When Grey’s Anatomy season 16 ended, one mystery floated above the ABC medical drama: Is Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) still really the star of this show? Although Meredith’s name was in the title, women like Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington) and Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone) — who dealt with emotional obstacles like a blindsiding divorce and a surprise pregnancy, respectively — had the most memorable storylines of the season without a doubt.
Thursday night’s “Fight the Power” revived that discussion. The episode turns the spotlight away from Mer — who has been battling COVID-19 for weeks — and back on her colleagues. Doctor Jo takes the narrative opportunity and runs with it, ending “Power” with a big announcement. After months of mourning her cratered marriage with Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), Jo — currently the attending general surgeon at Grey Sloan Memorial — is ready to change specialties from surgery to obstetrics and gynecology after delivering a baby.
“Power” treats Jo’s exciting decision as a light distraction from the heavy devastation of Miranda Bailey’s (Chandra Wilson) tragic plot line (her COVID-positve mother dies from complications caused by the virus). But, Jo’s news is actually an emotionally momentous occasion when you take into account the punishing season-and-a-half she has suffered since 2019. The possibility of Jo becoming an OB-GYN proves she may be moving past the biggest traumas of her recent past.
Towards the end of season 16, Jo receives a multi-page letter from her husband, Alex. In it, Alex explains that he is leaving Jo to be with his first wife, Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), who secretly had his children. Alex emphasizes that if the choice was only between Jo and Izzie, he would pick his wife. Alex would pick Jo. But, there’s more at stake than romantic destiny. “I can’t miss another second of my kids’ lives,” he writes. “I have a chance to make this family a whole and I just hope you love me back enough to let me take it.”
Jo could easily never want to see another child again in her life. If it weren’t for Alex and Izzie’s kids — at least in the narrative of Grey’s Anatomy, versus the reality of Justin Chambers’ decision to leave the series — there is a very high chance Jo would still be a happily married woman instead of someone desperately trying to put the pieces of the life together yet again.
While Alex’s betrayal would be enough of a reason for Jo to become resentful of pregnancy, season 15 holds even more pain for her around the topic. In nineteenth episode “Silent All These Years,” we learn that Jo’s mother, Vicki Ann Rudin (Michelle Forbes), was raped as a young woman; Jo was conceived during her mother’s assault. Vicki chose to carry her pregnancy to term, but resented her baby after delivery. Vicki eventually left Jo at a fire station, unknowingly entering her daughter into years of violence in the foster care system.
Jo is shattered by her origin story for the remaining six episodes of season 15. She refuses to talk to Alex about any of this crushing information. She stops going to work for episodes and, when she does show up to Grey Sloan, she hides vodka in her coffee thermos. At the end of the season, Jo willingly enters a psychiatric ward for mental health treatment. Again, anyone could empathize with the possibility that constantly thinking about conception, pregnancy, and birth — which is what an OB-GYN does by definition — would be triggering for Jo.
But, as we see in latest episode “Fight the Power,” babies aren't so distressing anymore. Following months of upsetting, seemingly futile, surgeries during the pandemic, Jo is invigorated by bringing life into this world. She is given the chance at the midpoint of the chapter while walking through Grey Sloan. Due to the frenetic scheduling of the COVID era, all of the hospital's OBs are busy. But, hospital rules stipulate that a doctor has to be the one to deliver a baby. Jo is the first doctor a nurse (Délé Ogundiran) finds. Although Jo hasn’t considered her obstetrics training in years, she is a natural at the process, easily helping a couple welcome their child. Jo is overjoyed by the scene and asks the nurse if she can stay. The answer is sadly a forceful no.
“You think that’s why Carina DeLuca is always in such a good mood? She’s just handing out babies and it shoots her serotonin levels through the roof?” Jo theorizes to Levi Schmidt (Jake Borelli), her roommate. Jo decides she wants in on the action, asking Levi if she should change her specialty to obstetrics. After all, a new intern named Reza Kahn (Nikhil Shukla) left his home of Pakistan — where he was a vascular surgeon — to start his entire medical career over in America. If Khan can do all of that work, Jo surmises, she can master a new subject.
“I know I put years into surgery,” Jo begins, “but if it’s not bringing me joy, then wouldn’t it be insane not to think about change?”
Considering how Grey’s Anatomy works, this whisper of an idea is bound to become an entire storyline in the near future. If the process of helping create life can bring Jo “joy” at this point, rather than very understandably breaking her, she really is on the road to recovery.
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