Grey's Anatomy: Season Four – DVD Review

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Every television series has a weak season or two, but if the show is great overall the weak seasons can still be good television. Most of the time the weak seasons will occur near or around the climax season of the series, but great shows can rebound quickly and still provide a strong and satisfying beginning, middle, and end. Grey’s Anatomy arrived on America’s television sets nearly 4 years ago and, after a mini but great first season and a spectacular second season, became a shooting star in the world of primetime television. It gained a huge following right away and was easily considered one of the “Top 5” television programs around today. But season four of a highly popular show is a tricky area as it could either be really good and groundbreaking, and thus basically be the climax of the series, or it could be really stale and uninteresting, and thus be one of the aformentioned weak seasons. What would season four of Grey’s Anatomy be considered when it is all said and done?

Grey’s Anatomy revolves around a group of surgical interns and the various physicians who serve as mentors to the interns in their professional and personal lives at the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital in Seattle. At first the central focus of the series was Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), the daughter of the once-renowned surgeon Ellis Grey who becomes an intern at the Seattle Grace Hospital. She soon meets fellow interns Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), Isobel “Izzie” Stevens (Katherine Heigl), George O’Malley (T.R. Knight), and unpopular fellow intern Alex Karev (Justin Chambers). They are closely monitored at first by Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson, nicknamed “The Nazi” due to her “tough love” capability; and renowned surgeons Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), Dr. Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington), Derek’s estranged wife, Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepherd (Kate Walsh), and Derek’s best friend turned enemy after sleeping with same estranged wife, Dr. Mark Sloan (Eric Dane), and George’s soon to be wife and possibly ex-wife, Dr. Callie Torres (Sarah Ramirez). In addition to all of that, the chief of surgery at the hospital is Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.), who was once more than close friends with Meredith’s mother.

By the time season four of Grey’s Anatomy rolled around, there were a lot of changes at Seattle Grace Hospital, though. Meredith, Izzie, Cristina, and Alex have all passed their intern tests and have become official doctors. However, George has failed his test and as a result he must repeat his internship over again with a new group of interns, which happen to include Meredith’s half-sister, Lexie (Chyler Leigh). Both Addison and Preston have resigned from Seattle Grace. Addison goes off to Los Angeles to open up her own clinic and become the star of the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off Private Practice, and Preston leaves Cristina at the altar to probably never be heard from again after some “behind-the-scenes” issues with fellow co-stars. That means that once recurring character and thorn to the side of Cristia, Dr. Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith), comes back to Seattle Grace permanately and becomes the new Head of Cardiothoracic surgery. Meanwhile, Dr. Webber doesn’t retire after Dr. Derek Shepherd turns down his offer to become “chief of surgery”, and Callie becomes the “Chief Resident” over Dr. Bailey.

There were some interesting storylines created during this season, especially with a new romance in George and Lexie, and old romances that might not have their flames extinguished yet in Alex and Izzie and Richard and Adelle. But the central romance of Meredith and Derek has really started to become tiresome. At this point, it seems like they are just trying to throw everything in between these two characters so that they won’t end up together. Maybe that’s for good reason, since Meredith and Derek as a couple are actually quite boring. Still every little bump in that relationship seems manufactured and forced. This only magnifies the most glaring weakness of Grey’s Anatomy, which is that almost all the main storylines seem to revolve around sexual relationships between co-workers. That is not to say that there wasn’t the beginning of some emotional intriguing storylines that exist underneath the skin of the characters in season four, because there were some good ones, but hopefully season five will have more of that kind of storytelling rather than just having everyone jump from one bed to the next.

The acting during this season is on par with previous seasons. The cast of this show is extremely diverse and interesting. You can’t help but have an opinion on every character, good or bad, and see what happens to them. The subtractions of Kate Walsh and Isaiah Washington this season are tough, especially Washington who played an outstanding character. Kate Walsh is not missed nearly as much due to the fact that she is replaced in a round-about way by Chyler Leigh, who is Meredith’s sister. There is great conflict between Meredith and Lexie and the addition of this character was fantastic. So fortunately the overall additions to the cast equal out the overall subtractions from the cast this season.

Season four is not the best season of Grey’s Anatomy as it seems that this show was hurt the most by the strike. A lot of the same boring storylines kept getting the main focus of the show, which is a shame since there are some more fascinating storylines that got buried during this season. Hopefully these storylines get dragged back to the surface in season five, because next season really needs to be worlds better. Season four, and season three for that matter, were both a slight step down from the first two seasons. This series can still be one of the best on television, though, and it’s almost best to think of season four as “Part 1” to season five. Without a strike next year the writing for this show should get stronger and more creative, and if you add that with some great acting from a diverse ensemble cast, you should have a receipe for better things to come for Grey’s Anatomy in season five.

