- The pilot episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” set the tone for the entire series and established Meredith Grey as the protagonist.
- The episodes depicting the plane crash as well as the episodes depicting a shooter at the hospital were both memorable.
- “Silent All These Years” dealt with consent and assault in an honest way that fans appreciated.
- This post contains spoilers for “Grey’s.”
- Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.
“Grey’s Anatomy” has graced the airwaves for 15 years. It premiered in spring of 2005, with a warm welcome but gradually turned into a phenomenon. And it’s not going away any time soon.
Creator Shonda Rhimes brought a fan-favourite and groundbreaking show to network television. From the beginning, the show has had a racially diverse cast and nearly every episode tackles topics other similar medical dramas avoid, or simply gloss over, including PTSD, consent, and sexual assault.
It’s also sex-positive in a way that helped change the way sexuality is depicted on television for women and the LGBTQ+ community, and it mixes comedy with drama in a refreshing way that inspired a lot of shows with similar tonal shifts.
Although there have been some bumps along the way, “Grey’s” has many iconic episodes.
Here are the 10 best episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy:”
“A Hard Day’s Night” — Season one, episode one
“Grey’s Anatomy” premiered pretty quietly. But it gained a devoted audience quickly thanks to its pilot, which is one of the best network drama pilots ever made.
This episode quickly and succinctly introduces its characters, the setting, and the tone of the show: a quirky, sex-positive medical drama with an informative voiceover from its lead, Meredith Grey. It’s still one of the best episodes, and it reminds us of much simpler times, both in our own reality and on “Grey’s Anatomy.”
“Bring the Pain” — Season two, episode five
“Bring the Pain” is one of the best episodes and one of the most iconic. It’s the one where George O’Malley performs open heart surgery in an elevator and the one where Meredith gives Derek her “Pick me. Choose me. Love Me” speech.
It’s a perfect embodiment of what the show is: an overly dramatic hospital show where everyone is in love with each other so it’s complicated.
“It’s the End of the World..” and “As We Know It” — Season two, episodes 16 & 17
This episode changed “Grey’s” forever – and in a good way. Premiering after the Super Bowl, it gave the show to an even wider audience, set the tone for the show’s now notorious tragic episodes mixed with romance, soft indie rock, and huge guest stars.
Kyle Chandler guest-starred as a Bomb Squad agent (before “Friday Night Lights” premiered) and Christina Ricci played a baffled EMT whos hand was preventing a bomb from going off.
“Didn’t We Almost Have It All?” — Season three, episode 25
Overall, the third season of “Grey’s” is a bit of a disappointment, but thankfully it ended with one of the best episodes to date, with one of the best performances from Sandra Oh. Dr. Burke doesn’t show up for his wedding to Cristina, and Oh plays out her intense breakdown authentically, and introduces a new side of the typically emotionally closed off Cristina.
It was a fitting way to write Dr. Burke off the show seamlessly set up a new chapter for the series with Addison’s exit and Lexie Grey’s role expanding to a more major one.
“Now Or Never?” — Season five, episode 24
Like an average “Grey’s” season finale, this episode has plenty of heartbreak: the beloved George O’Malley gets hit by a bus and eventually dies, and Derek has to break some devastating news to Izzie about her brain tumour and she temporarily loses her memory.
But it wouldn’t be a “Grey’s” finale without some romance. Instead of having their big wedding, Meredith and Derek give hand over the festivities to Alex and Izzie and perform their own ceremony thanks to a Post-it note.
“Sanctuary” and “Death and All His Friends” — Season six, episodes 23 & 24
The famous shooter episode is so high stakes because every single character’s life is at stake. The episode cleverly lets the audience know things about the shooter and the status of characters that other characters at Seattle Grace Mercy West do not, which leads to even more tension than there already is.
The first part, “Sanctuary,” is thriller-like, with characters around the hospital hiding and avoid the shooter. The second part, “Death and All His Friends” deals with the critical injuries some characters suffer including Derek. There are unexpected deaths that once again change the direction of the show and its characters.
“Flight” – Season eight, episode 24
“Flight” isn’t fun to watch. But it’s exceptional television that once again changed the show and its characters forever. The season right finale closes with a brutal episode featuring a plane crash, leaving Meredith, Cristina, Derek, Lexie, and Marc stranded in the woods. The episode captures their anxiety and certainly makes you feel like every character could die.
Some do, but thankfully some characters are spared. While the episode was certainly made to generate massive ratings, the injuries and deaths that occur in the episode have serious consequences for the characters going forward.
“The Sound of Silence” — Season 12, episode nine
While the latter seasons of “Grey’s” don’t seem to have the same spark as the earlier seasons, occasionally, there are stand out episodes that introduce important issues to its massive audience. “The Sound of Silence” is one of those episodes, and it was a surprising palate cleanser after the mess that follows Derek’s death at the end of season 11.
The episode covers Meredith’s recovery after a life-threatening attack from a patient turned violent by post-seizure hyper-aggression. It’s an excellent examination of PTSD that advances the season’s overall story at the same time, which is admirable given that Meredith physically can’t speak for most of the episode.
“Unbreak My Heart” — Season 12, episode 11
On network television, and even on a show with as many disasters and deaths “Grey’s Anatomy,” the love stories that work tend to work themselves out over time. But in “Unbreak My Heart,” a flashback episode that details Jackson and April’s relationship and marriage in a way the audience had never seen before, it’s proven that this one has no hope.
Like in reality, it shows that a relationship that was once great can fail by contrasting the good moments with the bad. It’s a very different episode from anything “Grey’s” had done before, and the experimentation is what makes it iconic.
“Silent All These Years” — Season 15, episode 19
Relevant but not desperately so, this episode talks about consent and how different women react in very different ways to sexual assault and domestic abuse. By showing different perspectives on the topic, the episode enlightens its viewers – and its own characters – to every person’s unique trauma following sexual assault, and the challenge and internal conflict that can go into reporting it.
“Grey’s” has covered tough topics including rape before, like the season one episode “The First Cut is the Deepest,” in which a female patient bites off the penis of her attempted rapist and Meredith has to walk around Seattle Grace with the penis in a cooler. But this time, the episode’s approach to the topic struck a nerve for its cultural significance.
Near the end of the episode, women (many of whom were cast and crew of the show) line the hallways of the hospital to support a survivor, creating one of the most powerful images in the show’s history.
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