I’ll be honest. I rolled my eyes a little when I saw the preview for #GreysOnAPlane. Maybe a lot. But boy did I make the wrong snap judgement.
Grey’s Anatomy Season 13 Episode 20, “In the Air Tonight,” is without a doubt the best episode of the season. It breaks form yet again with another bottle episode, but doing that accomplishes so very much, and it really allows Ellen Pompeo to shine.
It also gives us a chance to become more invested in Nathan Riggs. I’ve liked this character for a while, but “In the Air Tonight” just makes him that much more interesting — and makes it that much more apparent that he’s a good fit for Meredith Grey.
Meredith is kind enough to change seats on a plane so a father can sit with his wife and child, and her neat seat is in the same row as Nathan. Turns out, they’re going to the same conference. It’s not necessarily that weird of a coincidence, but it’s definitely a chance for the two of them to hash things out once and for all.
Of course, some nasty turbulence on the flight puts all of that on hold.
No, this plane isn’t going down, but severe injuries make this a less than relaxing plane ride for the doctors on board.
Not only does the guy with the head injury, Max, really need surgery, but the captain refuses to land the plane because she knows she can’t do so safely.
It’s thrilling to see Meredith and Nathan scramble to find every day objects that will help them save Max, but add the turbulence, the tension between Meredith and Nathan, and the flashbacks to the time Meredith almost died in a plane crash and lost her sister, and you’ve got a pretty incredible hour of television.
Not that I was able to watch much when it came to the whole syringe in the brain thing. Because, gross. Still, it’s pretty incredible what Meredith is able to do with a syringe and a cocktail straw, aided mostly by a dentist and the woman she was sitting next to on the plane.
It’s not the main thing you focus on with an episode like this, but the way these strangers come together to help one another adds a level of optimism. The only two regular cast members are Meredith and Nathan, but we find ourselves invested in a whole new set of characters very quickly.
Revisiting the plane crash feels important because it is such an important turning point in Meredith’s life — and in the story overall. It’s not just how Arizona lost her leg and how Lexie and Mark died, but it’s why the name of the hospital changed, and why Meredith is — you know — part owner now.
Seeing Meredith through Nathan’s eyes highlights just how incredible she really is. He calls her “fearless,” and he’s absolutely right. She remains calm, takes charge, thinks on her feet, and isn’t afraid to have words with the captain of the plane.
What’s amazing is that we’ve had thirteen season to watch her grow and become this incredible person and this amazing doctor. Not that Meredith wasn’t always strong and fearless to begin with, maybe a little too much so at times, but all the crazy things we’ve seen happen on Grey’s Anatomy have definitely shaped her character over the years.
That’s the other thing “In the Air Tonight” does so well. Those flashbacks give us some insight into how she’s feeling, but they also show, in some ways, how she’s gotten to this moment.
And in the end, we get something of a new goodbye to Derek Shepherd.
Nathan knows what we’ve all known all along. Meredith hasn’t been pushing Nathan away because of Maggie, not entirely. She just wasn’t ready to move on. She even responds to Nathan’s advances at one point by saying, “I’m married.”
That’s what the back and forth has always been about, and there’s no way anyone can fault Meredith for that. Nathan finally gets through to her after they’re off the plane, and in her mind, she seems to say a goodbye.
Cue the ugly crying. We see a montage of flashbacks that go in reverse from Derek’s death to the first day they met, and the important moments in between. It’s Meredith finally being willing to let go and move on.
- Meredith telling off the man complaining about the kid is one of my favorite moments. He needed to hear that.
- I’m not sure what’s better: Meredith and Nathan hooking up in the bathroom, or the man, who we learn is Max, waiting outside who seems legitimately happy for her.
- Yes, Nathan, Meredith’s plane crash was definitely way worse than yours.
- Chandra Wilson directed this episode, which I feel the need to point out because again, it’s just so well done.
What did you think of this episode of Grey’s Anatomy? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8/7c on ABC.
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