Grey’s Anatomy has a bit of a reputation for swinging for the fences. This is not a show that prizes subtlety above all else. Instead, it seems to suggest that drama is what fuels great, compelling television. That’s what it seeks to give to viewers on a weekly basis. Because of its love for the dramatic, the show also has a tendency to put its audience through a pretty severe amount of emotional turmoil. No character is ever truly safe, and the twists and turns that fuel the show are often as ridiculous as they are heartbreaking.
There’s a general consensus that, early in its run, Grey’s Anatomy was legitimately great. It was a little soapy and dramatic, but it knew that and it knew how to get its audience invested in the soap and drama. At some point, the show became a little too melodramatic for its own good, and lost many of its viewers as a result.
Still, Grey’s Anatomy is hugely important, and it’s given us Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, and the many other shows in Shonda Rhimes’ universe. Even if it has occasionally been too much, Grey’s Anatomy is well worth celebrating for that alone.
Having said that, here are 15 Times Grey's Anatomy Went Way Too Far.
15 Jo Wilson's Fake Identity
Jo Wilson isn’t even her real name. This was just one more twist on a long list of twists from the show, but for some viewers, it was to finally call it quits. The twist came when we finally learned why Jo was so reluctant to marry Alex, in spite of her clear love for him. The answer, in classic Grey’s fashion, was that she was already married, and was actually living under a false name.
Soap operas have given primetime drama more of their tropes than most TV writers might care to admit, and the secret identity trope is certainly one of them. The plot development has been used masterfully on shows like Mad Men, but when it’s handled poorly, as many Grey’s viewers believe it was, it can do more to hurt than it does to help.
14 When Cristina Was Left At The Altar
Cristina suffers quite a bit over the course of Grey’s Anatomy, even when put her in the context of the eternally suffering cast of Grey's characters. One of the most heartbreaking moments for the character comes in the third season finale, when Preston Burke calls off their wedding because he believes that he has forced Cristina to change.
Burke wouldn’t appear on the show for some time after that, but he did plenty of damage before he left. Cristina completely broke down, and who can blame her?
Leaving someone on their wedding day is one of the worst things you can do.
Because she’s stronger than every other human, Cristina managed to pick up the pieces and move on, but that doesn’t lessen the heartbreak at all.
13 Izzie Cuts Denny's LVAD Wire
Denny’s death was a true-blue tragedy. It wasn’t drummed up or manufactured. Denny was a heart patient from the moment he was introduced, and although Izzie fell in love with him, their love story seemed doomed almost immediately.
The saddest moment between the two of them wasn’t Denny’s last, though. It was when Izzie cut his LVAD wire in order to make him worse so that he could be pushed to the top of the donor transplant list. It worked, but even though he got a new heart, he died of a stroke later that night.
Izzie tried as hard as she could to save him and made him worse in the process.
She failed, and his death would stay with her for a long time afterward.
12 Meredith's Second Half-Sister
Meredith’s family appears to be simply brimming with doctors. After she loses her sister in a plane crash, Meredith discovers that another doctor, who just so happens to be working in her hospital, is also her half-sister. Her mother gave her up for adoption when she was just a child, but Margaret Pierce, the new head of cardio, is actually related to Meredith.
This is the kind of twist that comes straight from the soap opera.
There are some examples of it being done quite well in more high-brow dramas, but typically creating a surprise sibling is a sign of desperation. Grey’s used the twist as a way to further fill out the show’s roster, but as Lexie had already been introduced, Margaret came across as a somewhat cheap ploy instead.
11 Meredith Almost Drowns
Meredith Grey has been in more than her fair share of life-threatening situations. Doctors deal with life and death situations all the time, it’s true, but rarely do those life and death situations involve the doctor’s own life so frequently.
Although she ultimately makes it out of the ferry boat crash alive, it’s not before she takes a trip to the afterlife and has a few conversations with former characters on the show.
The plot development is definitely a little maudlin, and some have argued that Meredith was close enough that she could have simply swam to shore. Even so, the episode gave many of the show’s characters a chance to reevaluate their priorities, and was one of the first in a long line of life-threatening situations for the show’s characters.
10 Cristina fails to save Henry
Henry wasn’t the most major character on the show, but he was Teddy’s husband, and he showed up a number of times throughout the series after he was introduced as a patient without any insurance. When it’s eventually discovered that he has a tumor near his heart, Cristina is asked to operate on him without knowing his identity. All she is told is that he is a 35-year-old male.
The surgery goes poorly, and although they take drastic measures to save his life, they are unable to.
Cristina can’t save him, and Henry dies. His death would be bad enough on his own, considering what a ball of light he was in life. What makes it even worse is the information that’s withheld from Cristina, which is not only unrealistic but unethical.
9 Izzie Treats A Deer
Izzie had many of the weirdest moments in the history of Grey’s Anatomy, and this episode, the first in the show’s fourth season, was certainly among them. Initially, Izzie and her new group of interns believe that they’ll be treating a person, but they eventually discover that it’s actually a deer that’s in need of their medical assistance.
Izzie decides to treat the deer as if it were a person.
