Ask Matt: Grey’s Anatomy’s McTragedy, Fresh Off the Boat, Taraji’s Person of Interest Return, and More

Ask Matt

Good news, Ask Matt fans! TV Insider is now presenting the Q&A with TV critic (sometime “TV therapist”) Matt Roush twice a week—on Tuesdays and Thursdays—giving you twice the opportunity to share your concerns and join in the love for all things TV in today’s vast landscape. One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] and follow me on Twitter.

[Editor’s Note: Much of today’s column will deal at length with impassioned reactions to recent events on Grey’s Anatomy, so bear with me. No one said watching TV would be easy.]

Question: I am sure your mailbox will be flooded by reactions with regards to Patrick Dempsey’s departure from Grey’s Anatomy, and I just wanted to express my anger towards such a disrespectful decision. To mock all the faithful audience that has followed this show during the past 11 seasons is simply rude. This fan base was responsible for making this show not only appointment TV, but also a cultural phenomenon within the TV medical genre, and we deserved better. Shonda Rhimes sold us one of TV’s greatest love affairs ever! As an audience, we have been tolerant with her appalling plot twists (e.g. Izzie having sex with a ghost), and we have exhibited great patience when loved characters were written out for different reasons (e.g. Mark Sloan, Cristina Yang, Lexie Grey), only to bring boring and annoying new faces (e.g. April Kepner or any of the new interns). All of this because we as an audience trusted the fact that Shonda Rhimes understood that Meredith and Derek were off-limits. She could play with them, make them suffer and fight, even separate them for a while, but always with a plan of bringing them back together for their happy ending.

If Patrick Dempsey wanted to leave, or if Rhimes needed the actor to go, that is an issue that can’t be controlled, but she controls how a character exits the show. Shonda Rhimes betrayed us, she betrayed the idea of Grey’s Anatomy, and unfortunately she tainted her legacy; Grey’s Anatomy will be remembered not only as the medical drama that redefined the genre, but also as the show that created an unprecedented disappointment in its fan base just for the sake of creating shock or staying relevant? My question is simple: Do you think this is the end of Grey’s Anatomy? And do you feel as angry and betrayed as I and most of the audience feels? — David

Matt Roush: It sure feels like the beginning of the end, because I’m not sure how long I (as a longtime and continuing Grey’s fan) would want to keep company with a Meredith who’s now deprived of both of her soulmates, Derek and Cristina. What a downer. I’m all for death with dignity, and Derek’s heroic demise fits that bill, but I’m even more concerned about a show dying with dignity, for which it may be too late for Grey’s at this point. A lot will depend on how I feel after this week’s two-hour episode, which should be cathartic as everyone at the hospital begins to deal with the loss.

I understand the shock, dismay, and anger among Grey’s and Derek-Meredith fans, but it always seemed to me that the entire season has been foreshadowing Patrick Dempsey’s departure, the two-year contract notwithstanding. (Sometimes I feel the more we know about the business of a show, the less we can appreciate it creatively.) He was away from Grey’s for much of this season, and Derek’s absence during his sister Amelia’s major surgery on Dr. Herman (Geena Davis) felt especially awkward, given the enormity of the storyline. For me, his death would have been much more of a betrayal if Derek had not made peace with Meredith in recent weeks. For those asking “what’s the real story,” I’d prefer not to paint either the restless actor or the overreaching producer/writer as a villain in this scenario. I would think both had a hand in this decision, although it ultimately is the call and responsibility of the executive producer. Do I wish it hadn’t come to this? Of course. Will this be the breaking point for many fans? Almost certainly. Is this the perfect opportunity for ABC to announce next season as the final lap for Grey’s Anatomy? I think and would hope so. But read on for an different interpretation of the situation.

Question: I would like to offer what I expect is an alternative viewpoint to the anger over the decision to kill off Derek. I am very sad that he had to meet with this end. However, Patrick Dempsey has made comments on and off for the last several years about wanting to leave the show, which means that as long as the show is continuing indefinitely, Derek was going to have to go sooner or later. Given the fact that Derek is a likable character and a good person, and should remain that way, I think killing him off was the best option available to Rhimes. The alternatives would have been for him to remain in Washington, D.C., perpetually, which would have severely strained credibility if we never saw him, or for him to walk out on Meredith and their two children. After everything that Meredith and Derek have endured, breaking them up would have been detrimental to the show and a slap in the face to the fans. At least this way, Derek gets to be remembered fondly and leave with his dignity intact.

The bigger question here is how long Grey’s should run. Rhimes’ statement on the matter says she “absolutely never imagined saying goodbye to our McDreamy,” and Dempsey did sign a two-year contract extension last spring. If they did suspect Season 12 was going to be the end, then it would have made more sense to keep him so that Meredith and Derek could ride off into the show’s sunset together. Since they chose not to do that, they must intend to keep this story going beyond a point where Dempsey would have resigned. The episodes this season that have aired without Derek have proven that the show doesn’t require his constant presence in order to be successful narratively, and the show has weathered cast departures in the past, so I will certainly continue to watch it and think it will be fine, although certainly not the same. I’m still very much invested in the characters, but feel Grey’s deserves to build up to a finale, so I do think that Rhimes and ABC would be wise to have a conversation about how much longer the show is going to run so that we get a proper farewell. — J

