In fall 2018, Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff admitted that viewers were in the “rom-com season” of her long-running ABC medical drama. Roughly a year-and-half later, 99% of any such romance has crashed, burned, and driven its way into the window of a bar. Because, when you really look at Grey’s Anatomy right now, you realize nearly every relationship on the show in shambles.
Thursday night’s “The Last Supper” drives home just how endangered love stories are in Grey’s Anatomy circa 2020.
The episode tracks the unsalvageable disintegration of Catherine Fox (Debbie Allen) and Richard Weber’s (James Pickens Jr.) marriage. During last week’s “A Hard Pill to Swallow,” Richard tells his estranged-at-the-time wife that their broken relationship “isn’t going to work” if she doesn’t trust him. Catherine shoots back, “Who said this is working?” So, “Supper” reveals that the Fox-Webers have decided to officially separate. They host the episode's titular supper to inform their respective children — now-exes/mortal enemies Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) and Maggie Pierce (Kelly McCreary), previously one of the most promising Grey’s pairings — of the upsetting news.
The resulting “dinner party” becomes all-out war.
The fissures in both relationships are impossible to ignore. Richard is emotionally mortally wounded by the fact that Catherine, the woman who owns Grey Sloan hospital, did not lift a finger to support her husband after season 15’s health insurance fraud disaster. Catherine is convinced Richard is cheating on her with his colleague and friend Gemma (Jasmine Guy). Richard is not having an affair, and Catherine’s anxiety likely stems from her insecurity over her icy marriage. Maggie is hurt by how quickly Jackson moved on from their very important relationship by dating Victoria “Vic” Hughes (Barrett Doss) — along with countless other careless actions from Jackson. Jackson thinks Maggie is unnecessarily critical and mean.
“[Jackson] and Maggie are arguing. Can’t stand each other. They’ve been trying to be civil for our sake, which is a total joke, but you haven’t been around enough to notice, have you?” Catherine says toward the end of “Supper” summarizing most of the hostility at the dinner table. Catherine’s words kick off an argument, as they were meant to. By the end of the verbal battle, Catherine publicly accuses Richard of having a girlfriend and abruptly announces the Fox-Weber separation.
It’s a breakup that is all the more painful since it could have been avoided. At the midpoint of “Supper,” Catherine comes to Richard after an emotional story about their season 11 engagement stirs a little bit of true romance in her heart. Richard is open to reconciling if his wife can apologize for leaving him out in the cold after the fraud fiasco. Catherine refuses, saying, “I’m sorry, but.” That “but” is too much for Richard to bear, since he knows any apology with a defense isn’t a true apology. They are done. By the end of the episode, Catherine is leaving the Fox-Weber home and plotting to buy Richard’s new medical home, PacNorth, just to spite him. Their children are also still bitter enemies.
Richard, Catherine, Maggie, and Jackson aren’t alone in the chaos of a Grey’s Anatomy relationship. Just last week, the Shondaland drama put unnecessary kinks in the naturally dramatic coupling of Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone) and Atticus “Link” Lincoln (Chris Carmack). The expecting pair’s problems are the kind that threaten full collapse if Amelia is actually carrying the child of her ex, Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd). Owen’s engagement to on-again, off-again love interest Teddy Altman (Kim Raver) appears consistently shaky, particularly in the shadow of Amelia’s pregnancy — and the fact that Teddy lost her engagement ring days after getting it. Amelia’s sister-in-law, Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) was blindsided earlier this season when her younger boyfriend Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti) essentially broke up with her.
Even the strongest marriage on Grey's Anatomy is doomed. Jo Karev (Camilla Luddington) may believe she's in a flourishing relationship, but the man who plays her husband — Justin Chambers, aka Alex Karev — has already left the series. The Karevs are in the middle of a marital crisis and they don’t even know it yet.
There are just two strong couples still populating Grey’s Anatomy — and when it comes to Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Ben Warren (Jason George), the latter isn’t even regularly on the show. At least, as “Last Supper” reminds us, Levi Schmitt (Jake Borelli) and Nico Kim (Alex Landi) are better than ever. For that, we can be thankful.