Shonda Rhimes has given us so much ever since she created Grey's Anatomy and the subsequent hit shows that still bring us to tears. Created prior to the era of binge-watching, these shows were way ahead of their time in that we can now binge-watch them ease today. But just because something is great doesn't mean it's perfect. That's the human condition, right? Shows that have the ability to make us think differently can also upset us, even more, when something feels off because we become used to them breaking new ground all the time.
We've seen a few cringe-worthy storylines along with unexpected plot lists, excellent monologues, and in-depth backstories about our favorite characters. Though we always knew the world Rhimes created was special, we can now better analyze her body of work now that several years have gone by ever since she made a splash in the entertainment industry. Thankfully, the positives far outweigh the negative. With a vision that has changed TV forever, we can forgive a few scuffles here and there. Just don't count on anyone to forget them.
For this list, we've decided to concentrate on as many iconic moments as possible. As you'll see, many crossovers are included because Rhimes was able to make these happen in ways that usually helped the shows involved in them.
Here are 13 Storylines That Hurt Shondaland Shows (And 12 That Saved Them).
25 Hurt: The Musical Episode, Grey's Anatomy
"Song Beneath A Song" was the much-derided musical episode on season 11 of Grey's Anatomy. Given the show's talented cast, you'd think this episode would've been an innovative experiment.
Instead, it didn't fit in with the show's story arc and got weird. The cast often had to sing while their masks were on and we lost several important plot points because we were distracted by the awkward show tunes. Notably, we missed out on Arizona and Callie's proposal drama. We also saw the doctors sing to Callie as she was headed to surgery. We could've gotten more exposition about this instead.
24 Helped: The Crossover and Class-Action Lawsuit, HTGAWM/Scandal
Olivia Pope and Annelise Keating are two of TV's most complicated and pioneering characters. That's why it was such a joy to watch them work together.
The crossover came at a time when Pope and Keating both had to redeem themselves after a series of mishaps. Working together resulted in great TV for us and a landmark case we wish had been put forth in real life. We got to watch two complicated women put their differences aside for the greater good while also watching a story that added depth to both shows.
23 Hurt: The Elaborate Way Andrew took Olivia—And Why, Scandal
With everything Olivia Pope was involved in, the secrets she knew, and her connections, it's a wonder she hadn't been taken or significantly threatened before this.
Vice President Andrew Nichols staged Olivia being taken and played some serious mind games with viewers. VP Nichols wanted Fitz to go to war with fictitious West Angola, but his plan mostly served to hurt Olivia while dragging the storyline along. We're not sure what writers could've done instead of following this storyline, but was it really worth it to out Nichols as a bad guy in this manner?
22 Helped: "The Lawn Chair," Scandal
In Olivia Pope, Scandal had a character many critics saw as "post-racial." The thing is, Olivia Pope would have to deal with race eventually.
Though we feel this episode is a one-off, we later realize that it was a smart way to introduce us to activist (and later gladiator in a suit), Marcus Walker. The episode delivers a powerful commentary as we watch Olivia make a choice between what she was paid to do and the right thing. It also shows us that the taking didn't break Liv's moral compass.
21 Hurt: Reconnecting With Huck's Family, Scandal
Huck is a tragic character in Scandal. His former life completely haunts him, and we later learn that he stalks happy families through windows because he misses his own. Bringing his family back ends up being quite tragic for him because he ends up being unable to have a relationship with them. So why are they there?
Sure, we're glad Quinn tried to do something nice, but being reconnected to his family only brings further tragedy for Huck. Plus, his son sees who his father really is, and their relationship can't be saved after that.
20 Helped: Amelia's Pregnancy Arc, Private Practice/GA
You can't understand Amelia Sheperd based on her characterization on Grey's Anatomy alone. We first meet her in Private Practice while she's dating Ryan, struggles with addiction, and reconnects with Addison.
After she has her baby she has to make a painful decision (we'll try not to spoil it for you!). Suffice it to say, this has ramifications for her future romance with Owen Hunt. As viewers know, Hunt really wants to have kids, but Amelia has fears about becoming a mother. This story arc is masterfully woven into both shows.
19 Hurt: Dragging Out Bonnie's Backstory Every Season, HTGAWM
Fans of HTGAWM have seen every character go through some tough moments. Of course, Bonnie Winterbottom has been through some extremely traumatic things.
The show usually gives us some exposition on events in her life that explain who she is today. Fans have noticed that her story consistently gets drawn out every season, and some of them would like to see her move on. After all, in a show where characters constantly back-stab each other, there's bound to be more than meets the eye when it comes to all characters, right?