Matt Roush: Reading this, I was reminded of the situation on Downton Abbey when Dan Stevens wanted out, and Julian Fellowes decided the only exit strategy for Matthew Crawley was a sudden and fatal one. Breaking up his and Lady Mary’s relationship was unthinkable, and same goes for Meredith and Derek. So yes, on that I agree. I also get that Grey’s is still a reliable enough performer for ABC, even at this late stage of the game, that the network may be invested in keeping the show going beyond next year. That seems much more problematic. I find myself thinking back on ER and how many core characters had left (some died, others moved on) by this point in that show’s run, at which time I had bailed altogether. Not always sure why I’ve kept my allegiance to Grey’s, but this twist diminishes my enthusiasm—especially if ABC and the Grey’s brain trust decide next season will be just another year in the life of Meredith and friends, those which are left.

Fresh Off The Boat
John Fleenor/ABC

Question: It seems likely now that Fresh Off the Boat will be renewed, but I have questions and concerns about it, and am not sure how much longer I can watch it. Generally, I like it. The parents, especially the mother, are quite funny, and the two younger sons are a hoot. What I don’t understand is why Eddie Huang, the creator and producer of the show, made his own character, the oldest son, such an obnoxious, irritating, and totally un-funny kid. It’s reaching the point where I’ve been fast-forwarding through sections where he is featured. I’m sure that most people don’t find him as irritating as I do, and I don’t know whether the writers, producers, directors, or the actor are responsible, but I just feel completely aggravated whenever he’s on screen. They don’t really give him any funny lines, but usually portray him as a sullen, spoiled near-bully who has no humor. You probably don’t feel the same way as I do about this, but I still wonder why Eddie Huang would allow his own character to be portrayed in such a way. — Paul

Matt Roush: Maybe you’re not aware of how much trash-talking the real Eddie Huang has leveled against this show. (Up to and including Friday’s appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher.) A classic case of whining all the way to the bank. Maybe the portrayal of Little Eddie as a malcontent isn’t so far off the mark. I like the fact that his character hasn’t been overly sweetened, but also wouldn’t argue that the parents and the siblings tend to steal the show nearly every week.

Question: [And this, via Twitter, in response to our recent discussion—see final question—about ABC’s Wednesday night family comedies]: I wouldn’t mind Fresh Off the Boat staying on Tuesdays and pulling The Goldbergs back to accompany it. They’re both “retro” but modern comedies. — Dennis

Matt Roush: They would make a good fit, though I hate the thought of anything disrupting the current flow of ABC’s Wednesday lineup. Maybe the two could share the Wednesday time period, trading off at midseason. But if ABC does develop a new comedy it thinks would work next season in the more protective environment of the established Wednesday comedies, this would be an interesting experiment.

Person of Interest
Giovanni Rufino/CBS

Question: From Person of Interest‘s “Terra Incognita” episode: Joss Carter and John Reese sitting in a car, talking. It was powerful and moving, wasn’t it? While not my all-time favorite episode (but still the best one of Season 4), it was simply great having Taraji P. Henson back on the show. She is so dearly missed. This episode reminded me again that she and Jim Caviezel have this amazing chemistry that no one else on this show can top. They are stunning. And the best thing, it’s completely natural, unlike other pairings on Person of Interest, which simply felt forced. So Jonathan Nolan can continue to throw as many bland and boring women (and this season there were a lot of them) at John Reese as he wants, but Joss Carter was the one. No other lady is within her reach. It’s really a shame that these two terrific actors are separated now and on different shows. Empire is OK, but if I could choose between Cookie Lyon and Joss Carter, I would always choose Joss Carter. She is the real deal. Any chance that Jim Caviezel might appear as a guest on Empire since Person of Interest has sadly dropped the ball with Carter/Reese? — Kyra

Matt Roush: We will have to respectfully agree to disagree (along with several millions of Empire fans and the actor herself) that Joss Carter was a better and more fulfilling role for Taraji P. Henson than the outrageous, one-of-a-kind Cookie Lyon. I’m just glad this episode happened, to appease fans of Person of Interest while reminding us of how important this character and her legacy was and still is to Reese. No doubt the actors bring out the best in each other, but if ever there was a situation that screams “Move on,” it’s this one. (Personally, I’m missing Shaw the most.)

Question: The Israelis are back?! I heard a rumor that the Israelis are back for the season finale of NCIS. Could it be true, or is it just a rumor? — Dana

Matt Roush: Addressing such rumors veers dangerously into spoiler territory, and I rarely go there. What I will share is what has been announced so far, and what is being reported in this week’s Finale Preview issue of TV Guide Magazine. Can’t say if the Israelis factor into the finale, but it’s not out of the question, since NCIS‘s three-episode arc of a season-ender takes several characters, including McGee, to the Middle East—specifically, Cairo (in the penultimate episode on May 5)—to investigate terrorists recruiting young people through chat rooms, all leading to a “surprising and emotional death” of “an important character.” We’ll meet someone new along the way: CIA officer Joanna Teague, played by Mimi Rogers. Beyond that, as we like to say, you’ll have to watch and see.

That’s all for now, but look for another Ask Matt column on Thursday! Can’t do it without you, so please send your questions and comments to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter.