needs to be realistic after her little vacation. Bailey explains that she knows the pressure to keep things running and that rest isn’t a dirty word and doesn’t mean that you are lazy. She tells Erica that she forgot that before she met her. Bailey doesn’t want Erica to give up on her joy and wants her to make it her revolution.

Right outside the hospital doors, Hayes delivers a gown to Richard and Winston right as Zola and Maggie arrive. The doctors get Zola and themselves suited up to go to the COVID ward before bringing Zola to Mer’s room. Teddy walks by as they arrive and joins the group. Maggie tells Zola that it’s okay if she changes her mind, but Zola fearlessly goes in alone. She is so excited to see Mer and cheerfully announces her arrival to Mer. Zola says that she is here and misses her so much before hugging Mer as the other doctors watch from the window. 

Meanwhile, Jo gets paged to Bailey’s office and is shocked to hear that Bailey won’t make her keep a job that doesn’t fulfill her. Bailey says that if she has to hire a new general surgeon, then that is her problem. She tells Jo to love OBGYN with every part of her. Jo elatedly thanks Bailey and leaves for the night. Outside of the hospital, Schmitt confronts Nico when they meet up. Schmitt thinks that Nico is scared of their relationship status, so Nico boldly asks Schmitt to move in with him. He also tells Schmitt that he loves him. Schmitt is stunned and so am I. He then does the most Schmitt thing ever: he spots Jo walking out and says he can’t hang out tonight with Nico because he promised Jo he would hang out with her. He walks away awkwardly without replying to either of Nico’s statements and tries to rush Jo away. I, for one, can’t wait to see how this plays out. 

Link and Amelia are welcomed home by the kids playing in a fort in the living room. They are surprised to see Link’s mom watching the kids, and little Bailey tells them that Zola went to the hospital to try to wake up Mer. Link and Amelia didn’t know Mer had gotten worse and promptly freak out. Back at the hospital, Winston pulls Richard aside and tells him that there is no change in Mer and apologizes. Richard is grateful for the effort, and Winston tells him that he wants Mer to live and wants to meet her. He continues to say that she’s not just Maggie’s sister, she’s Dr. Meredith Grey, so she has to live. They ask God to save her, which is another touching moment.

Maggie, Teddy, and Bailey watch Zola talk to Mer about her siblings from outside the room, and Bailey agrees that this was a good idea. The three are scared, and Teddy talks about how she needs the year to get better. As Bailey agrees, Amelia rushes in. Maggie catches her and tells her that Mer is the same. Amelia is panicking and crying as Maggie explains that she couldn’t think of a better idea than bringing Zola in. That doesn’t matter to Amelia, who explains that she just needs Mer to live. Richard and Winston come back and think that something happened due to Amelia’s state, but quickly realize she’s just letting out the emotions they are all feeling. It’s clear that Mer’s illness has had quite the impact on every character on the show, and it’s nice to see that she means as much to the other characters as she does to the audience.  

We are then given a final scene on the beach. Derek embraces Meredith from behind while watching the sunset. He tells her that it’s not her time yet, and Mer likes that there’s no pain on the beach. Derek shares that the secret to death is that he even misses the pain of living and tells her that she has to go. Mer fights back by saying that she’s so tired, but you can see that she knows she’s not going to win the mental Olympics. Derek assures her again that it’s not her time and that their kids need her. With a final kiss on her head, Derek tells Meredith that she has to go.

Back in the hospital room, Zola is still talking and tells Mer how Ellis and Bailey occasionally sleep with her at night. Mer makes the decision to live, opens her eyes, and says: “That’s so nice of you, Zo-Zo.” Zola hugs Mer, and the two have huge smiles on their faces as Mer says “hi” to her eldest daughter. The group outside sees Mer wake up and instantly freaks out with pure elation. Zola tells Mer that she loves her so much and Mer replies with, “We love you so much,” while fighting off tears. She says “we” of course as in her and Derek, which is a very nice touch. Mer repeats herself and says, “We love you Zo-Zo” to make sure Zola understands what she said. The episode ends with Derek on the beach walking away alone. The closure that the beach scenes have given is the greatest gift of the season, whether you think of it as gimmicky or not. Having former characters return and have proper goodbyes is exactly what we need in these trying times, and it was a great way to have this season play out.

Monday, April 26, 2021

WandaVision 1x05 Review: “On A Very Special Episode...” (New Dynamics) [Guest Poster: Hannah E.]


“On A Very Special Episode...”
Original Airdate: February 5, 2021

Monica, Darcy, and Jimmy try to break inside the Hex, Wanda tries to keep her show to script, and Vision realizes something isn’t right in Westview

Spoilers for all nine episodes of WandaVision!

“On A Very Special Episode...” is the first episode that has to simultaneously manage the Hex and SWORD plotlines — the first three focusing solely on the Hex and the fourth solely on the outside — and the show does a strong job of balancing both throughout. 

The episode picks up with Monica, who gives the audience our first window into what it’s like to be a character in Westview — immensely painful. Wanda is managing to keep so many personalities suppressed because they feel her grief; Monica describes it as a “hopeless feeling” keeping her down. As she narrates, we see flashes of her mother, Maria Rambeau, who she’s currently grieving. But mixed in with the scenes from Monica’s life is one from Wanda’s — a frame of her crying we won’t contextualize until episode 8, which is a particularly good bit of foreshadowing for how Wanda created the Hex. Monica feels Wanda’s grief because that’s literally what created Westview. The town and Wanda’s grief are inextricably linked and as long as one exists, so will the other. 