Episodes:

Disc One:

Episode 1 – A Change Is Gonna Come
Entering their first year as residents, Meredith Grey, Cristina Yang, Izzie Stevens and Alex Karev now have interns of their own to mentor. The interns are welcomed by new chief resident Callie. Among the new interns are George, forced to repeat his internship after failing his exams, and Lexie Grey, Meredith’s half-sister. Many new interns will be introduced in this season premiere. And they’ll have their hands full when a three-car accident sends multiple casualties pouring into Seattle Grace. Some of the doctors need to deal with their new stressed out interns. A young boy brings his bleeding deer to the hospital in the hope a doctor will save her. Cristina searches for Burke. Richard resumes his post as chief of surgery. Derek and Meredith reach an impasse. Bailey wrestles with things at the hospital not turning out like she thought they would.

Episode 2 – Love/Addiction
A patient is in the hospital because they fell asleep in a hazardous situation. A patient’s home laboratory blew up in an apartment building and the victims flood the hospital. Alex investigates the cause of the incident by talking to an elderly resident of the apartment building. Jane Burke shows up to deal with what her son left behind. Lexie tries to talk to Meredith. Callie is overwhelmed by her new position while Bailey is searching for things to do.

Episode 3 – Let The Truth Sting
A woman named Marcy brings in her son, Hunter, because she finds his change in behavior suspicious. A patient named Connie may lose her ability to talk unless Mark and Richard can perform a radical new surgery. George impresses the other interns at work but at home he is trying to deal with his guilt about having sex with Izzie. Meredith and Lexie work on a patient. The doctors meet a unique intern.

Episode 4 – The Heart of the Matter
A face familiar to one of the year-twos shows up and dredges up issues that were never really dealt with. A teen football player needs counseling because of his father and surgery for an injury he sustained while playing the game. The girl who was the reason for the prom at Seattle Grace finds out her cancer is back and she brings her aunt Adele with her.

Disc Two:

Episode 5 – Haunt You Every Day
It’s Halloween at Seattle Grace! There may be jokes, pranks, and/or scare tactics. Some of the women form a club based on an experience they all share. A man volunteers for what most of the doctors believe is an unnecessary surgery. One of the patients is in the hospital because they tried to carve a pumpkin in an unconventional manner. Alex receives a visit from Jane Doe/Ava/Rebecca. Meredith is having mommy issues. Callie has an announcement to make.

Episode 6 – Kung Fu Fighting
Cristina and Izzie are fighting for surgeries and a favor from someone. A patient comes to the ER with a dream and a condition which may prevent him from realizing it. The Chief turns to the other men in the hospital when his marriage is in more trouble. Two patients are competing to win something big. One of them convinces an intern to take their place.

Episode 7 – Physical Attraction… Chemical Reaction
Two arguing parents, who are named Jane and Don, bring their son in because he swallowed marbles, while a middle-aged woman comes in wanting cosmetic surgery on her chin. A father worries about raising a child alone when the mother needs surgery.

Disc Three:

Episode 8 – Forever Young
There has been a bus crash and the patients are in the ER. Meredith and Derek’s relationship gets more complicated when he dates a fellow doctor. Meredith’s dad visits her at the hospital.

Episode 9 – Crash Into Me (Part 1)
An ambulance crash endangers the lives of the paramedics involved, as Meredith and the Chief work on-site to save them, Bailey treats a patient who refuses her help, and Ava returns for Alex and meets his other girlfriend in the process.

Episode 10 – Crash Into Me (Part 2)
Meredith works furiously to save a paramedic trapped in an ambulance; Lexie holds the life of a patient in her hands; Derek must rely on a nurse to save a patient; Bailey struggles to balance her personal life with her work.

Episode 11 – Lay Your Hands on Me
George has a surprise visitor. Callie copes with not being an O’Malley anymore. Bailey’s family is falling apart, by her husband not thinking she cares about her son and husband. Tuck goes into surgery with the whole hospital worried. Derek sorts through what kissing Rose means. Meredith discovers something that doesn’t inspire hope or happiness in her. Alex treats a faith healer, and doesn’t believe in her “powers”.

Episode 12 – Where The Wild Things Are
Time, specifically six weeks, has passed but sexual angst still runs rampant in the halls of Seattle Grace. Derek and Rose have been dating. Meredith has noticed the activities of her current off-again ex-boyfriend. George and Lexie are getting used to their new apartment. The doctors are in the midst of a competition when a man arrives at the hospital after having survived an attack by a bear. Erica Hahn makes a friend.

