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Grey’s Anatomy: Why the Japril episode worked despite all the weirdness

It’s been an intense few weeks at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, following the brutal attack on Meredith’s life. But tonight wasn’t about Meredith. It wasn’t about the hospital. In fact, it was arguably unlike any episode of Grey’s we’ve ever seen before.

Tonight’s episode was devoted in its entirety to Jackson and April — thus the trending hashtag, #JaprilTheMovie.

So before I get eviscerated for dubbing this poignant episode “weird,” let me clarify that I was a huge fan of tonight’s unique format. But it was precisely that format that lent the episode its weirdness.

We’re used to seeing helicopters crash. We’re used to seeing people impaled. We’re used to patients dying (and, hell, doctors, too). We’re used to the flood of adrenaline that comes from chaos and from lives hanging in the balance.

But tonight, it was love. Love was hanging in the balance.

There were no major medical theatrics. No dramatic rescues or 16-hour surgeries. The only miraculous resuscitation hinged on one unanswered question: Can the marriage of Jackson and April be saved?

And in attempting to address that lingering question for us, the show took Grey’s fans on a different kind of journey. We were treated to a retrospective of Jackson and April’s entire relationship. We were reminded of the breadth and scope of connection.

More: Which Grey’s Anatomy ‘ship should Shonda Rhimes save: Japril or Calzona?

It was beautiful in its simplicity and arresting in its authenticity. For years, Jackson and April’s identities have been wound tightly around each other. Tonight, we bore witness to their gradual unraveling.

Of course, this is Grey’s, so there had to be a little intrigue.

The episode begins with Jackson rushing into a church where a woman named Tatiana is waiting to be married. The implication, naturally, is that Jackson is the man she’s waiting to wed. Who is this woman? Where did she come from?

With that, we begin an erratic pattern of zipping backward and forward — zig-zagging through the couple’s history. Which is kinda perfect, right? When you’re standing at the edge of a relationship about to walk off into the unknown, memories flood you in jagged disarray.

We see bits and pieces that are familiar: the starts and finishes of fights that have already played out. However, we now get the added context of all of the stuff smooshed in the middle. We discover details we weren’t privy to before, like how hard Jackson tried to comfort April after their baby died or how badly he was hurting, too.

We re-live the root of the resentment on both sides. For Jackson, it’s how April “abandoned” him when he needed her the most. For April, it’s the fact that Jackson couldn’t see she was drowning and just trying to find a way to keep her head above water.

We watch them struggle to find their way through the choking fog of losing a child and to find their way back to each other.

What we watched tonight was the rise and fall of a marriage, like lungs inhaling one giant final gulp of air before taking a ragged last breath.

I can’t say enough how impactful it was. The writers didn’t just make good television; they told a story that felt real and honest and utterly heartbreaking.

Despite the fact that Jackson and April ultimately signed their divorce papers, their relationship wasn’t some proverbial flash in the pan. It wasn’t a failure just because it ended.

Which brings us to the underlying sentiment of tonight’s episode. As April put it, “You can’t boil every single injury down to one single blow… you can’t heal every wound, and that’s OK.”

More: Grey’s Anatomy: 6 predictions based on tonight’s relationship cliffhangers

Sometimes, despite everything two people in a marriage have survived together, there comes a point when they fail to thrive. For Jackson and April, their marriage hit a fork in the road and they somehow found themselves on different paths — hers in another country on medical missions, and his rebuilding a face (and a life) for Tatiana.

A woman who is, for the record, not walking down the aisle to Jackson. Rather, she’s walking down the aisle with him. She asked him to do her that honor after he stuck by her during four years of facial reconstruction surgeries.

So here we are, seemingly at the end of Jackson and April’s journey. Maybe.

Again, this is the gift of Grey’s — after giving us something we didn’t even realize we wanted in #JaprilTheMovie, the show still delivers a singular moment capable of blowing our minds even more: April is pregnant.

So… sequel?

Were you a fan of the Jackson and April episode? Sound off!

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