While Tyler Hayward appeared in the last episode, this week functions as his proper introduction to the narrative. This is the first we see of him since the reveal that Wanda is in control of the Hex, and it’s clear he does not share the same sympathy for her that Monica does. Where she sees Wanda as a person, Hayward sees her as a problem. And his solution happens to be violence.

Hayward and Monica’s two different approaches are never clearer than when SWORD sends a drone inside the Hex. Monica cleverly deduces that tech from the 1980s won’t be rewritten by Wanda and sends it in planning to negotiate. Instead, Hayward arms it with a missile and orders to shoot on sight. Not only does this show the difference between how Monica and Hayward view Wanda, but it shows how differently they view the citizens of Westview. Monica wants to talk with Wanda because that’s the safest way to diffuse the situation, but Hayward just wants to end it as soon as possible, collateral damage or no (presumably many people would die when the missile went off). 

Hayward’s main objective for the last five years was to resurrect Vision as a sentient weapon to have at his disposal, but he had two problems: The first is that he could never get the corpse to turn back online. The second is, as Jimmy lets us know, resurrecting Vision is a violation of the Sokovia Accords. In creating Westview, Wanda accidentally solved both of these problems for him. She made a brand new, fully functional Vision, and given Hayward a patsy. He covered up all of his wrongdoing by telling everyone that she stole Vision’s corpse, and her actions inside the Hex give him legal justification to kill her... thereby getting rid of the one person who could expose his lies. 

So much of WandaVision is a meta-analysis of TV itself, exploring common tropes and toying around with them. In pretty much every show that features an outside government agency, there’s a Tyler Hayward character whose only role in the narrative is to be aggressive for no other reason to foil the protagonist. The audience is primed to think Hayward is simply fulfilling that narrative role, and so we believe the story he tells about Wanda stealing Vision’s body. The problem the show runs into later is that the writing of Hayward’s character gets progressively worse, so they fail to properly follow up the groundwork they laid in this episode. Closely re-watching, his actions make perfect sense; but for a first-time viewer, the main takeaway you get from his scenes in this episode is that he’s a jerk. And since his scripting is shoddy in later episodes, the show never gives you a reason to go back and recontextualize his actions. Judging by the fan responses I’ve seen, no one seems to have understood Hayward’s plan, and that’s in part the show’s fault for not writing his character well enough later on. 

Besides Hayward, this episode also introduces us to the team dynamic of Monica, Jimmy, and Darcy, and it is absolutely lovely. All three actors are delightful and have such easy chemistry with each other which goes a long way in establishing their dynamic in a very short amount of time. One of WandaVision’s biggest problems as a series is that it had too much story to tell in too little time, which is why all of the storylines outside of the Hex feel rushed in the back-half of the season. It really helps the economy of storytelling that Jimmy, Monica, and Darcy feel like their own little team of mini-Avengers after only two scenes together. 

Their repartee also functions as a natural way to fit a lot of exposition into a short amount of time. The trio discovers that not only is Wanda running simulations in Westview, she’s also re-writing reality — what she changes inside Westview will stay changed even as it leaves the boundary. Wanda also has the ability to create life — Tommy and Billy, as well as Vision, are in fact real people. That’s why they’re immune to Wanda’s magic and have free will, unlike everyone else in the town. The show really goes out of its way to make this point clear, setting the stakes for their inevitable fates in the series finale. Darcy also officially dubs the Westview Anomaly “the Hex” because of its hexagonal shape, which is a fun Easter egg for viewers who have read the comics. In them, Wanda’s main powerset is firing Hex bolts which alter the probability of events. 

The most important bit of exposition we learn though is that Monica’s labs are coming back highly unusual, setting up her getting her powers in a couple episodes. In comic book terminology, someone who gets their powers by altered DNA as an adult would be a “mutate,” as opposed to mutants who are born that way, but the show never explicitly makes that connection so I’m not sure if the MCU plans on incorporating Monica into any future Mutant storylines. 

While the scenes outside of the Hex are good, the real strength of the episode lies in the Vision and Wanda plotlines. The format is based around the Very Special Episode that rose to prominence throughout the 1980s and 1990s. They were designed to be special episodes of normal TV shows that dealt with heavy or controversial topical issues, making a very clear moral point for viewers at home. (Family Ties, the sitcom this episode of WandaVision is based on, has a particularly famous Very Special Episode because it featured a pre-famous Tom Hanks as the Keaton’s uncle with a drinking problem.)  

WandaVision takes the format and applies it to topical issues in Wanda’s life: grief and denial. The twins keep magically aging themselves up when things get tough, like when their parents are fighting or when they’re too young to keep Sparky, the dog they found. It’s not hard to see the connection here between Wanda and her boys; like them, she uses her powers to hide or avoid her problems, putting up the border of Westview to pretend like outside world, and all the trauma she associates with it, isn’t real. 

