“To be a good surgeon, you have to think like a surgeon. Emotions are messy. Tuck them neatly away and step into a clean sterile room where the procedure is simple. Cut, suture, and close … But sometimes you’re faced with a cut that won’t heal. A cut that rips the stitches wide open.”

Thus opens the second season of Grey’s Anatomy, the surprise hit for ABC at the end of last season that caused them to shelf and then move Boston Legal. Paired with Desperate Housewives, and keeping a larger share of its audience, Grey’s Anatomy continues the trend of the meaningful, wraparound narrator voice over that gives so much weight to Desperate Housewives.

Grey’s Anatomy is out-ER-ing the still lingering ER, following the personal and professional lives of five surgical interns (“grunts, nobodies, bottom of the surgical food chain”). Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) is the daughter of a famous doctor (Dr. Ellis Grey), now suffering from a debilitating disease. She inadvertently finds herself involved with her supervisor, Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) and ends up rooming with a couple of her fellow interns.

The loosely drawn characters border on being one-note cliches, but they are well-acted, solidly written, and well used. There’s the ambitious/career-focused (Sandra Oh’s Dr. Cristina Yang, though this could easily describe her supervisor with whom she gets involved with, Isaiah Washington’s Dr. Preston Burke). There’s the “angry, black boss” (Chandra Wilson’s Dr. Miranda Bailey though this could easily describer their chief, James Pickens Jr’s Dr. Richard Webber). There’s the affable, yet hapless with women Dr. George O’Malley (T.R. Knight) and the selfish, self-absorbed cad, Dr. Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), who sees patients as “pieces of meat” and surgeons as “butchers”.

Grey’s Anatomy focuses on young people struggling to be doctors and doctors struggling to stay human. Surgeons are particularly vulnerable to developing God-complexes. They have to be confident and sure, and as interns, have to pursue procedures in order to hone (and demonstrate) their gifts. So on the one hand, they get to hold lives in their hands, seeing the marvel of God’s creation in intricate detail. On the other hand, they can tend to not waste time getting to know the patients except so far as they need to in order to proceed with their procedure. There can be a cost to be paid.

“You ever wake up in the morning, realizing that no one loves you, and … I don’t know … care?” Dr. Isobel “Izzie” Stevens (Katherine Heigl)

Such pursuit of career over everything can lead to an empty way of doing life. To make it to the top, to put the job first, as Dr. Webber puts it, is a power kick, however, “you’re never more surrounded, never more along. You’re everyone’s father, everyone’s boss, and no one’s friend … No emotions, no compromise, no personal life.” The words “physician heal thyself” becomes the diagnosis as well as the treatment plan.

Once the problem is correctly identified, a salvation plan is needed, and they turn to a variety of self-salvation schemes. As Dr. Shepherd puts it, “It’s like I was drowning and you saved me. That’s all I know.” The doctors scrape together bits of a life, develop relationships out of their spare moments, and create some sense of community. Unfortunately, even Dr. Grey points out “that’s not enough.”

Funny and sexy, the drama realizes that real life comes down to relationships. Relationships are messy, but they also are only part of what it means to become fully human. To live as we were created to be and live involves becoming a disciple, to intern in a new way of living and follow a new rule of life. Else their fates will echo the closing sentiments of the voice over narrator.

“They say practice makes perfect. Theory is the more you think like a surgeon the better you get at remaining neutral. Clinical. Cut, suture, close. And the harder it becomes to turn it off–to stop thinking like a surgeon–and remember what it means to think like a human being.”

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