Grey's Anatomy finale fails the Columbine test
From a conceptual standpoint, last night's season finale of Grey's Anatomy had a lot in common with the famous it-was-all-a-dream episode of Dallas. Fans haven't been wowed by many of the new characters introduced of late, so Grey's creator Shonda Rhimes used a distraught shooter plotline to brutally dispatch two of them: Reed (Nora Zehetne) and Charles (Robert Baker).
It was the equivalent of a do-over, except with gushing blood instead of a steamy shower. But while I understand Rhimes's reasoning for jettisoning Reed and Charles, as well as giving herself an opportunity to reboot other twists that haven't worked (like marooning Patrick Dempsey's Derek in the chief's office), the method was tough to watch a few miles away from Columbine High School.
Simply put, the episode ignored every lesson learned by police in the Columbine attack.
The after-the-fact analysis of the Columbine massacre showed that the decision by law enforcement types to wait outside the school for a long stretch increased the body count substantially. Since then, police departments across the country have revised their tactics. Now, rather than lingering, SWAT teams and the like rush into crime scenes much sooner. After all, what were once hostage situations have increasingly become suicide scenarios in which homicidal gunmen want to create the most tragedy possibly before succumbing to death from cops' bullets or their own.
But this approach didn't work for Rhimes. She needed a story that would fill two hours -- so she had officers spend an inordinate amount of time coordinating outside the building before doing slow, methodical, floor-by-floor sweeps that allowed killer Gary Clark (Michael O'Neil) to roam the halls unencumbered for friggin' ever. He either shot or threatened nearly every major character with precious little interference by the law, and even after he was wounded by a police sniper, he essentially had the run of the place. By the time he finally perforated himself, he'd taken out oodles of extras and drilled both Derek and Alex (Justin Chambers), who, shockingly enough, managed to survive.
Of course, writers need to have creative leeway to tell their tales. But the Grey's finale was so mired in antiquated police techniques that it would only have worked had it been a flashback episode set in 1998.