While Wanda can’t face her own problems, she’s able to talk the boys through theirs. Having the show take the time to pause and give Wanda moments to really be a mom is crucial for making the emotional beats of the show land. Within the span of six episodes, the twins go from being born to dying; with pacing that quick, it would’ve been easy for the show to move too fast and make Wanda’s (and Vision’s) connection to the kids feel hollow and unearned. But episodes like this one do such a good job of making the Maximoff’s feel like a real family. We see Wanda taking an active role in the boys’ lives — watching them show off Sparky’s tricks and trying to support them through his death — and we also see how much Billy and Tommy care about their parents. Wanda’s family are the only people in Westview who aren’t under Wanda’s control, which means Billy and Tommy can see through her sitcom machinations, noticing Wanda changed the day from Saturday to Monday. That tips them off that Wanda and Vision are fighting, and we’re treated to a great scene between them and Wanda as she explains what family means. This scene worked really well in its own right, but takes on even more meaning in light of the parallel drawn to it when the kids disappear in the finale — Wanda drops the line family is forever, which will pay off in the most emotional way possible in the finale. 

The contrast of Wanda’s ability to deal with her kids’ emotions while being completely unable to deal with her own is driven home by the scene when she leaves the Hex. After Hayward tries to kill her with a missile, Wanda is done playing house; she comes out of the Hex to confront Hayward dressed in her fighting uniform and speaks with her Sokovian accent again. The writers’ room called this Wanda’s “Hex Flex” and they do a great job of showing off just how powerful she can be. There’s a tremendous amount of implied power in Wanda running the Hex, but this scene does a great job of laying out just how overpowered she’s become. With the flick of a wrist, she can mind control more than a dozen men, leaving Hayward completely helpless.

This episode shows Wanda’s shift from anger to bargaining, and no scene does it better than this one. When she first exits the Hex, she’s understandably angry; everything about her radiates power as she stands in front of armed soldiers and doesn’t blink. Like Monica says, Hayward may have the guns but Wanda has all the control. Except that’s not quite true; the more the scene progresses, the more it’s clear that Wanda’s actually a cornered wild animal. The one thing she wants in life is Vision and her kids, and she’s perilously close to losing them. She threatens Hayward, saying she won’t bother him if he doesn’t bother her, but it’s less of a serious threat and more of an attempt at bargaining; we’ve already seen that Wanda won’t actually resort to violence – she intentionally kept Monica safe as she kicked her out and lets Hayward’s men go. So at this point SWORD is a ticking time bomb, and there’s nothing Wanda can do to stop it from going off. She just wants more time with her family before it does. 

Following along on the outskirts of Wanda and the twins’ storyline is Agnes, always making her presence known. In every scene she’s in, she ever so subtly pokes and prods, trying to break through Wanda’s denial and find out who she really is. First, she breaks character in front of Vision, trying to get him to do the dirty work of calling Wanda out. When that doesn’t work, she goes for something more drastic and kills Sparky. In that scene, Agatha finds out from the twins that Wanda is capable of bringing things back from the dead. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment, but it perfectly sets up the episode’s end reveal. As a side note, Sparky must have belonged to a Westview resident before he was roped into Wanda’s sitcom; probably a particularly rough day for that resident to wake up from Wanda’s mind control only to find out their dog was murdered by an evil witch. 

On the other side of town, Vision has been sent to work by Wanda as a “distraction.” Unfortunately for Wanda, SWORD has figured out a way to send messages into the Hex using 1980s tech. SWORD’s message leads Vision to unearth his coworker Norm’s suppressed personality, and it isn’t pretty. Norm is in pain, physically and mentally as he suffers under Wanda’s grief. Vision’s ability to unearth personalities is based in a plot point from the comic book run House of M, one of the main influences on WandaVision. In that comic, the Westview equivalent didn’t stop at one town but instead covered the entire world; in creating it, Wanda’s subconscious also created a little girl whose super power was unearthing personalities. In House of M the girl functions as a stand-in for Wanda’s conscious, who knows what she’s doing is wrong and built in a self-destruct. I really like the thematic implications of adapting that role for Vision; while not literally a manifestation of Wanda’s conscious, the fact that Vision has free will is a testament to Wanda’s good character. In creating him, she could’ve made a machine that only existed to be her husband; instead, she made the real Vision, complete with the ability to disagree with her. 

Vision’s discovery puts him on a collision course with Wanda. As soon as the two get home, he confronts her in one of the best scenes in the entire show. Everything about their confrontation is just so well written. Wanda trying to roll the credits functions not only as her trying to pre-maturely end a fight she knows she can’t win, but also as a reminder to the audience that WandaVision — not the show we’re watching, but the in-universe TV show run by Wanda — isn’t that kind of show. Her episode has to end for something bad to happen. 

Seeing Wanda and Vision fight was always going to pack an emotional punch since the show has done such a good job investing the audience in their love story, but the added layer of Wanda realizing her world is falling apart makes it hit that much harder. The whole reason she created Westview was to have more time with Vision, and now it’s the thing pulling them apart; she sends him away earlier in the episode to keep him from catching on to the show, and tries to run away from him before he can start their fight. And there’s nothing she can do to fix it; if she comes clean and admits what’s going on in Westview — which she herself still doesn’t fully understand — she knows Vision will do the noble thing and sacrifice himself, just like he did in Avengers: Infinity War

Then we get the realization that Vision isn’t just angry, he’s scared. Not only is he realizing the town he lives in is a lie, he’s realizing he doesn’t remember his life before Westview. Even when Vision had all of his memories in prior films, he struggled with knowing who he was. His body is synthetic and his brain is a mix of all the people who created him — Tony, Ultron, Bruce Banner — and some spark of life that made him his own. Just like Wanda, who struggles with her powers, he’s never been able to fully understand what makes him what he is. For him to not even have his memories to help him make sense of his existence is terrifying. 

