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Can ‘Grey's Anatomy' survive the departure of Cristina Yang?

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We’ve had a few days to recover from the season 10 finale of “Grey’s Anatomy” and the departure of Dr. Cristina Yang as played by Sandra Oh. Though the finale was jam packed with drama which will carry the show over to season 11, the question must be begged…can “Grey’s Anatomy” survive without its headstrong, uber-career woman Contact Music asked on May 19.

Oh announced last fall that she intended to leave the series after season 10. While we knew it was coming, it didn’t seem real until ABC and Shonda Rhimes rolled out the last 4 episodes. With the loss of the Harper Avery Award and the turmoil over the hospital’s relationship to the Avery family to the surprise job offer from former fiancé and mentor Preston Burke, the wheels of departure were set in motion like a fast moving freight train we couldn’t stop.

The character of Cristina Yang has been called revolutionary and groundbreaking by the likes of Cosmopolitan and others. So what is it that sets her apart from everyone else and why do we care so much?

Yang walked into Seattle Grace with a chip on her shoulder and goal in mind. She wanted to be the best surgeon she could be and she already knew she was leaps and bounds ahead of nearly all of her peers. She had an absolutely awful bedside manner and cared not about the patients themselves, but the cases and experiences they provided.

Through her relationships with Meredith, George, Alex and Izzie, she came to understand the need for friendship. When Preston Burke took her on as an interne, she found a mind and talent she could respect and a man she could love – so much so that she almost lost sight of who she was and where she wanted to go. His jilting her at the altar freed her to be the Cristina she was meant to be.

Later, she met, married, divorced and then maintained a loving relationship with Dr. Owen Hunt until the bitter end. She even opted for an abortion knowing mother hood would never be passion in spite of the emotional devastation it caused Owen. And throughout that, Cristina remained unapologetic without coming off as a self-serving witch. She was likable, understandable and even relatable.

Romances aside, it is her relationship with her “person,” Meredith, which gave the show its real backbone. Two strong women who could love one another unconditionally despite deeply different stances on love, careers and motherhood helped make the show a stand out.

Can “Grey’s Anatomy” survive without Cristina Yang? Of course it can but it will never be the same.

It took time for us to recover from the losses of George, Izzie, Burke, Sloane and Little Grey but we did. Were they as groundbreaking as Cristina? Perhaps not, but they were endearing characters, well fleshed out and integral parts of the show.

Shonda Rhimes has already mapped out some great drama for season 11 of ‘Grey’s’ including the arrival of an unknown before now sibling of Meredith’s and adult child of Dr. Webber’s as well as the potential break up of Meredith and Derek. We also have all the fun and drama of April and Jackson’s pregnancy to go through and Owen’s grief over Cristina’s departure. It promises to be a very exciting season even if we still feel the whole left by Cristina. That just means she really touched us, in an unforgettable way and isn’t that the mark of a great character?

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