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‘Anatomy’ sews up questions, sows more

TELEVISION CRITIC

They’d better both be dead.

“Grey’s Anatomy” limped to its season finale Thursday with a two-hour episode as we all waited in less-than-breathless anticipation to see if the endless and increasingly monotonous rumors were true and both T.R. Knight (who plays George O’Malley) and Katherine Heigl (Izzie Stevens) were leaving the show.

Certainly Knight has been leaving the show for months now -- George had become such a shadow of his former self, hovering at the periphery of the action, that I kept waiting for him to burst into a chorus of “Mr. Cellophane.” Meanwhile, Heigl has been agitating to leave ever since “27 Dresses” didn’t flop.

Izzie was the most likely to die -- she’s battled cancer and the world’s worst story line (noisy copulation with dear, dead Denny, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) all season long. When she staggered down the aisle to marry Alex (Justin Chambers), with that flower in her hair, during the penultimate episode to take over the wedding she had planned for Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek (Patrick Dempsey), it seemed doomsday could not be far off. Thursday night’s dithering about whether to let Derek perform surgery that might result in her not remembering anything was just so much stage business. Of course she’d have the surgery, of course she’d remember and of course, just as things were looking up, she’d croak.

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You were surprised? Seriously? Do you not watch this show? That is exactly what happened to Denny (which was actually a nice narrative echo on the writers’ part).

Meanwhile, back on planet George, his newfound interest in trauma led him to enlist in the Army, a decision that was greeted by horror and hoots of derision from his peers. Only Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) had an appropriate response. “That’s awesome,” she said as her girlfriend Callie (Sara Ramirez) did that truly irritating Callie eye-roll/snort combo, which, in the real world, would keep her partnerless for life.

Mercifully, Meredith and Co. were distracted from their plans of a “George Intervention” by the arrival of a man who had been hit by a bus, though not before saving a young woman from a similar fate. He was such a mess that it wasn’t until the Very Last Minute that Meredith realized it was George.

You were surprised? Really? The moment Mr. Faceless came in, having been hit by a bus (a phrase so often used to describe the fragility of life), did you not do a quick major character body count and realize George was MIA?

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For a moment it seemed Knight would be deprived of even a picturesque death scene -- Izzie collapsed in Alex’s arms (causing even the jaded TV critic who saw it coming to sob mildly). But George, of course, had no face (or, mysteriously, ID of any kind).

Still, creator Shonda Rhimes is anything but heartless, so we followed both into the afterlife, which turned out to be an elevator, where Izzie in her prom dress met George in his dress uniform.

The two looked at each other enigmatically and lovingly. But then Izzie seemed momentarily distracted as if she were hearing voices in a distant room, and though the flat lines sang on and the screen went black, you had to wonder whether next season wouldn’t open with one of those last-second saves medical shows are so fond of. In which case, Denny has my permission to use his ghostly scissors to cut whatever wires are necessary and let these people go.

Strangely, the biggest development of the entire show was buried in all this life/death hovering. No, not the Mer/Der marriage, which was charmingly, if not legally, reduced to blue Post-it promises and certainly not Cristina’s (Sandra Oh) revelation that she loves Owen (Kevin McKidd). (Why Cristina, why? He cries every episode.) No, the big reveal of this season finale was that Meredith has quietly become a much more stable and sympathetic character, a very welcome payoff for an often painful season.

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In the midst of serial insanity, the main character of “Grey’s Anatomy” is, finally, a woman who, while retaining enough flaws to make her interesting, is recognizable as someone who might actually be a very good doctor.

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mary.mcnamara@latimes.com


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