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‘Grey’s Anatomy’ confronts the realities of COVID-19

The season 17 premiere depicts the many adversities faced by essential healthcare workers in this world of COVID-19

<p>The show's long running time has been marked by many changes and additions to the cast.</p>

The show's long running time has been marked by many changes and additions to the cast.

If you are reading this, it’s a sign you should start watching “Grey’s Anatomy.” Either that or a sign that you should pick it back up after stopping when your favorite character got killed off. You may have been thinking that “Grey’s Anatomy” is too overrated or there are too many seasons, but erase any presumptions you may have about it. Although it contains the classic medical drama tropes, such as melodrama and a lack of realism, the premiere of season 17 proves that the show isn’t afraid to tackle relevant yet controversial issues. A fair warning — you will inevitably become emotionally attached to the “Grey’s Anatomy” ensemble and become extremely invested in their intertwined storylines.

On Nov. 12, “Grey’s Anatomy” returned to ABC for its two-hour-long season 17 premiere with two episodes, which have been followed by the remainder of the season. After its sixteenth season was cut short due to COVID-19, the characters of Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital are back combating the adversities of COVID-19. The first two episodes switch back and forth between the present — April 2029 — and the past, pre-COVID-19 times. The many frustrations of the healthcare workers are depicted in the premiere, and for those who may not know any healthcare workers personally, “Grey’s Anatomy” allows watchers to view the hectic and demanding world of healthcare workers during this time.

Seeing all of the “Grey’s Anatomy” characters dressed in full personal protective equipment was a chilling sight, as it was a reminder of our present realities reflected in this fictional world. Right from the beginning of the first episode, the show addresses the fact that Black people are being affected by COVID-19 at higher rates, due to unequal distribution of healthcare access. “Grey’s Anatomy” has touched on racial disparities in past seasons, and it’s always refreshing to see a series with such a large audience speak to prominent issues occurring amidst the pandemic. 

The anger and sorrow encountered by the Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital doctors, especially by Dr. Meredith Grey — played by Ellen Pompeo — leaves the audience feeling emotional, as Pompeo reflects on the horrifying realities of COVID-19 through the lens of an essential healthcare worker. Throughout the first episode, Grey loses patient after patient, eventually leading her to breakdown in tears in one scene. Like any other “Grey’s Anatomy” episode, you won’t be able to fight back tears during the premiere. 

Another COVID-19 issue that is confronted in the premiere is the lack of personal protective equipment at Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital. The healthcare workers do not have enough gloves and masks, resulting in them having to reuse PPE — a major issue faced in the real world as supplies could not keep up with the increasing demands of the pandemic. 

Although “Grey’s Anatomy” tackles the serious issue of COVID-19, the show strives to maintain its lighthearted tone. In one scene, Dr. Maggie Pierce, played by Kelly McCreary, and Dr. Catherine Avery, played by Debbie Allen, are seen yelling at each other from across the table and socially distanced, conveying the release of their anger about COVID-19 in a humorous way. Another scene that went viral on social media was of Dr. Zander Perez, played by Zaiver Sinnett, a relatively new addition to the show. The scene depicts Perez checking in a patient who requested that he not have a Chinese doctor. Perez quickly rebutted the racist demand and put the patient in his place by saying he could go home and just hope that he doesn’t go into anaphylactic shock, leading the patient to follow Perez’s orders with no questions asked.

The surprise return of a fan-favorite character at the end of the episode shocked “Grey’s Anatomy” fans, leaving fans wondering whether or not this character is back for good. Some fans speculate that Grey is just hallucinating, but it is also very plausible that this character is really there — anything is possible in the world of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Beginning in 2005, “Grey’s Anatomy” is the longest-running primetime medical drama, and there is no question why. The series consistently has high ratings and has built a strong following. However, Pompeo has hinted that season 17 may be the show’s final season. The future of “Grey’s Anatomy” is still uncertain, but there are hopes by fans that the show will end on a high note.