Grey's Anatomy Round Table: Is the Series Addressing Social Justice Issues Well?

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The hour spent some time focusing on social justice issues.

And Winston, in particular, had a harrowing experience on Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 12.

Join Jasmin Pettie, Meaghan Frey, and Jasmine Blu as they discuss the hour.

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Do you think the hour covered its social justice issues of COVID deniers, protests, police brutality, and health care reform well?

Jasmin: I think it did. It was a hard watch, but the episode addressed some very important issues really well. It's mindboggling that some people believe COVID is a hoax or that health care professionals are getting kickbacks of some kind.

People believing that have a greatly overestimated view of how government and health care institutions operate.

The idea that a government or a hospital would ever be in a position to do such a thing is absurd, and the idea that people would perpetuate that on a mass scale is just ridiculous.

I like that they handled the protests and showing the different ways people choose to respond in times of crisis.

Richard went to march, Jackson realized he felt like he wasn't doing enough, Catherine continued to try to work within the system, and Hayes had to make difficult choices about whether to let his boys go to protests and was injured when he had to step in front of someone who tried to attack his sons.

The scenes with Winston were scary, and I hate that that is the reality for so many people.

A lot of the issues they showed in this episode regarding how Black people are treated are just as much of a problem here in Canada.

The rates are less in some cases because our population is lower than the U.S., but the issues are just as real and as heartbreaking. I liked seeing some more follow-up to what Jackson and Mama Ortiz talked about and Jackson's ongoing fight to really help people in Seattle in a more systemic, long-lasting way.

Meaghan: Honestly, I feel like there is so much more they could've done. Their whole take on social justice and police brutality felt too far removed from the actual situations to feel like they were adequately addressing the issues.

If they were concerned that, by going into the protests, it would have taken them too far away from the medical aspect of the show, and there was a super easy fix for that.

I remember when reading all the social media coverage of the BLM protests last summer, you would hear about participants providing each other first aid for their wounds caused by the police brutality during them. They could have followed Richard or Hayes into the protests and had them providing these services to their fellow protestors.

Doing More - Tall  - Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 12

It would have allowed viewers to be taken inside of the protests and allow them to feel the impact and weight of what people's experiences are during those situations, not just tell us about them after the fact.

I also felt like Winston's experience and the COVID denier patient shouldn't have happened in the same episode as the protests. It felt like they had a checklist of social issues they wanted to address, and they just went down the list.

It didn't allow any of the issues to have the time they needed to be explored fully and ended up feeling like a very superficial take on them.

Jasmine: Yeah, I discussed it a great length during the review, but I agree with Meaghan.

Maggie Getting Her Groove Back  - Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 11

For too long, the series is operating under a "tell not show" method of storytelling, and it's very heavy-handed and disingenuous. It does feel like they're going down a checklist. I'm having this problem across the board, as it reflects with their casting choices and how they choose to utilize their characters when they do have them.

I understand if COVID made it difficult to film protest scenes, but Meaghan's example would've been far more effective than hearing about things after the fact. I would've loved to hear and see Hayes grappling with what it's like to see his Black sons dodging tear gas or things of that nature.

And while Anthony Hill's performance was fantastic, and I in no way want to detract from my appreciation of that, I found the execution of the police stop unsatisfactory and frustrating. It all felt like a half-assed attempt at a "very special episode" about BLM or whatever.

And the COVID denier thing would've been more effective if we saw the moment it hit the man that he did have this virus he denied existed, instead of killing him off so quickly.

I think the series relies too much on a handful of characters running off statistics and throwaway lines and quotes to address the social issues rather than dedicating legitimate time and storylines to addressing them with nuance. It continues to irk me.

Winston had a traumatic experience with the police. React.

Jasmin: I felt like I was going to throw up watching those scenes. It was so hard to watch, and I was so scared for Winston. What really got me is that I knew Winston wasn't going to die because they upped him to a regular cast member at the start of this season but for the real-life people who go through this that is not a guarantee.

They don't know if they are going to make it out alive at a simple traffic stop. My heart broke for Winston and for Maggie.

Meaghan: As I said in my previous answer, I didn't feel like this was the episode this should have been taken on. The situation started out extremely tense and difficult to watch, but by cutting away from it took away from the weight of the issue.