As soon as Wanda realizes he’s scared, she reaches out to comfort him — and that’s the real strength of this scene. Even as the two scream at each other, it’s clear how strong their love is. At its heart, WandaVision is a love story, and the writers really understand that. Seeing Vision scared is enough to make Wanda break down crying as she struggles to comprehend what she’s done. She knows on some level that she controls Westview and that Vision can’t exist outside its walls, but she still doesn’t understand the level of control she has over everything that happens. The final emotional blow of the episode comes when there’s a knock at the door; Wanda swears she didn’t do it but Vision doesn’t believe her. In that moment Wanda knows her happy family is gone, no matter how hard she fights not to let go.

Just as Wanda loses the trust of one man in her life, she opens the door to another. But it’s not the brother she knew all her life. The man at her door may be Quicksilver, but he’s not from this universe. 

Odds and Ends:

  • This week in commercials, we get an advertisement for Lagos brand paper towels — for “when you make a mess you didn’t mean to.” This is of course a reference to the events of Civil War, when Wanda accidentally leveled a few stories of a building in Lagos while on an Avengers mission, kicking off the events that lead to Captain America and Iron Man’s feud. The commercial line “Husbands can use it too, you know!” is a nod to Vision accidentally hitting Roadie in the same film, nearly paralyzing him. 
  • This is hands down my favorite opening theme. Family Ties was one of my favorite shows growing up (I named my dog after Mallory Keaton) and seeing WandaVision recreate the family portrait was a treat. 
  • Jimmy states that Wanda was born in 1989, which makes her the same age as Elizabeth Olsen, but is definitely incongruous with what we previously knew of Wanda’s age. There’s multiple references in Age of Ultron and Civil War to her being a teenager, so she should be in her early 20’s in this show instead of early 30’s. It seems like Wanda is going to be a staple of the MCU going forward, though, so it makes sense to retcon her age to better fit the actor. 
  • Throughout the episode Hayward only ever refers to Vision as “The Vision.” It’s a subtle way of conveying to the audience that he doesn’t see Vision as a person, but as an object to be controlled.
  • It’s a moment too small to catch the first time, but on re-watch Hayward and Wanda share a glance during her display outside the Hex. In that moment it’s clear Hayward knows he really screwed up when he used Vision’s corpse as bait to provoke Wanda into starting the Hex.
  • Hayward’s “No alias?” question in regard to Wanda is a very on the nose way of informing the audience that the name Scarlet Witch has never been uttered in the MCU. 
  • Darcy, Jimmy, and Monica all describe the Avengers’ battle with Thanos as if they had tickets to Avengers: Endgame. I very much love the idea that someone somewhere was livestreaming that battle.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Julie and the Phantoms 1x07 Review: “Edge of Great” (Falling Slowly) [Contributor: Jenn]


“Edge of Great”
Original Airdate: September 10, 2020

One of my favorite rom-com tropes is when a couple doesn’t realize they’re in love with each other and have it pointed out to them by their friends. Julie and the Phantoms has slowly built the chemistry and feelings between Luke and Julie and “Edge of Great” is where we get the most blatant discussion of feelings on both of the characters’ ends. While Luke is gushing about Julie and trying to deny his feelings (a classic trope), Julie is daydreaming about him during dance rehearsal. But that’s not all that happens, so let’s break down the episode!

CHEMISTRY: HE HAS IT WITH EVERYONE

For the record, I fully do believe that Charlie Gillespie has chemistry with everyone he shares scenes with. The hilarious little moment with Reggie and Luke proves that. He’s like a younger, male Alison Brie in that regard. But I really love “Edge of Great” because it sets the stage for a deeper, more emotional Luke/Julie storyline we’ll see in the next episode, “Unsaid Emily.” Still, Luke denies his feelings for a reason: their relationship is far too complicated for even him to figure out. Julie and Flynn have an almost identical conversation when Julie confesses that even though Nick likes her, she’s a bit smitten with Luke.

Flynn is honest. A lot of times our best friends tell us the things we want to hear. And it would’ve been easy for Flynn to root Julie on and tell her to pursue Luke. But the truth is deeper than that. Both Flynn and Luke assert something about Julie in this episode: she’s suffered a lot of loss. Luke doesn’t want to tell Julie about the group getting zapped (possibly out of “existence”) because he doesn’t want her to have to mourn anymore loss. And Flynn doesn’t encourage Julie to pursue Luke for the same reason; she knows that her best friend has suffered so much pain already and that going after any sort of relationship with Luke is doomed to end in heartbreak one way or another. 

What I love though about the Luke/Julie story on Julie and the Phantoms is that while other characters assert the idea that relationships, no matter if they’re complex or not, involve pain the show also reminds us that we should pursue pain-free love. The truth is that we aren’t guaranteed a heartbreak-free life. The show admits that a Luke/Julie romance is complicated while also not undercutting the depth of the two characters’ feelings for each other in the process. It’s like it’s giving us permission to feel, and for a show aimed at a younger audience I think that’s an important message. We should allow ourselves the chance to deeply and truly feel love and loss. No, it might not be the smartest decision to pursue love with a ghost but it also doesn’t make Julie less of a person for having those romantic feelings. The show points out that Luke’s feelings for Julie and hers for him are valid and real. They’ve created a deep relationship rooted in their songwriting and connection to both music and grief. That’s significant, and while Nick is the more practical choice for Julie in this show, she recognizes that pursuing him would be unfair to both of them in the end since, practical or not, her heart is not in it. 

