'Grey's Anatomy': The Heartbreaking Episode That Hits Almost Too Close to Home in 2020

The medical drama Grey’s Anatomy has often been criticized for having an unrealistic portrayal of the medical work that goes on in a hospital.

While the show does demonstrate that the writers research the medical conditions and treatments that appear in each episode, things are often exaggerated to increase the level of drama on the show.

That being said, the character dynamics and emotions expressed on the show are intricate and very human, and when the writers are able to weave together an interesting medical plot with expert characterization and plot crafting, fans and critics alike are eager to dissect and share their responses to the show.

Sometimes, episodes of Grey’s Anatomy really resonate with something going on in the real world. Grey’s Anatomy has tackled subjects like abortion, police brutality, and sexual assault.

But in 2020, there’s one episode of Grey’s Anatomy that is especially resonant. So what episode are fans pointing to as especially relevant in 2020? And what makes it hit so close to home?

What is ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ about?

The show Grey’s Anatomy is one of the longest running dramas on TV. It centers around the medical staff of a Seattle hospital, their work, and their interpersonal relationships. 

The writing of the show has been praised by fans and critics alike, and the show has earned several awards. It’s also had an impact on other TV shows and fan culture, from jokes that have spread out from the Grey’s Anatomy fandom to montage styles that have been copied by other shows. It’s clear: the production team of Grey’s Anatomy created a veritable phenomenon.

And since Grey’s Anatomy is so huge, it therefore has a thriving fan community. On forum sites like Reddit and fanfiction sites like Archive of Our Own, the Grey’s Anatomy fandom shares much discussion and transformative work based on this show. 

‘Grey’s Anatomy: The Time Warp’

In a Reddit on the Grey’s Anatomy subreddit, fans discussed the season six episode “The Time Warp,” and how resonant it is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The episode is structured around various flashbacks that the main characters are having about how they began their medical careers.  One physician reminisces about treating a patient with AIDS in the early 1980s, and the fear and uncertainty that came around treating a patient with HIV before much was known about the condition.

Because HIV/AIDS was still relatively uncommon in 1982 and under-researched, the show portrays the doctors as being extremely cautious about contact with the patient for fear to contracting the disease.

One reddit user pointed out there are parallels between the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and the COVID-19 pandemic today, and that this episode reminded them of this:

“I have older nurse friends who say the Covid-PPE in ICUs reminds them of the AIDS-PPE they used in the 80s & 90s. It’s been heartbreaking to know of Covid patients dying alone in isolation rooms with no skin-to-skin hand-holding or physical contact in their last moments, suffering the same fate as early AIDS patients. The AIDS crisis changed the way we viewed hospice, perhaps the Covid crisis will change the way we handle isolation and infection control.”

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and COVID-19

This isn’t the only way that Grey’s Anatomy has been relevant in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though the show had to stop filming due to the pandemic, it will likely discuss the pandemic in the upcoming season.

But on top of that, Grey’s Anatomy, along with a few other popular medical dramas, donated large amounts of PPE to hospitals in need. Because things like N95 masks are used as props, the show had enough that hadn’t been used that they were able to donate.

Beyond tackling societal issues in fiction, then, Grey’s Anatomy became a part of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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