Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorscone) has always been one of the most unlucky Grey’s Anatomy doctors in a sea of wildly unlucky Grey’s Anatomy doctors. Over the last decade of television, Amelia has suffered through addiction issues, the death of her fiancé, the nearly immediate death of her newborn baby, the death of her brother (Patrick Dempsey), a brain tumor, a divorce, and a painful breakup involving children, just to name a few tragedies in her life. However, the very beginning of Grey’s season 16 finally gave Amelia some hope, as she began a healthy relationship with Dr. Atticus “Link” Lincoln (Chris Carmack) — and learned she was pregnant with their baby (surprise!).
But now Grey’s is stomping all over that promise with a twist no one saw coming: the possibility that Amelia’s ex Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) is actually the father of her baby. For Amelia-Link shippers this threat is infuriating. However, as Thursday night’s “A Hard Pill to Swallow” proves, this new storyline also speaks to a much bigger problem for Grey’s.
Last year, Grey’s had seemingly closed the book on its most drawn-out love pentagon. The members of that tired polygon were Link, Amelia, Owen, Owen’s then-ex Teddy Altman (Kim Raver), and Teddy’s then-boyfriend Thomas Koracick (Greg Germann). Link and Amelia were going to explore where their attraction took them. Owen and Teddy — whose unexpected baby arrives in the season 15 finale — were finally going to commit to each other. Koracick was going to pine for Teddy in plain sight — all while insulting Owen — until Teddy either left Owen or Koracick snarked his way into a new relationship. Amelia and Owen could be respectable friends who vaguely co-parented baby Leo together.
This was a breath of much-needed romantic fresh air.
“Pill” feels like an unnecessary backtrack. At the top of the episode, Amelia tells Link he may not be the father of her baby — but Owen could be. She admits she waited a few days to unload the painful information, which is brave. Amelia says she is speaking to Link first because she is in love with him and wants to raise this child with him no matter what a paternity test says. Amelia ends the conversation admitting she has had time to think about the issue at hand for days, and offers Link the same. It’s a deeply mature decision.
Inexplicably, the end of “Pill” ignores Amelia’s entire thoughtful speech. Instead, after Link says he should have known if there was a chance Owen was the father, Amelia is forced to say she “isn’t measured,” “a little bit chaotic,” and “doesn’t think things all the way through.” The woman who spoke at the start of the episode was not that inconsiderate monster anymore. Rather, Amelia is growing past her greatest emotional crutches, largely thanks to enjoying a supportive relationship with Link. If Grey’s wanted Link to demand a paternity test, it didn't have to assassinate Amelia’s very recent characterization to get there.
But, the series did. The effect is a messy storyline that feels engineered to keep season 15’s stale-back-then love pentagon going. As Link says to Amelia after she is made to criticize herself for a solid minute straight, “There are a bunch of people involved in this. And they deserve to know.” Those people are Owen and Teddy, reinforcing the idea that Amelia and Owen cannot truly be rid of each other for a few more episodes — if not the rest of their lives.
All of a sudden, it feels as though Grey’s incorrectly believes the only drama available around Amelia’s psychologically fraught pregnancy with a man she barely knows comes from Owen.
This turn only seems more alarming when you realize Grey’s has been spending a lot of time laying sympathy traps for Teddy’s other prospective love interest, Tom. Last week’s “Help Me Through the Night,” unveiled the unknown kindness Tom has shown his favorite intern, Blake (Devin Way). “Pill” allowed Tom to give Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) the second most emotional advice following her miscarriage. The scene also reminded us Tom has a son who died, which is prime sympathy building for a show this macabre. Grey’s characters only garner that much attention when a big change is ahead. It is plausible Tom's change is repairing his relationship with Teddy. Such a reunion would conveniently leave space for Amelia to have to choose between Owen and Link again.
After 10 years of horror, Amelia deserves anything better.