Winston - Tall - Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 10

I'm not sure what their rationale for not showing the entire experience would have been other than they just didn't have enough time, which again, could have been fixed by making this a bottle episode.

Anthony Hill did a fantastic job with the material he was given and I can only imagine how incredible his performance could had they full committed to showing us this very real and prevalent issue facing the Black community in this country.

Jasmine: It should've been a bottle episode. Period. If the necessary people took something away from this, and it opened their eyes then so be it -- God knows we need that.

But it did lose something by cutting away from what Winston endured. We should've stuck with him. Again, Anthony Hill gave it his all, but this entire storyline felt like the series was phoning it in.

Did you empathize with Maggie when she freaked out over Winston and could barely focus? Are Winston and Maggie endgame?

Jasmin: I definitely did. As a white person, I cannot imagine the terror that black, brown, and Indigenous people in my own country and elsewhere must feel every time this happens. I would panic too.

It would be extremely difficult for anyone to focus on their work when you know the police could be murdering your fiancé at that very moment. I'm glad that Richard was there to help and support her so that she could then help her patient.

I definitely think Maggie and Winston are endgame. I got that vibe from the beginning, and I still feel it now.

Maggie Supports Bailey  - Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 5

Meaghan: While I could completely understand why Maggie was feeling the way she was, I actually wanted to yell at her multiple times throughout the episode.

I understand she was completely panicked by the situation, but there is no denying she made it worse when she started yelling during their phone call. You could tell that immediately triggered the officer.

Of course, that shouldn't have been the case, but it is the reality, and I just wish she would have kept her cool for Winston's sake.

It also was difficult to watch her borderline neglect her case. She is lucky it didn't have an adverse outcome for the patient, but it easily could have. One of the most difficult parts of being a medical professional is having to leave anything and everything going on in your personal life at the door when you are taking care of someone, but it is necessary.

Worried Sister  - Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 3

One of the most poignant moments of the series was when Meredith had a miscarriage while working on Owen's gunshot wound and had to keep going in order to save him.

While that is obviously an extreme example, it just made me feel like someone needed to snap Maggie back to reality, that she still had a young man she needed to save or send her home and have someone take over for her so she could focus on Winston.

Their scene at the end when he finally arrived home made me emotional, though, and I definitely feel like these two are endgame.

Jasmine: I love Maggie. I understand and relate to the panic, but this goes back to how I wish the entire scene would've played out.

Maggie Smirks - Tall  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 20

If Maggie stayed silent on the phone but quietly freaked out, nervous, the rest of the hospital and her surroundings a buzzing noise as she hyperventilates listening in.

We get back to Winston, maybe see through the driver's seat window in a blur what's going on as they're ransacking everything.

Eventually, when it escalates NOT because of Maggies's voice, she starts calling out in the phone, and we get a close-up of the phone with everything happening in the background before you see the cop's finger reach in and end the call. THAT would've been so much more effective and tense than her just yelling.

Anyway, it seems like Maggie and Winston are in it for the long haul. They've expedited this relationship, and most of it is offscreen, but they seem happy with each other.

How did you feel about the storyline with Bailey's COVID denying patient?

Jasmin: Infuriated! The fact that the stuff that they showed in this episode is not fictional makes me so angry.

How can people be so stupid? So ignorant? So disrespectful?

I get why Bailey freaked out and had to take a minute. I would, too.

I love that she still tried to help the man get better and tried to frame things in a way he could understand. But he still refused, and while she was gone, he signed out AMA.

Ultimately, he was killed by his own ignorance, and I felt for Bailey when she was ranting to Teddy about how ridiculous it all is.

WTF?! - Tall - Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 12

Meaghan: Oh my God! The amount of times I yelled at the screen or rolled my eyes when he was on.

The fact is this is a sad gross reality of our world right now.

As a nurse, it is absolutely maddening to have listened to not only patients but friends and family members as well deny the severity of COVID or its existence entirely.

So many people have such a huge distrust of our government right now that it has allowed them to ignore the cold hard scientific facts. This makes them not only a danger to themselves but to everyone around them.

I'm not saying that I was satisfied when he ended up dying, but I'm not not saying it either.

Hopelessly Waiting - tall - Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 8

Jasmine: The guy was unreal, and Bailey's reaction was my favorite moment. What do you even do when someone is that willfully ignorant?

