Grey's Anatomy Of A Marriage
A sometimes tedious, yet always emotional, twelve-year journey through April and Jackson's relationship.
Grey's Anatomy likes to pull out what I call "high concept" episodes once in a while. These are the episodes where they take their characters out of the normal hospital case/relationship drama of the week and play with their narrative structure. In some cases this has proven to be a very effective -- even sometimes fun -- departure from their normal storytelling. Standout episodes of this type include "Time Warp" from Season 6, where we get to witness young Richard and Ellis diagnosing an AIDS patient in 1982, and "If/Then" from Season 8, that transported us to an alternate-reality Grey's where Ellis never had Alzheimer's and Meredith is engaged to Alex.
In theory, an episode narrowly focused on the breakdown and resolution of the issues surrounding April and Jackson's marriage should have worked; especially since it promises to fill in some gaps that we never actually got to witness in real time. But I don't think it actually provided any new information. I certainly didn't come away from this with any better understanding of these two people or their relationship. In fact my personal opinion of what should happen with them did not change by the time the end credits rolled. It had solidified. I was angry at April for leaving the way she did, and nothing revealed here changed or tempered that anger.
But beyond my personal feelings about the Kepner-Avery marriage, Grey's Anatomy is an ensemble show and works best when it showcases that ensemble -- as big and unwieldy as it is. This was almost 100% April and Jackson only. And while Sarah Drew and Jesse Williams are great here, the two of them alone didn't really hold me completely.
The episode opens with a tuxedo-clad Jackson arriving late at a flower-bedecked church where he affectionately caresses the face of a very pretty woman in a wedding dress. A woman who is not April. A woman who inspires me to ask indignantly, "Harpo, who dis woman?"
Turns out she is Tatiana, a patient of Jackson's whose face he has been reconstructing over the past few years. She is also a fake-out, a misdirect to make April/Jackson fans a little nervous. The very next scene shows a miserable-faced April and Jackson sitting across a conference table next to their respective lawyers, ready to sign divorce papers. This looks pretty damned final. In fact, Jackson's lawyer helpfully says, "This is one of the simpler divorces I've seen actually."
But wait…before they sign (or not…?), the rest of the story is told in a series of sometimes confusing non-linear flashbacks, announced by an artsy use of the fast-rewind special effect. I am not a fan of this convention. I think it made the story unnecessarily complicated. But back we go in these quick jump cuts to visit the pieces of April and Jackson's life together that we never really got to see.
So what do we learn about these two? Well, April and Jackson are seriously terrible at communication. Here is a sampling of dialogue:
"This is the first substantial conversation we've had in months."
"I've been here, I've been willing to have any conversation."
"I want to talk to you but we're having two different conversations."
They are literally having a conversation about having a conversation!
We also learn that they didn't really know each other that well when they ran off together. She expects him to pray with her family. He offers her peanuts but she's allergic. Her side-eye when she informs him of this completes me.
We learn that even though they can barely talk to each other, they are really good at staring soulfully at each other while tears well in their eyes because they are just so emotional about it all.
We learn that Jackson is a damned fine plastic surgeon because Tatiana goes from being a person whose face was melted off to being seriously gorgeous.
And we learn that April is really rather selfish. At one point she says, "You are looking for any excuse to walk away instead of putting in the work." To which I respond: "For serious?" She ran away to another continent for a year without a second thought for his pain and now that she's back she wants a cookie because she's ready to talk? Well, she's lucky because she got a whole bag of cookies.
The episode ends with the papers being signed and a really rather soap-operatic development that -- Secret Baby Plot Alert! -- April is pregnant, unbeknownst to Jackson. So while they're officially divorced, it is a sure bet that April and Jackson are far from finished.