I love that we’re going to see how Julie unwaveringly supports Luke in the next episode and Charlie Gillespie will do some MVP acting during “Unsaid Emily” not only in terms of the depth of emotion, but also in the sheer awe he has over Julie as a person who helped him get closure with his parents. And I love the Luke/Julie relationship because it’s built on trust, support, and respect. It’s so important for everyone to remember that heart eyes and flirting and physical attraction are fun and all, but when a relationship has as many practical hurdles as Luke and Julie’s does, the foundation needs to be something solid. And it is. These two characters would do anything for each other; Luke will give up control and leadership of a band. Julie will give up what is most comfortable and practical. They will be there for each other and when they are not, they will always find their way back to each other. What a lovely and deep relationship, right?

(For the record, Madison Reyes is really lovely in this episode as she navigates a girl torn between two worlds, while also allowing herself the freedom to feel in “Perfect Harmony.” The joy expressed in that song is so lovely, even if it’s only existing in her own mind. You can sense her weightlessness and happiness when she’s with Luke. Ugh, I love it.)

A WRINKLE IN THE PLAN

The biggest plot-related thing to take from “Edge of Great” is that Willie tells Luke, Alex, and Reggie about the stamp Caleb put on them. If they don’t submit to him and join his ghost band, they’re eventually going to just cease to exist. The zaps will get more and more powerful and will eventually blip them out of existence. But there’s good news, even if Willie has to deliver it somberly: If the boys can figure out what their unfinished business is, they can cross over.

Of course there’s a hitch in either plan: Julie. The boys are bound to leave her, whichever option they choose. Either they’ll be stuck with Caleb for eternity or will be whisked away to the afterlife. So instead of telling Julie this conundrum, the boys decide they’ll figure out their unfinished business themselves. And their first guess? Playing at the Orpheum. So that’s what we’re building toward: a grand performance that’ll help the boys cross over.

Or so they think.

Hitting the right notes:

  • This episode has it all, everyone: “Edge of Great” (which is wonderful and has an epic guitar solo that was improvised by Charlie Gillespie) and “Perfect Harmony” (which is the perfect successor to “Can I Have This Dance?”).
  • I like Luke’s “Perfect Harmony” hair. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am not ashamed of it.
  • “You can make all the music you want with Luke, but he’ll always be a phantom.”
  • “The key is to avoid those big, beautiful... dead eyes.”
  • The chemistry scene is one of the greatest things I’ll ever witness.
  • “Girls, am I right?” “Yeah.” “No.” Will I ever be over the fact that this was improvised? Nope.
  • Do we all adore how Luke is so sad when he’s ignored, like a forgotten puppy? I sure do. But I really love how Reggie and Julie got some jam time together during the song!
  • Booboo Stewart does some lovely acting work when he tells Alex he cares about him and apologizes for bringing them to the club.

Honestly, “Edge of Great” may be my favorite episode of Julie and the Phantoms. What about you all? Sound off in the comments below and grab tissues for my next episode review: “Unsaid Emily”!

Grey’s Anatomy 17x12 Recap: “Sign O’ the Times” (History in the Making) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Sign O’ the Times”
Original Airdate: April 15, 2021

Grey’s Anatomy has done a great job of bringing the real world to scripted television this season, and they have proven that going big and bold with hot button topics is the way to go. That statement rings true in the latest episode of the show, which beautifully incorporates two massively important parts of the last year. The on-going conversations of race and anger take center stage in this powerful episode. 

THE GOOD FIGHT

The hour opens with Jackson on a morning run through the streets of downtown Seattle the day after George Floyd’s death. He is taken aback when he sees a group of protestors on a street corner and briefly pauses his run to observe before continuing his routine. We then get a quick flash of Hayes and his kids in the backyard of their house making signs to go join in the local protests before the scene goes to the sister house. Maggie is staying at the house while Winston takes a quick trip to Boston to tie up his loose ends and move his belongings to Seattle. She is very worried about her fiancé traveling after what happened in Minneapolis the previous day. They have also gotten a message from Richard to the entire staff of the hospital stating that anyone can take time off and protest if they need or want to, but that doesn’t help Maggie’s state of mind.

Over at the hospital, Bailey gives Richard an update on cancelling all elective surgeries in preparation for any emergencies that come in related to the protests. Richard is happy with Bailey’s decision and prep work and asks how she is feeling about everything. Bailey wants to stay in the hospital and distract herself by doing something that she is good at (i.e. saving lives) and is surprised when Richard tells her that he is going to join the protestors. He explains that he doesn’t want to miss the moment, which his protégé understands. Richard also has one of the most poignant lines of the episode when he says, “These moments save lives too,” before heading out the door.

Next, Jackson and Catherine are walking into work together, and Catherine is grateful her son has shown up. He assures her that he isn’t going to protest because she hounded him with enough texts that he felt he couldn’t ignore how much the hospital needed him. Jackson asks Catherine if she has had a chance to read the proposal that he sent her for free COVID testing for low income residents. Catherine wants to pump the brakes on the proposal until the foundation has more revenue, which annoys Jackson. His mother doesn’t want to hear about the amount of time and effort he and intern Alma Ortiz put into the proposal and promptly walks away. Jackson doesn’t get any time to process the conversation he just had because Hayes and his kids walk up to him asking for help. Hayes removes a shirt tied to his head and reveals a huge gash across his scalp.