18 Helped: Naomi Adopts Betsy, Private Practice
Naomi Bennett was smart, strong, funny, and beautiful. She had a strong belief system and was a great foil to Addison Montgomery, who sometimes gut stuck in her privileged ways. Still, a lot of negative things happened to her character. Her belief systems were challenged once her teen daughter, Maya, became pregnant.
Just as things were looking down, she decided to adopt Dell's daughter, Betsey. Not only did this show that Naomi is a truly loving individual, but she made this decision after her life had been turned upside down. It was truly a selfless act.
17 Hurt: Addison and Sam's Romance, Private Practice
We were used to seeing a lot of cast members kind of date each other on Grey's Anatomy. It also occurred a little bit on Private Practice, but something about Addison and Sam's relationship felt very wrong.
Yes, they were very happy. At the very least, the relationship was far more stable than many of the relationships we've seen in many Shondaland shows. But let's remember that Addison is Naomi's best friend. She's the person Naomi used to turn to, and this story arc brought unnecessary tension between the two.
16 Helped: Andy is Forced To Help During a Surgery, Station 19
Nothing screams fierce more than a firefighter having to assist with surgery. Station 19 was introduced via back-door pilot in Grey's Anatomy, and it quickly showed us who need to pay attention to in the upcoming (and second) GA spinoff.
Lieutenant Andrea "Andy" Herrera has just saved a boy's life and has to keep her hand is his abdomen. Now, that takes a strong stomach. She later ends up assisting in his surgery and her story arc lasts two episodes. This gives us a lot to think about when Station 19 airs on its own.
15 Hurt: Love Triangle Between Maggie, Meredith, and Nathan, Grey's Anatomy
We can't imagine Meredith Grey getting into a competition over something as trivial as a guy. But the worst of this is that it prevents us from all the interesting baggage Maggie added to the show.
Yes, she was introduced on season 10, but at least her storyline went far back in time. Can two sisters like the same guy? Sure, but what we needed from the show was tension of a different kind between the two sisters. I mean, they both just met, but instead of hashing things out the show decides to focus on their problems with a guy? Nope.
14 Helped: Meredith Donates Part Of Her Liver To Thatcher, Grey's Anatomy
Meredith Grey didn't have the best parents. Thatcher Grey just kind of left her and was a great dad to Lexie, which must have been painful for Meredith to come to terms with. "Tainted Obligation" (Season 4, episode 16), gave us yet another reason to love Meredith.
It took a lot of maturity for Meredith to give up a piece of her liver for a father she didn't always understand. Not only did it show how united she and Lexie had become, but it also showed us how far Meredith is willing to go for those she loves.
13 Hurt: Hollis' Daughter Fakes an event, Scandal
Hollis Doyle is the portrait of a textbook sycophant. He was one of Liv's frienemies, but given how rich he is we could see how someone might want to take a family member of his.
We're just not sure why it turns out his daughter faked her own taking by deciding to go all Van Gogh on us. Was Scandal trying to get us to feel compassionate for Hollis? If so, we totally lost our empathy for him when the show had him run for president against Mellie Grant. We'll never know why this storyline became a thing.
12 Helped: Leonard Is A Senator's Son, For The People
If you haven't seen For The People, then you don't know it's about a lot of public defenders who are trying to do good. Leonard starts out by trying to impress people by showing the world his mom, a well-known senator.
This eventually gets him nowhere and he soon realizes he just has to concentrate on being a good lawyer. During the fifth episode of Season 1, "World's Great Judge," Leonard must face his first test. He must decide what to after he realizes a politician is using money from his campaign to cover up an affair. This probably won't be the last time Leonard must confront the system—and maybe someday, his mom.
11 Hurt: Mellie Takes Too Long To Leave Fitz, Scandal
A lot of people underestimate Mellie Grant's strength of character on Scandal. Sure, she was obsessed with getting power and keeping it, but this was what allowed her to take crap from no one once she became the leader of the free world.
She's also smart and totally knew about Fitz's affair with Olivia. In fact, she once encouraged Olivia to get back with him so he could function again. We think she could have left Fitz much sooner. After all, she did great things after getting a divorce but still remained an integral part of DC's powerful elite.
10 Helped: Explaining What Big Jerry Did To Mellie, Scandal
If Mellie was so smart and beautiful, then why was Fitz compelled to fall in love with someone else? On season 3, episode 17 we learn what Big Jerry (Fitz's father) did to Mellie.
The trauma she faced made it difficult for her to feel any inkling of romance toward Fitz. And who can blame her? She wanted to empower herself by remaining silent, but the years of agony finally forced her to come clean to Olivia Pope. At least the revelation helped us—and Fitz—better understand and sympathize with Mellie.
9 Hurt: Eliza Minnick's Story Arc, Grey's Anatomy
Eliza Minnick was meant to be empowered and totally confident. Unfortunately, she came across as arrogant and annoying. Grey's Anatomy tried to make us more sympathetic to her character by adding a romantic twist with Arizona Robbins, who we know could see the best in anyone.