The show attempts to turn this into a message about hope, and the fight to hold onto it even if what you’re doing may seem ridiculous. Even for a show with as many twists and turns as Grey’s Anatomy, this plotline was a little too much. Still, the show survived it and is still on the air even to this day, so somebody must have enjoyed the deer.
8 The Hospital Shooting
Shootings are sadly fairly commonplace these days in American lives. Depictions of them often reflect that commonality, and the shooting at Seattle Grace was no exception. In fact, although some had argued that Grey’s Anatomy was past its prime, this episode proved to be widely acclaimed when it debuted in 2010.
The brilliance of the episode was the way it used Grey’s Anatomy’s pre-existing qualities to its advantage. Although there was a shooter on the loose, the episode could still be about medicine, and about saving Derek after he was shot. There was a real feeling of tension and suspense, even if you knew what the outcome would be.
Not every character made it out alive, which, of course, broke some fans' hearts.
7 Cristina Gets Stabbed With An Icicle
You always hear about how dangerous icicles can be, but even the people who try not to walk under them may have been surprised to see one stab Cristina through the stomach. This seemingly random bit of drama is the kind of thing that the show would often resort to, especially as its run continued.
It seemed almost like a signal that they were out of ideas, and were simply putting their characters in life-threatening situations just because they could. Cristina was fine, of course, but that didn’t keep the show from creating a cliffhanger out of her vicious ice-capade.
Winter sucks, but Grey’s Anatomy turned it into a random maimer. This particular development felt both random and largely unearned.
6 The Plane Crash
On a show with this much drama and carnage, it shouldn’t have been all that surprising that there was eventually a plane crash that cost some of the show’s characters their lives. It was a sudden and dramatic turn that could’ve been much worse had the plane not been filled with doctors on their way to Idaho to separate conjoined twins.
Ultimately, Lexie dies in the wreckage of the plane, and Mark, who loved her deeply, dies of complications related to his heart in the hospital sometime later. In a show set in a hospital, you wouldn’t think that the writers would need to go this far out of their way to create compelling drama. Still, if they had to crash a plane, they did a pretty good job of making it feel realistic.
5 Mark Sloan's Death
It would be somewhat generous to say that Grey’s Anatomy has been known to play with the basic tenets of medicine and treatment for dramatic effect. It does so to manipulate the viewer’s emotions, and generate a feeling of ease that it can then undercut.
One example of this kind of viewer manipulation came with Mark’s death.
Following the plane crash, it initially seemed like Mark was going to make it. Although he lost Lexie, he seemed to be relatively unharmed. Eventually, though, he suffered from complications and fell into a coma that he never woke up from.
Sloan was another foundational member of the cast, and his death proved that the show was entering an entirely new and unfamiliar era.
4 When April And Jackson Lost Their Baby
The loss of a child is one of the most tragic things that can happen to a person. While Grey’s Anatomy may not be the kind of show that intentionally tortures its audience, it certainly likes to put them through the emotional ringer.
That’s exactly what it did in this storyline, one which saw April and Jackson have a child only to lose him just hours after he was born.
Both April and Jackson understood what would happen when their child was born, but they had him anyway, and had him baptized as well. They wanted every second they could get with their child, even if there were only a few of those seconds to grab. It was a moving scene, but one that drove many viewers to understandable tears.
3 Derek's Death
On most shows, there are a few characters that are completely safe. These are the characters that are so central to the story that it’s hard to imagine a world where they aren’t on the show. Derek appeared to be one such character on Grey’s Anatomy. Played by Patrick Dempsey, Derek was the male lead, and his romance with Meredith was the show’s defining story.
For many, his death in a surprising car crash represented the end of what Grey’s Anatomy had always been.
The show has survived Derek’s death, and occasionally it has managed to recapture the greatness it had in its earlier seasons. Still, the shocking death of Derek left a hole that the show will never be able to fill, no matter how hard it tries.
2 Cristina's Ectopic Pregnancy
Pregnancies never go according to plan on Grey’s Anatomy. If it was your only reference for pregnancy, you’d think that having a child was a lot more dangerous than it actually is. Of course, babies are a great way to spark some drama, and losing a child is even more dramatic.
When Cristina’s suffers from an ectopic pregnancy during the show’s second season, she loses her baby. The episode is heart-breaking from beginning to end, and the show uses it as an early example of the kind of devastation it could cause for its viewers.
This wouldn’t be the last time that Cristina suffered a traumatic loss on the show, either. The characters on Grey’s Anatomy led pretty hard lives, and Cristina suffered more than most.
1 Izzie and Denny's Ghost
There have been plenty of strange plotlines in the history of Grey’s Anatomy, but this one may take the top prize.
Suffering from hallucinations brought on by a tumor, Izzie sees her dead love Denny with a regularity that was alarming for many of the show’s viewers. In fact, this was the single incident that caused many of Grey’s loyal fans to jump ship.
Not only does she hallucinate Denny, but Izzie actually has relations with that hallucination. Logistics aside, that’s still one of the stranger choices any television show has mad in a while. Hallucinations are a part of many great stories, but Izzie and the viewers had already grieved for Denny, so it was strange to see him pop back up again. The hook-up only made things stranger.
What are some other times Grey's Anatomy went way too far? Let us know in the comments!