It seems almost every year “Grey’s Anatomy” launches some sort of high-concept episode in order to get attention, and over the years they have had mixed results. The musical episode last season, for example, was an ambitious attempt by the show to break the norm and tell an emotional story of Callie’s recovery through songs used on the show — but it ended up instead being more of a spotlight simply for America to hear Sara Ramirez’s singing voice.
This season, the experiment was an episode all about “what ifs” — the sort of question that show fans like to debate about and fanfiction authors write on a daily basis. From a conceptual point of view, this episode was a fan’s dream come true — everyone likes to think about different characters getting together and how certain decisions could play out differently, so from this standpoint this episode was quite fun even despite the sad moments. We saw Meredith as a brighter soul in love with Alex, Derek as a misery stuck in a bad marriage with Addison, and Owen letting the rage get the best of him while trying to raise a family with Callie.
The biggest turnaround of any character in this entire episode was Cristina — a woman who not only was isolated from the rest of her fellow doctors, but also was intent on speaking her mind no matter the consequences. Thanks to her, we realized that this “what if?” reality was not all that it seemed — Alex was cheating on Meredith with April, and the aftermath of this caused quite a meltdown from her mother. It was at this point that events in this world really started to spiral — we found out that the baby Addison was carrying was not Derek’s, that Lexie was willing to risk her own life for no reason, and that Owen was willing to lie about his anger problems so that Callie would stay with him.
In spite of the differences for the characters in this universe, we really could all see this ending coming a mile away — no matter what decisions these people make, they all still ended up in a similar place. Derek and Meredith found themselves talking in a bar, Callie and Arizona had a moment that suggested a connection, and even Cristina and Owen found a bit of common ground in the midst of his battle against some inner demons.
As we look forward to next week, we already have a feeling that “If/Then” is going to be an episode that divides fans for quite some time — while it was captivating to watch, this was likely not the alternate universe that many fans were envisioning. In addition to this, cynics could also look at this as a throwaway episode that really did not further along any story — even though it did show us that real life for these characters, despite how tough it may be at times, is still the best life imaginable.
What did you think about this episode?