Season 13, episode 18: Be Still, My Soul (Written by Meg Marinis; Directed by Ellen Pompeo)
First thing’s first: how amazing was Ellen Pompeo’s directing debut? I’ve been waiting for two weeks to write this review and the day is finally here! Seeing this episode at PaleyFest was such a treat, and then getting to hear Ellen talk about her experiences was inspiring to me and so many others. So before I get into the review, I just wanted to say to Ellen, thank you and I can’t wait to see you directing again next season.
And now here we go with what might be one of the most heartbreaking episodes to grace our screens:
“When my mother’s Alzheimer’s got bad, I was going through her bills and I found a notepad. Written on it were the words, ‘Important: tell Meredith not to…’ and that was it. She never finished that sentence. Tell Meredith not to what? Not to drink too much? Not to pet strange dogs? Not to give her heart away? Not to leave the sprinklers on? We didn’t exactly talk a lot in those days. I regret that, I wish we had.” -Meredith Grey
Plot wise, this episode was a lot more like the show I know and love. I realize that sounds terrible BUT it’s true. This felt like old Grey’s to me, something I feel like I haven’t seen in a while. When we deal with a loved one’s death on this show (Denny, Derek, George… do I need to keep going?) they usually go out with a bang. Literally. They get hit by busses or semis or the thing keeping them alive is cut with a pair of scissors. Anyways, Diane Pierce (played by the outstanding LaTanya Richardson) goes naturally. Instead of people blowing up or dying and coming back to life, we get to see a very intimate hour between mother and daughter. Kelly McCreary shows so much expression on her face the entire episode, you feel her grief and you feel the same desperation to save her mother’s life.
When dealing with a storyline of this capacity, it’s so important that you get it right. So many shows, unfortunately, don’t. Putting Ellen behind the camera for this was exactly what needed to happen. Her directing and vision combined with Meg’s incredible writing and Kelly’s outstanding acting made what I think is one of the best episodes in all 13 seasons, and I don’t say that lightly. (Pun intended) Decisions Ellen made throughout the episode gave it so much more raw emotion, so much more desperation. The camera angles were closer up and quicker cuts in some scenes showing the grief on everyone’s face. The moments of silence were absolutely brilliant. (She should know, she did film almost an entire episode with her mouth wired shut.) Even more subtle moments gave the episode a little something extra… did you notice the doctors and/or nurses with the hijabs? That’s classing Ellen right there, and I’m so glad she chose to do that.
Real quick, let’s talk about my favorite paralleled scene OF ALL TIME. (And this episode is not the first time this particular scene has been done, but wow, did it work!) The ambulance scene right after the dinner party. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, this is the scene I was talking about when I said watch for parallels. Did you catch it? If not, that’s ok… I’ll run you through it right now.
- First up: Ellis Grey has just slit her wrists in front of a 5-year-old Meredith when Richard leaves her. She’s pregnant with Maggie at the time but doesn’t know it yet. (Taken from 11.22)
- Next up: Meredith has just gone into labor with baby Ellis and Zola calls 911 after Meredith begins bleeding. This is before she comes home to Seattle following Derek’s death. (Taken from 11.22)
- And to top off the triple action parallel, we have last night’s scene with Diane and Maggie. Here it is.
Go back and watch all of these scenes. Watch the camera angles, pay attention to the music, watch the transitions. It’ll blow your mind (if you’re anything like me…)
But what stuck out most to me, and it’s a scene and a moment that will be stuck in my head forever, is the scene where Diane Pierce passes away. I’ve seen the episode five times now, and I have cried every time. That scene was so raw, so heartbreaking, so beautiful. You feel like you’re in the room when it happens. You feel Maggie’s heartbreak. The silence gets to you. Ellen took her own tragedy and turned it into art. That’s not something many people can do (and major props to Kelly here, my heart broke watching you on screen.) The most symbolic moment, to me, in this episode was the sunlight streaming in the window of the hospital room. I get chills just thinking about it. Diane may be gone from Earth, but her soul lives on. Diane said something about not wanting to bring Maggie darkness when she died, but she doesn’t. She will serve as a light for Maggie for the rest of her life… much like a mother does for everyone. Whether they’re still here or not.
Ellen spoke about having to direct herself a little bit, and I want to point out my favorite Meredith moment in the episode as my last point. She’s sitting on the couch in the hospital with Maggie. Maggie tells her she knows her mom is going but she’s not ready. “You’re never ready. You just do it. Listen to her talk, talk about whatever she wants to talk about and record her voice in your mind and memorize everything. Just keep sitting there.” We see Meredith get a little vulnerable here. In her advice to Maggie, she’s obviously thinking about her own mother and how much she wishes she could go back. She’s matured since Ellis’ death and understands her more now. I think the two of them would have a much stronger relationship now if she were still alive. I think we’re also getting some advice from Ellen (NOT Meredith) here too. Coming from someone who knows this grief, she’s telling us to pay attention. Tell your mom you love her while she’s still here. If you’re reading this and haven’t talked to your mom in a while, call her right now. And while you’re at it, tell her to get a screening for IBC.
I don’t want to say too much more because I really feel like this episode speaks for itself. I have just one last thing to say and you will probably all agree with me here: KELLY McCREARY AND ELLEN POMPEO BOTH DESERVE AN EMMY FOR THIS EPISODE.
And as always, we’re going to end with the final VO of the week, which I cried while typing:
“I think about my mom’s note all the time. Tell Meredith not to… not to cave? Not to care? Not to give up so easily? Not to fall in love? Not to have children? Not to tell a lie? She left me knowing everything was up to me, and me alone. And she left me with no one to ask. So, I would decide what she meant to write. Tell Meredith not to be afraid. Goodbye, mom.” -Meredith Grey
Until next week,
I lied, I have one more thing for you to do: watch the episode again and really listen to the words of the music playing. It adds a whole new layer into the stories being told on the screen. Here’s a list of the songs if you want to look them up:
Heart (Sleeping At Last)
God It’s Late (Aaron Wright)
Devil’s Sugar (Mishcatt)
10,000 Miles (Sleeping At Last)
Closer (Kyle Neal)
Ok, now I’m really done. See you next week!