A quick break in the action shows a video call between Winston and Maggie, who is relieved to hear from him. Winston discusses the three days it took for him to drive to Boston and is glad to be on his way back to Seattle. He wants to buy a house for them to live in once he’s back and has even sent some listings to Maggie, who hasn’t looked at any of them. Maggie ends the call by begging Winston to be extra careful, which is the first of two back-to-back steaming bowls of foreshadowing. Another short scene shows Bailey and Teddy checking up on Meredith. Teddy reveals that Mer is in stable condition, but is very weak and sleeping most of the time. They are doing daily hypobaric chamber treatments to try to increase her healing and are planning to let Schmitt handle the treatment today because it’s something that no one can screw up. 

In the ER, Jackson stitches up Hayes’ head wound and asks how the injury happened. Hayes recalls how a Neo-Nazi anti-protestor came at his boys, so he jumped in front of his kids to protect them. He is justifiably shaken up by the whole ordeal and wants to get back to work for the distraction when Jackson is done. Hayes also tells Jackson that he sent his kids home and told them that they won’t be allowed to protest again until they are eighteen after what happened.

The audience barely gets to process the horrors of what Hayes describes because Richard flies into the ER and grabs Jackson to come help him with another patient outside. Hayes jumps off his bed and follows them outside as an older lady named Nell is being helped out of a car. Richard explains that she was hit by a tear gas canister at the protest, which is lodged in her left shoulder. The trio of doctors brings Nell into a trauma room and decides that they need to make sure the canister didn’t hit any major blood vessels in her neck before they can remove it in the OR.

Outside, Owen is running a triage tent in the parking lot, and Maggie, Helm, and Sara Ortiz are helping out. They see an ambulance pull up and run over to help the new patient. A young man named Guy is unloaded, and the paramedics inform the doctors that he was shot by a rubber bullet in the chest at a protest, which stopped his heart. Maggie tells the others that she wants to get a chest X-ray immediately as they wheel him inside.

A PILE OF PROBLEMS

Schmitt brings a sleeping Meredith into the hypobaric chamber for her oxygen treatment and is not happy when intern James Chee wheels in his post-op patient into the chamber behind them. Chee explains to a disgruntled Schmitt that the schedule for the chamber is packed, so they need to double up patients inside to get everyone their treatments. Schmitt begrudgingly accepts that he and Mer will have company and asks Chee to try to keep the stress levels low, which probably won’t happen with double the amount of people inside the chamber.

Back in the ER, Jo and Hayes chat while they both gather supplies for their respective patients. The small scenes each episode with Jo and Hayes have become my favorite part of the show because their repertoire is very enjoyable to watch. Case in point this week: Hayes is coughing as an after effect of tear gas, and Jo mocks him about not coughing around people as they will think he has COVID. She is also surprised at Hayes for letting his kids go to a protest and for making them stop protesting. She understands both sides of it, but Hayes says he has buried too many members of his family to see anyone’s side other than his own. 

Elsewhere in Grey Sloan Memorial, Bailey and second year resident Mabel Tseng are treating a disrespectful man who had trouble breathing while jogging. He treats both doctors terribly and refuses to keep his mask on despite Bailey’s numerous commands. Bailey is afraid that the patient, Chad, may have COVID, but Chad thinks it’s his asthma acting up since his inhaler ran out. In the same breath, Chad reveals that he doesn’t believe in COVID and thinks it is a scam created by the government. The dumb-struck look on Bailey’s face says it all, but more on Chad later.

Richard and Jackson are awaiting the results of Nell’s CT angiogram to see what damage the tear gas canister has caused. Jackson asks Richard what the protest was like, so the older doc explains how they were marching peacefully. He describes the protest as organized and beautiful at first, until it turned messy and scary. He says that there was a feeling in the air, which Jackson can’t comprehend since he wasn’t there, and that the protest was good trouble. As Richard finishes his recollection, the scans pop up on the computer and show no signs of vascular damage. The canister has only caused a tear in Nell’s trapezius muscle, so the canister can be safely and easily removed. 

Back in the ER, Maggie doesn’t see any fluid around Guy’s heart on the X-ray or echocardiogram. She determines that the rubber bullet hit him at the exact moment his heart beat, which disrupted his normal heart rhythm. Maggie wants to admit Guy for bloodwork and observation to be cautious. Her phone rings and it’s Winston calling, so she steps out of the room to talk. Winston is on the road and wants to know if Maggie got around to looking at the listing he sent her. Maggie isn’t sure she likes the house in the listing, but Winston says that the landlord told him if he wanted the house that he would have to put an offer in today. Winston goes on to reveal that he told the landlord that he will take the house because he wants a place to call his own even though Maggie isn’t necessarily thrilled at the news. A police car then pulls up behind Winston as he’s driving, turns on its lights, and pulls him over. Both Winston and Maggie start to freak out over him getting pulled over, and Maggie tells him not to hang up the phone and turn on the camera if possible.

Over in the hypobaric chamber, Chee asks Schmitt if Mer is mean, as that is what he has heard from other doctors at the hospital. He has also heard that Mer is the best. Chee didn’t get a chance to meet her before she got COVID and doesn’t know if what he has heard is true. Schmitt tells Chee that Mer taught him everything. He hears Mer’s voice cheering him on in his head with each win he has and describes Mer as the most influential teacher he’s ever had, even when she’s asleep. Schmitt admits that Mer can be tough sometimes, but that she always has a reason for being tough. Chee likes what he hears and says that he hopes he gets to operate with Mer one day. 

