What people often remember about Grey's Anatomy's main character, Meredith Grey, is the sheer shit-ton of physical and emotional trauma she's been through in the show's 12-season run.
And tbh, that's fair. Because she's definitely one of the unluckiest fictional characters the world has ever seen. Like, I'm kind of worried that she's cursed, or the human embodiment of Pandora's box or Murphy's Law and the final season of Grey's will reveal the
island hospital's been Limbo all along.
Alternately, they think about the fact that her show has been running for all eternity with no signs of stopping until the sun turns cold.
But what people often neglect when it comes to Meredith is that she belongs in the pantheon of complicated, iconic TV characters — right up there with Don Draper, Alicia Florrick, Walter White, and her ShondaLand sister Olivia Pope.
When we meet Meredith, she's a young woman diving into a surgical internship.
She meets two people she realizes immediately she wants to spend the rest of her life with, she builds a life, she surrounds herself with friends, and she dedicates herself to her craft.
In true dramatic fashion the show also demonstrates that she, like many classic characters — Don and Olivia included — is dealing with emotional baggage from her past that complicates the process of being truly intimate with the people you choose to let into your life.
But there comes a point when Meredith really and truly confronts her issues. Consider Don Draper a lazy Sisyphus with his emotional baggage, and Meredith his counterpoint who actually gets shit done.
Grey's Anatomy is far from a perfect show. It put us through ghost sex, after all. I'll never be able to unwatch that.
But 12 seasons of long-lost-sibling storylines often distract the conversation from the truly impressive character work this show grounded itself in — most especially with legends like Cristina Yang and her "twisted sister," Meredith.
And while Cristina left the show in Season 10, Ellen Pompeo just signed on for Season 13, and the show remains very much centered on Meredith's story.
Meredith Grey is a feat of long-term storytelling, and she — and Shonda Rhimes, and every writer who's worked on her storyline — deserves that recognition.
Meredith could have been a woman stunted forever, and that's certainly one kind of character worth exploring. But the ones who put in the effort not to trod the same path forever? They can be just as complex — and for long-term stories like those on Grey's Anatomy, it's downright vital to keeping a narrative dynamic and forward-moving.
There's a reason Grey's Anatomy saw a ratings resurgence after killing off Meredith's husband, and it could be argued that it's not the promise of another season of flashy drama — but, rather, curiosity to see how a compelling character would move herself into a new era.
A lot of people reduce Meredith to her love story or her trauma. But she's more than the sum of her watercooler moments.
She's been through the ringer on the show, it's true. But the fact of Meredith's trauma is not the most interesting thing about her.
That'd be the way she chooses her friendships and cultivates them; her recognition that the world will go on even once those unthinkable things do happen (and they always happen); her commitment to a life defined by an ability to move forward, adapt, and generally do way more than just survive.
It's not the catastrophes that make her a dynamic character — it's the consistency of her character and her growth in spite of and because of them. It's the sheer amount of agency heaped on her even in a soapy world designed to make her suffering our entertainment. It's the kind of feat Shonda Rhimes excels at with her main characters — see, once again, the marvelous Olivia Pope. Grey's might not be considered prestige, but if you think Meredith Grey isn't a lovingly, thoroughly written character, then you're not paying attention.
She is, after all, the center of the show that launched ShondaLand.