Spoilers ahead for Grey’s Anatomy, Season 17, Episode 8, “It’s All Too Much” and Episode 7 of Station 19 Season 4.
Well, that was a really hard two hours of television, ABC! Station 19 kicked our Thursday evening off with “Learning To Fly,” where Carina DeLuca struggled to deal with the devastating death of her brother Andrew DeLuca on last week’s emotional Grey’s Anatomy spring premiere. Not to be outdone, Grey’s followed with “It’s All Too Much,” an episode that included another beach appearance from McDreamy himself, Derek Shepherd, and a video memorial to Andrew DeLuca that was exponentially sadder than McDreamy’s Season 11 demise.
As the doctors struggled with the reality that DeLuca was stabbed while chasing down a sex trafficker, Richard Webber organized a video memorial to be held in the Grey Sloan parking lot. The doctors all recorded videos, telling stories about DeLuca, saying goodbye and thanking him for what he brought to the hospital. It was heartbreaking to see the socially distanced doctors accepting the reality that their friend was gone.
But it was seeing Andrew DeLuca himself in the video, sitting down in front of the camera for what would be his application video for residency at Grey Sloan, that really broke the dam. The bright-eyed DeLuca name-dropped his sister as inspiration, as well as marveling what it would be like to learn from Richard Webber, Miranda Bailey, Jackson Avery and Meredith Grey. And indeed, as the episode title suggested, it was all too much. DeLuca said in the video:
Now, you should be warned, I can be relentless at times and very stubborn. But I promise that if I match with you, I will give you the very best of me.
That was so perfectly the very best of Andrew DeLuca, and in an episode that featured Patrick Dempsey again appearing in Meredith’s beach hallucination, it highlighted what was not so perfect with the way Derek Shepherd’s on-screen death went down. With Derek Shepherd being such an integral part of Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning — and on the show for much longer than DeLuca’s Giacomo Gianniotti — how can that be the case?
For one, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, a fact that’s being featured prevalently on the show, and with good reason. But the world is harder now — the fictional Seattle world and the real world. Death is something a lot of people are dealing with in real life, not just in their TV dramas. Jo said it perfectly during their drinking game on the latest episode.
During a pandemic, shouldn’t all the other tragic crap take a break?
Another reason Andrew DeLuca’s memorial was sadder than Derek Shepherd’s death is the focus the writers are giving to grief and mental health. We are watching the doctors of Grey Sloan, as well as DeLuca’s sister, deal with grief in real time. And the writers are allowing the characters and viewers the room to feel and internalize that emotion. The aftermath of McDreamy’s death featured a time jump, during which Meredith disappeared and had a baby she didn’t know she was pregnant with at the time of Derek’s death. We didn’t have to watch Meredith in mourning. And Amelia didn’t have the benefit of a spinoff to explore her grief over her brother, as we’re getting with Carina on Station 19.
The deaths themselves are another issue, not to be overlooked. Andrew DeLuca died chasing down a woman who sold teenage girls for sex. Derek Shepherd died because he stopped his car in the middle of the road to reach for his cellphone. The tension was lessened even further as we listened to Derek’s internal monologue explaining that the doctors were untrained to handle his injury, and he was going to die as a result of it. Making it about human error as opposed to sheer tragedy softened the edges of Derek’s death.
In fact, McDreamy’s mere presence in this episode is all the proof you need that his death wasn’t as sad. Here he is, six seasons later, on a beach interacting with Meredith. I don’t care if it’s a defense construct of her unconscious imagination — she’s conversing with her husband about their children, and that’s something DeLuca’s loved ones are never going to get.
Hopefully as Season 17 progresses, Meredith begins to recover, because, as her fellow doctors told her multiple times in “It’s All Too Much,” we can’t take any more loss. I’m going to get my own mental health in order before next Thursday’s doom and gloom returns to ABC, with Station 19 at 8 p.m. ET and Grey’s Anatomy following at 9 p.m. ET.