Disc Four:

Episode 13 – Piece of My Heart
Addison visits Seattle Grace because they need skills that only she has. Rebecca/Ava returns with news for Alex. Meredith and Derek’s clinical trial experiences one or two developments.

Episode 14 – The Becoming
The clinical trial continues to make progress. The anti-McSteamy club creates new initiatives but that isn’t enough to stop one woman from spending time with him. Cristina is affected by Burke’s career developments.

Episode 15 – Losing My Mind
Dr. Wyatt refuses to let Meredith give up on therapy. Alex learns something else about Rebecca. The Chief wants Erica to perform a daring surgery. Cristina continues to act strange.

Disc Five:

Episode 16 – Freedom (Part 1)
A couple undergoes surgery. Derek and Meredith clinical trial has another patient. Izzie helps Alex. McSteamy hooks up with someone.

Episode 17 – Freedom (Part 2)
A couple undergoes surgery. Derek and Meredith clinical trial has another patient. Alex breaks down for the first time ever. Izzie offers a friend some help. McSteamy hooks up with someone. A new couple appears. Lexie gets something unexpectedly. George gets a second chance.

The video is given in anamorphic widescreen color with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which is enhanced for 16X9 TVs. The transfer is pretty good with minimal grain. It’s slightly better than the original presentation on TV, but there are no major problems at all.

The audio included is in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are Spanish and French subtitles available as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear. No major problems here either and the overall quality is a little better than your average TV on DVD set.

Audio Commentaries
There is 3 audio commentaries for 3 different episodes of this season. Chyler Leigh (actress) and Karin Gleason (associate producer) comment on the “A Change is Gonna Come” episode. Lauren Stamile (actress) and Rob Corn (executive producer/director) comment on the “Forever Young” episode. Sandra Oh (actress) and Julie Ann Robinson (director) comment on “The Becoming” episode. They aren’t that entertaining, but they do give out some information. Just so-so commentaries.

Extended Episodes
Episode 8 entitled “Forever Young” and Episode 14 entitled “The Becoming” are the only extended episodes this season and they are only extended by a few minutes. Basically, there are some scenes in each of these episodes that could have gone in the “deleted scenes” section since they don’t add much to these episodes.

“New Docs on the Block” Featurette
This runs 8 minutes and it’s your basic “get to know the newbies” featurette. Here we learn more about Dr. Hahn (Brooke Smith), Dr. Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh), and Nurse Rose (Lauren Stamile). We hear from each actress about their role on the show and from the other cast members on working with each actress. Pretty fluffy piece, but it is somewhat insightful.

“On Set with Patrick & Eric” Featurette
This runs 5 minutes and it’s all about “McDreamy” and “McSteamy”. Patrick Dempsey, who plays Dr. Derek Shepherd, and Eric Dane, who plays Dr. Mark Sloan, take you behind-the-scenes on location in Seattle and on the set. We also hear from fellow cast members as they share stories about these two. This should appease fans of these two stars.

“Good Medicine”: Favorite Scenes
This runs 14 minutes and the cast tells us their favorite scenes from season four.

“Dissecting Grey’s Anatomy”: Unaired Scenes –
There are 23 scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the season. These total 12 minutes. Nothing really must-see, but there is some fun stuff in here.

“In Stitches”: Season Four Outtakes
There is 4 and half minutes worth of behind-the-scenes stuff, gags, and bloopers. Fairly funny stuff.

“One Quick Cut” Featurette
This runs 4 minutes and it’s basically a quick summary of all the major plot points in the first four seasons. This contains a lot of spoilers, so either watch this after watching all the episodes or watch this before you watch season five. Almost pointless really.

For casual fans of the show, this season is only worth a rental, if only to see some of the good things that they are building up to in season five. Hardcore fans of the show will no doubt buy this season, but season four is the weakest season so far in comparison to the others. If you are new to the show, go rent seasons one and two first to get a feel of this show. Season four is not a great representation of this series.

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Buena Vista Home Entertainment presents Grey’s Anatomy – Season 4. Created by Shonda Rhimes. Starring Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Sandra Oh, Katherine Heigl, Justin Chambers, T.R. Knight, Chandra Wilson, James Pickens Jr., Eric Dane, Sara Ramirez, Chyler Leigh, and Brooke Smith. Running time: 740 minutes. Rated: NOT RATED. Released on DVD: September 9, 2008.
Available at Amazon.com