It's a sad reality, and unfortunately, I've had to listen to a few people with these beliefs. I wish we saw the guy slowly get sick and realize that maybe he was wrong.

Was it fair of Jackson to accuse Catherine of not doing enough to change things or taking him to protests? Where do you think he's headed?

Jasmin: For me, I'm not sure if it's a cause of what's fair and what isn't. I think Jackson was upset because he suddenly realized that he felt like he wasn't doing enough or being involved enough.

Kicking it at Mer's  - Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 7

He wanted to know why his mother didn't take him to protests and why she taught him to work inside of a system that was never made to include people like them and still isn't.

He's angry because that clearly isn't working.

Catherine, for her part, felt like she had suffered enough and just wanted to keep her son safe and took what Jackson said as a personal offense.

This is one of the aspects of Catherine's character that I really don't like because she takes things really personally that aren't really about her at all.

I have no idea where Jackson is headed and I'm interested to find out.

Worries and Regrets - Tall  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 20

Meaghan: Not at all! Jackson is a grown man who is extremely capable of doing his own research and making his own decisions at this point in his life.

There hasn't been anything stopping him from taking part in protests or getting involved in organizations that fight for social justice. He has made the decision not to.

For all he knows, Catherine was involved in things he just wasn't aware of as a kid. She may have been trying to shelter him from the harsh realities and hoping they were realities that he himself would not have to face.

I'm actually at a loss for where Jackson could be headed. Hopefully, wherever he is going helps him gain some perspective.

Jackson Jumps in - Tall - Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 5

Jasmine: Jackson going off on his mother was one of the most absurd things ever. As Meaghan said, he's a grown ass man who could've gone to protests at any point in his life from 18 onward, so how did that fall on Catherine?

And I resent the notion that if someone doesn't attend protests that they haven't been down with the cause or something? I don't know. I don't know anyone who goes around asking each other how many protests they've been to in their lives or anything.

But it didn't sit right that Jackson criticized his mother, who was alive during the Civil Rights Movement, and as a Black Woman had to climb the ranks to become a world-renownedsurgeon, and accused her of only writing checks. Bro, what?

I'm thinking he's going to Montana since that's roughly 11 hours away from Seattle and because literally out of the blue, he mentioned his father when he compared that loser to Catherine.

Is there anything else you'd like to address?

Jasmin: This episode left me shaken, but I think that was the point.

My best friend and I were talking about how those of us who lived through the pandemic and this time of social unrest will probably never want to re-watch certain episodes of this season and other shows or media from this time because it's just too hard.

It's too painful. It's too raw. I understand now why people who grew up during times of war and social unrest don't want to talk about it.

Don't want to look at anything that reminds them of that time. We're still in it, and I already feel that way.

COVID Denier  - Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 12

Meaghan: I really don't think I would ever want to rewatch this season because of the pandemic, at least for a long long time. However, I will say that as difficult as it is for us to watch, it will show future generations who didn't live through it what a dark time it was in our world.

Jasmine: Yeah, I agree.

I genuinely want to know what's up with the revisionist history and incessant Meredith praise. Has she started a cult?

What was your favorite moment or quote?

Jasmin: For me, it's a tie between the scenes in the hyperbaric chamber where Levi heard Meredith's voice in his head telling him what to do and not to panic and the scenes with Hayes and his boys.

Reconsidering  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 13

I like that Levi has really stepped into his own as a doctor, and I love that we got to see more of the dynamic between Hayes, Liam, and Austin.

Meaghan: I'm such a sucker for Hayes at this point that literally anything involving him, automatically, ends up at the top of my list.

I'll have to give Levi my top moment, though. While I didn't love the Meredith aspect of his storyline, I did love watching his confidence as he saved the other patient.

Too often, he is shown as a meek and unsure character, but he fully took charge and embraced being a kick-ass surgeon.

Anderson: I know it's not real.
Bailey: COVID?
Anderson: What do I look like a sheep?

Jasmine: Levi's boost of confidence was great. I still could've done without the Meredith hero-worship, and honestly, his portion of the hour felt out of place, but his growth is notable.

Even though Bailey's reaction wasn't for the reason I would've thought, I loved it all the same.

Do you agree with us? Disagree? Hit the comments below! 

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays on ABC. 

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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