The scene then cuts back to Winston as he puts his hands on the steering wheel of his now-parked car while watching two cops and a police dog approach his vehicle. The one cop asks Winston for his license and registration, and Winston asks why he was pulled over. He says he was doing 40 mph in a 45 mph zone, so he doesn’t know why he would be stopped. The cop doesn’t answer and instead asks Winston to turn off his phone when he hears Maggie pitch in. Winston explains that that is his fiancée on the phone and politely asks the officer if he can leave the phone on. The cop asks Winston if he is failing to comply, which freaks Winston out. He quickly disconnects the call to avoid further trouble, which makes Maggie panic. She immediately tries to call him back, but Winston doesn’t answer.

OUT OF CONTROL

Things stabilize momentarily as we watch Nell’s surgery. Jackson and Richard remove the tear gas canister from her shoulder, and Jackson asks Richard if his mom has mentioned getting an email from him while they operate. Richard sort of skirts the real issue at hand and says that he could never do Catherine’s job. Jackson believes that Catherine ignores people with good ideas, so Richard tells him to give her time and that after a week she will be more open to his proposal. Catherine said a similar line to Jackson earlier in the episode, which made me wonder what was happening in a week’s time that would magically change her opinion. Unfortunately, we don’t get an answer to that, so maybe we will find out what the cryptic responses mean in the next episode. Richard promptly tries to change the subject by discussing how thankful he is that the damage Nell sustained wasn’t worse. He talks about the protest again and says how there is power in gathering like that. He feels the truth brings people together, but Jackson doesn’t understand because he has never been to a protest. Jackson feels he has always had a reason not to protest and thought writing a check was a good substitute, but his thoughts are quickly changing on that front.

Things then go from bad to worse as Maggie still can’t get a hold of Winston and her patient starts to code. She passes her phone to Sara Ortiz and asks the intern to keep calling Winston until he picks up because he was pulled over by the police. Sara completely understands and agrees to help as Maggie runs back into Guy’s room to help resuscitate him. In another room, Bailey checks in on Chad, who has taken his mask off again. Bailey gives him the bad news that he has tested positive for COVID. The virus has already started destroying his lungs and he has COVID toe. Chad laughs at Bailey and doesn’t buy any of what she is saying. She also informs him that he has a clot in his leg that needs to be treated immediately, which is another side effect of COVID. Chad denies that he has a clot because runners don’t get blood clots. 

Chad rips his mask off again and goes into a full blown conspiracy theory rant about the pandemic. He thinks the government is trying to control people and that the doctors are personally given money by the government for each positive COVID diagnosis. He also believes that the hospitals are getting money based on the number of COVID diagnoses and thinks the whole thing is a joke. Bailey can’t comprehend that Chad doesn’t think COVID is real, so she excuses herself from the room for a moment to do some anger management yelling in a nearby stairwell. Once she calms herself down, Bailey goes back to Chad’s room to try again. Chad still refuses to put his mask on, so Bailey tries to explain his medical problems in another light to make him understand the danger he is in. Chad still thinks it’s a joke, and Bailey promises his problems won’t go away on their own. She wants to admit him and give him the treatment he needs because his symptoms could be fatal. He denies treatment and asks for a new inhaler so he can leave.

Owen and Maggie desperately try to save Guy through CPR and shocking him with a defibrillator. Maggie thinks the rubber bullet bruised his heart. They get a normal heart rhythm back and go to move him to the cardiac care unit when he codes again. They successfully shock him again, but Maggie is very concerned that the damage to Guy’s heart has caused a closed loop of irregular rhythms. Maggie tells Sara Ortiz to page Richard to meet her in the cardiac suite and that it’s urgent, as Guy needs an ablation. Maggie is still trying to get Winston on the phone when they get Guy upstairs. Richard finds her and Maggie tells him all about Winston’s current situation and her patient. She needs someone to find Winston right now, so Richard agrees to help while she saves her patient. Richard takes Maggie’s phone and tells her that he will give Winston a little more time to call. If he doesn’t hear from Winston soon, he promises to get in his own car and go find Winston himself.

Back in the hypobaric chamber, Chee explains his patient’s forklift injury to Schmitt as the patient starts to come out of his sedation. Schmitt urges Chee to give him more sedation quickly, but the patient’s stitches pop and his whole abdomen opens up before Chee can do anything. The poor guy’s intestines are popping out of his abdomen, so Schmitt jumps into action to help. He hears Mer’s voice in his head, which helps him figure out what steps he needs to take to save the patient. He tells Chee to page for anyone to come to the chamber and depressurize it so they can get to the OR. In the meantime, Schmitt puts the patient under more sedation in order to start operating on him in the chamber and control the situation while they can.

PAYING THE PRICE

In the cath lab, Owen and Helm help Maggie with the ablation. Richard is able to get Winston on the phone and knocks on the window to let Maggie know. Owen tells her to go since Guy is now stable. Maggie is beyond relieved to hear Winston’s voice, and he is clearly very shaken by what happened. He explains that he is fine and that the police let him go after doing a DUI test on him. They also checked his trunk and whole car and made him unpack everything that was inside. The camera pulls back to show all of Winston’s possessions strewn out across the desert floor. He goes on to say that the police dog went through all his stuff and sniffed him too. After the dog found nothing out of the ordinary, the police let him go. The cops told Winston that the bike rack on his trunk obscured his license plate, and Winston adds that once they saw the color of his skin, they pulled him over. He admits that he is not okay and needs some time to breathe before getting back in the car and continuing his journey. Maggie sympathetically tells him that she will remain on the line with him as long as he needs and reminds him that he is safe and will be okay.

