Season 13, episode 24: Ring of Fire (Written by Stacy McKee)
First off, I want to say thank you to Jerrika for breathing life into such a complex, strong, badass character for the past five years. We will all miss you and Stephanie Edwards. And Stacy, what a beautiful ending you gave her. (More on this later!!) I have said it every time and I’ll say it again: every time I see your name as writer, I know I’m about to have one hell of an hour, and this one did not disappoint.
So, back to normal. This review is going to be spent mainly inside Stephanie’s head. I’m going to try to work through her thoughts and fears in the next couple of minutes, and if you could all play along with me, that would be great.
“When life forces us to do something impossible, an explosion happens inside the body. A rush of hormones blasts through us; making us stronger, making us faster. Biology overrides fear and that makes the impossible possible.” -Meredith Grey
Adrenaline. It’s a funny thing… I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced adrenaline taking over in a situation, God knows I haven’t, not like this at least. But right now, I’m Stephanie, and that’s exactly what’s happening. Adrenaline affects just about every part of your body; your heart rate increases, your lungs are expanding further, parts of your nervous system are activated making neurons fire two to three times faster in your brain, your concentration increases so much you literally forget about the pain… it’s fight or flight. Your blood vessels begin to send an increased blood flow to your heart and lungs, making you ready for that fight. Stephanie is running on pure adrenaline. We are running on pure adrenaline.
When you’re faced with a true decision of fight or flight, what do you choose? What about when the life hanging in the balance isn’t just your own? That’s where Stephanie’s brain is: she could give up or she could fight like hell and literally walk through fire to save two lives, one being her own. Fight or flight. The fire doesn’t care about her or Erin. The fire cares about growing. About destroying everything in its path. Including both Stephanie and Erin if she lets it. We’ve never seen Stephanie in a situation as dire as this one, and she reacts pretty much how I always thought she would… she fights like hell. She’s good at hiding her own fear to keep Erin calm, even though we know she’s terrified. Working with literally nothing, she manages to free Erin’s leg and reassure her that everything will be fine. I think she’s trying to convince herself of the same thing here. She’s also teaching Erin to be brave in a way she’s all too familiar with. Her own experiences in hospitals as a child, although completely different than what’s happening now, help her to relate to Erin as she’s working on her leg. Keeping her calm is just as important as anything right now. Squeezing out the fear and squeezing out the pain… it’s not much but it’s enough. (I found myself clenching my fists right along with Erin here, and I don’t think that was an accident.)
And now they have to get out of the lab. But where can they go? If you’re pretending to be Stephanie, which I hope is what you’re doing, where would you go? And how would you get there? Would you throw a wet blanket over yourself, douse your hair with water and walk through fire while carrying a hurt child? I know we’d all like to say yes to that, but would we really? I mean, not even Meredith Grey has had to walk through fire and that’s saying something. But again, it’s fight or flight… and if she doesn’t fight, she knows they’re both going to die in there and Steph isn’t one to sit around and wait. For anything. So she’s sure as hell not going to wait to die. The stairs offer their only hope of getting out, so she takes the chance. Heading for the roof, to fresh air, to (relative) safety, they’re so close to it we begin to relax, her and Erin begin to have hope again that they are going to get out of this. I don’t know how familiar you all are with script structure, but if you aren’t familiar, let me tell you: that feeling of security about halfway through an episode? Don’t count on that… it’s not going to last.
What could possibly be going through her head when that door won’t open? Defeat? Acceptance? If I were her, those two things would be rearing their ugly heads. Maybe a little helplessness? I think that’s where Stephanie’s head is right now, as she stares at the locked door and cries out into nothingness. There’s nobody there, nobody to hear her cries. Nobody but Erin. We see her give up here, just for a second. But that’s all it takes sometimes. Erin is what pushes her to keep going. Well her and the keycard that just happens to be laying on the floor a few flights down. Right in the middle of the flames.
And here we are again: fight or flight? Again, she fights. While she’s gone, the camera focuses on Erin. Alone, calling out for Stephanie with no answer, we see the fear take over in her eyes. The silence here says more than words ever could. It’s not total silence though, and I think that drives the point home even further. We hear the fire and everything it touches breaking and snapping like twigs and that is enough to terrify anyone, let alone this little girl who suddenly finds herself alone. Emerging from the flames like some sort of superhero (which I’m totally ok with calling her a superhero for the rest of forever), Stephanie finally gets them onto the roof. She takes a deep breath. They made it. Right? Wrong. Erin’s adrenaline is fading fast and she is feeling the full extent of her injury. Stephanie does what she can, but she’s still alone with no equipment other than her own two hands to save Erin, and while she’s losing the life she’s spent so much time fighting to save, she’s losing her own hope of getting out of here alive. Helplessness clouds over her mind quicker than the smoke clouds the air. And then she’s not alone anymore. Ben Warren to the rescue! And we can all take a breath. Finally.