Though it's normal for someone to butt heads with fellow characters when introduced, it seemed as if this was all Minnick ever did. Her arrogance sometimes led her to make robotic choices instead of improvising when needed. Many fans were probably happy she didn't return to the show.
8 Helped: Arizona Robbins and Dr. Herman's Story Arc, Grey's Anatomy
The legendary Gina Davis played Dr. Herman, a pioneering surgeon whose brash teaching techniques were a way to hide a selfless teacher who wanted a discipline. Dr. Herman was tough, but she pushed Arizona Robbins to be her best.
The entire storyline involved a positive mentor-mentee relationship that eventually developed into a trusting friendship. Robbins was the first person to know about Dr. Herman's tumor. She moved mountains to get Amelia to operate on Dr. Herman. Despite the fact that it didn't turn out how they wanted, Dr. Herman still praised Arizona's abilities and character.
7 Hurt: Too Much Exposition About B-613, Season 3, Scandal
B-613 is scary, evil, and intimidating. We got that just from meeting Eli Pope and getting Huck's backstory. However, season 3 spent a lot of time focusing on the organization when there were so many other great stories around.
First off, Vice President Sally chose to run as an Independent. Sure, she wasn't the most likable character, but her run was something to look forward to in a world where too few women are encouraged to do such a thing. We could've also spent more time on Mellie getting past her trauma, or even some of the Grant family's dysfunction.
6 Helped: Cooper And Charlotte's Entire Romance, Private Practice
Cooper and Charlotte weren't meant to work out. Their romance began when they found out they were communicating online, and the whole thing was never meant to be serious. But then it worked. Charlotte and Cooper turned out to be compatible. The couple went through some serious ups and downs that could've caused a catastrophe for anyone else.
Instead, both characters grew as a result of the relationship. Charlotte was a supportive stepmom to Cooper's child from a previous relationship, and Cooper was Charlotte's rock during some seriously trying times.
5 Hurt: Meredith Drowns, Grey's Anatomy
Meredith has spent her 9 lives and then some. Ever loyal to the Hippocratic Oath she took, she wound up drowning after a ferry crashed because she can't swim. Fair point.
It seems like "Drowning on Dry Land" was an effort to have Derek profess his love for Meredith and realize she's the one. This robs us of fully focusing on Meredith because she passed away. We're happy she made it so she could grace us with her presence to this day. It would've been nice to watch her deal with that instead of turning this into a romantic twist.
4 Helped: Addison Learns About Her Parents' Open Marriage, Private Practice
Addison dealt with many philandering men in her day, so it's logical that she judged her father's choices well into adulthood. Thankfully Private Practice explained that her parents were in an open marriage.
It turns out Bizzy, Addison's mother, had been hiding an affair with Susan for years. Bizzy pushed Addison into saving Susan's life after an aggressive ovarian cancer spread to her liver. Addison was better able to understand Bizzy's reasons for pressuring her to save Susan. She also learned that her dad wasn't the man she thought he was.
3 Hurt: Olivia Pope Is Command, Scandal
Yes, Olivia Pope was destined to become an anti-hero in some way during Scandal's run. Her relationship with power was an invitation to succumb to its temptations. Turning her into Command was just too much of a stretch. As if her relationship to Eli Pope wasn't complicated enough already, Olivia already had too much going on as Mellie's Chief-of-Staff to get her hands this dirty.
B-613 caused Olivia's quick downfall, which was a far cry from her white hat wearing days. Not only that, but Olivia understood that you can't change the system from within, and we can't see her going back on this principle.
2 Helped: Annelise and Soraya's Rocky Relationship, HTGAWM
Soraya was yet another powerful woman of color in a powerful position. Like Annelise, we can appreciate the complexity of her struggles to be able to see her children once again. This caused Soraya not to stand by Annelise on certain occasions, showing Soraya's vulnerability and adding tension to Annelise's life.
Despite this, both women had an understanding of how the world treats strong women of color. They were there for each other in the ways that counted, and Annelise was able to forgive Soraya for not always siding with her.
1 Hurt: Not Letting Us See Characters Grieve After The Plane Crash, Grey's Anatomy
"Migration" and "Flight" changed the course of Grey's Anatomy quickly. Doctors who didn't pass away as a result of this plane crash were scarred for life and had a lot of trauma.
We definitely got to see Arizona and Callie's struggle but would've loved to see the aftermath for other surviving characters. Derek also shows signs of struggling during season 9, but everyone else just kind of moves on. Surviving a plane crash takes a lot out of people, and the show could've milked a few more stories from its aftermath.
What are some of your favorite Shondaland storylines? Let us know in the comments!