The small sighs of relief continue in the hypobaric chamber as Chee and Schmitt pack the patient’s abdomen. Schmitt asks Chee for saline so the bowels don’t dry out. He also doesn’t want two emergencies on his hands, so he tells Chee to constantly monitor Mer’s stats to make sure she stays in stable condition. As he is working on the post-op patient, Schmitt hears Mer tell him that he did a nice job in his head. After her surgery, Nell is doing considerably well, and Richard and Jackson give her the good news that she will make a full recovery after a potential second surgery and physical therapy. Hayes walks into the room to check up on her too, and Nell tells them that she has never felt better. She recounts her many injuries from past protests and trades protest stories with Richard. Jackson is in awe when Nell says that she was at the March on Washington at age 11 and goes on to recount what she remembers about that day. She even remembered Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice and how it felt like possibility was in the air when he spoke, which inspires Jackson.

Bailey and Teddy watch Schmitt wheel Mer back into her room as Bailey tells Teddy about Chad’s COVID conspiracy theories. Teddy doesn’t understand how Chad thinks COVID is a hoax, but does find it quite amusing that he believes the government is paying off every doctor. They joke about it until Bailey gets a page and goes running off. Teddy follows her outside, where they find Chad collapsed on the pavement. Someone explains that he signed himself out of the hospital against medical advice and passed out as soon as he walked out. They start CPR as Bailey yells for a crash cart. The next thing we see is Bailey and Teddy pulling a sheet over Chad’s dead body on a gurney inside the hospital. Bailey can’t believe that he walked away after he was offered live-saving treatment. Both Bailey and Teddy are somber, and Bailey is sad that she couldn’t fix someone who was offered help and chose to walk away. She wants to believe that they will be over the brutal COVID hill soon, but she’s not as optimistic anymore.

Later on, Maggie checks in on Guy and finds Owen examining him. Owen gives her the good news that the ablation worked. He asks how Winston is, and Maggie says that her fiancé is back on the road and should be in Seattle within the next two hours. Guy’s phone starts to go off, and they see that he has seventeen missed calls from his mom. Maggie decides to pick up the phone and explain the situation to Guy’s mom, as she probably has no idea what has happened to her son.

Jackson takes his newfound inspiration to Catherine, who is working in a conference room. She tells Jackson that she heard all about Nell from Richard and wants to meet her. Jackson ignores her comments and asks why they never protested. He wants to know why he was taught to always work and fix things from the inside instead of making real change happen. Catherine tries to respond, but Jackson doesn’t want to hear her pep talk. He believes that the foundation fights the good fight; however, nothing has gotten better. He doesn’t understand why he and Catherine aren’t in the streets fighting and asks why they don’t have scars. Catherine starts her rebuttal by informing her son that she has decades of scars and that things have changed. She mentions that there are many Black doctors working in hospitals now thanks to the many battles that she fought to make it happen. 

That’s not good enough for Jackson, who wants to do something about his ideas instead of just talking about them. He feels that there are so many things that they could do to make the world a better place. Catherine says that the world works one battle at a time, but Jackson doesn’t want to play a role in a world that is broken. Catherine tells Jackson that he sounds like his father, and he doesn’t think that’s such a bad thing. The comment hurts Catherine, who doesn’t let Jackson apologize.

We get a little levity when Hayes arrives home and finds his kids playing outside. He tells them that he was wrong about forcing them to stay at home when this is their country and that there is a moment happening right now. He will allow them to fight and protest only during daylight hours and when he is with them. The kids agree and ask to go to another protest tomorrow as long as it’s not too soon, considering his injury. Hayes has completely forgotten he had his head split open that morning and agrees to go to the protest the next day. The family bonds by playing together outside in a sweet moment.

Back at the hospital, Richard runs into Jackson as they both go to leave for the night. Richard offers Jackson a ride home, but Jackson wants to walk. Sensing what he is thinking, Richard tells Jackson that he can always march tomorrow because the day is practically over. Jackson says he can still hear the protests, so he will join in tonight and not wait any longer. Over at Mer’s room, Jo finds Schmitt and congratulates him for saving the patient in the hypobaric chamber – after ribbing him for causing the disaster first. Jo is happy to see that Mer is stable and doing well, even if she has slept the whole day away again. Schmitt tells his roommate about how there is always a voice in his head asking, “What would Meredith Grey do?” Jo admits that she hears that voice in her own head too and advises him to keep listening to it. She says that she listened to the voice and is going to start a new residency in OBGYN.

The episode ends with Winston pulling up to the sister house late at night. Maggie and Amelia were waiting on the porch for him, and Maggie runs to Winston as soon as he gets out of the car. They hug and kiss in a passionate reunion. Winston whispers to her that he did whatever it took to get home for her, which is sure to melt every viewer’s heart. We then see Jackson get in his car and punch in an address into his GPS, which says his destination is eleven hours away. The show ends before we know where Jackson is headed, but the best guess is that he is going to visit his father. Tune in next week to find out!