At this point, Stephanie is running on adrenaline alone and is without a doubt in shock over everything that just happened. She refuses to leave Erin’s side, which is understandable. Would you want to leave the side of the child you walked through fire to save? I doubt it. Those two will have a connection (whether they ever see each other again or not) for the rest of their lives after going through something so traumatic together. There’s no way to downplay that, and Stephanie is feeling that as Dr. Webber and Dr. Bailey work to save her life again. She stays there until the adrenaline runs out. Her body and her mind can feel everything now, there’s no surge of hormones keeping her upright and functioning anymore. Nothing but Jackson’s arms as he catches her.
You get a lot of time to think when you’re laying in a hospital bed. You force yourself to think about anything other than the pain as your coworker treats your burns… anything you can do to take your mind of the pain, you do. That’s what Stephanie is doing and while she does that, she realizes something. “I think I need to see everything that’s not the inside of a hospital.” Stephanie Edwards, the one to watch since she showed up as an intern five years ago, is done. She chose her own life. That’s not an easy thing to do. To some people, I’m sure it seems like she quit. But here’s the thing: she didn’t quit, in fact, she did the opposite… she’s living. Just like Cristina Yang did in season 10 when she decided to leave Seattle. Sure, she left behind her friends, her person, but for what? For herself. For her hospital. The parallel between these two endings doesn’t come as a shock to me, I’ve been reminded of Cristina by Stephanie since she showed up in season 9, so this ending only seems fitting. They are both living for nobody other than themselves and that right there, is all there is to it. That’s the whole thing… choosing yourself? That’s something I hope I do, too.
Will you choose yourself?
“Nobody wakes up thinking, ‘my world will explode today. My world will change.’ Nobody thinks that, but sometimes it happens. Sometimes we wake up, we face our fears, we take them by the hand and we stand there waiting, hoping, ready for anything.” -Meredith Grey
I’m not finished yet! We still have other storylines to wrap up before we say goodbye to these reviews for a few months!
- Eliza Minnick: So Eliza is pretty overwhelmed and is still frustrated over Stephanie’s lack of counseling. We haven’t seen her in an emergency situation to this capacity yet, and I’m not sure she’s the best at handling stress… as we all will see. Skip to the end, and she’s forgotten to tell the police about Stephanie being missing, which is understandable. She was working on getting patients out of harms way. forgetting something? Not unlikely. Did she make a mistake? For sure. Was that mistake enough for her to lose her job? I don’t think so. I also don’t think we’ve seen the last of her either, though. She’ll be back… if nothing else, for car sex with Arizona. We all know they like that.
- Meredith Grey: Meredith is on a mad hunt for Nathan to tell him about Megan. But what is she thinking? About Derek, probably. I would bet that she’s terrified to tell Nathan what she knows she has to tell him, because what does that mean for her? Not telling him isn’t an option though, and she knows that. When she finds him in the OR, she doesn’t hesitate to step in and help him while at the same time, her brain is probably screaming a thousand different things to her at once. They sit together in the back of an ambulance and we watch Meredith come to terms with what she’s about to say. She prepares Nathan for the shock but he’s never going to be ready for that news, who would be? Meredith does what she would want Nathan to do if it were Derek, and that is to tell her. No matter what it means for them. And she watches him go. Just like she’s watched so many other people leave…
- Owen Hunt: Owen is talking to Amelia about Megan, he’s never really done that before. It’s his brain trying to make sense of the fact that she’s alive and he’s about to see her for the first time in 10 years. Amelia tells him that he’ll know what to do when he sees her, maybe she’s thought about that? Maybe she’s thought about what she’d say to Derek if she had the chance; if he were still alive. Part of me thinks she’s still searching for closure with him. She knows he’s gone. There’s no question about that but we all know how she feels about not getting to say goodbye and I’m not sure she’ll ever get the closure she craves. Owen lets Amelia in. And then, because this is Shondaland, we don’t get to see Megan. We all knew that was coming though, right? If you didn’t, well… you should have.
And that’s a wrap for season 13! Thank you all so much for staying tuned every week and faithfully reading these reviews. I hope to see you back and ready for more Grey’s in September! In the mean time, be on the lookout, I won’t disappear!