“Slowly, over time, everything changes. And you’re no longer this young thing, and you don’t believe in fairytales and ‘perfect’ isn’t in your vocabulary.”
Private Practice comes to a very appropriate close in the Shonda Rhimes penned series finale, “In Which We Say Goodbye”. But are we saying goodbye, really? Ms. Rhimes has mentioned that this series finale doesn’t really feel like your typical series finale. And it really doesn’t. There is no sense of the end in this hour. No sense of a swan song being sung to leave the long-time fans of the series with a total feeling of these characters being done. And that is why I think this finale works so well. Six years may not be as long as Grey’s Anatomy’s nine (so far), but its still a landmark for television! Two marriages, multiple declarations of love, new beginnings and an ending that is not exactly the fairytale wrap-up we all thought it might be.
Opening on Addison and Jake’s wedding day, we see the return of our main protagonist’s best friend, Naomi (Audra McDonald), who has been M.I.A from the series since the end of Season 4. Addison Montgomery being the woman that she is, searching for happiness and incidentally messing it up along the way has apprehension. Starting the episode with Addison reflecting on her past--from the happy days to her lowest days--is imperative. This has always been a series about Addison finding her fairytale ending after she failed to do so in Seattle. Addison speaks of her time with Derek Shepherd, and how she was once angry at him for destroying what she thought to be her perfect ending. She speaks of how foolish she may have been to assume perfection and fairytale endings, and ultimately how change and unexpected struggles have groomed her to be the person she is today. How big of a step it is to return to the bounty of marriage when it all went so horribly wrong the first time. That takes a lot of courage and great trust in the person one is with at the time. And just like Addison’s big leap of faith, our other characters take the necessary risk in order to achieve the happiness, love and joy that they’ve been fighting for throughout this groundbreaking series.
Addison and Jake’s wedding goes by in an easy breeze, with the reunion of old friends and new ones. It invokes the true theme of this installment which is after all, finding happiness and moving on to things greater. Amelia has found a good man to move onto and after an entire season of baby drama surrounding Charlotte and Cooper, their three baby girls, Caroline, Georgia, and Rachel are alive, well, adorable, and inflicting some good old stress on the Freedman clan. Cooper has done well to act as a stay at home father, which isn’t too surprising, seeing his season-long adamancy concerning the triplets. However, the stress of caring for three baby girls outweighs the miracle of being a devoted father. It’s the good old Charlotte and Cooper antics here. Nothing has changed, which is exactly what Shonda Rhimes wants us to feel, and continues to do throughout the entire episode.
Violet, in the midst of writing her new book, is also attempting to convince a patient that she is ready to be fearless and walk out into the world after a horrible experience that took her parents and her boyfriend. Just as our main characters, Violet’s patient is scared to move forward because of the distressing past, but in the end does so, because she has to. This entire episode’s theme revolves around our characters continuing onto something great and unexpected, taking the chance to live and realize that there will be bumps along the way, but that’s okay, because in the end of it all, we’ll all be okay. Even possibly Sheldon and Miranda. These two individuals met each other possibly at the worst periods of their lives, as they go through cancer treatment. Unfortunately, Miranda is dying, and she has no intentions on letting Sheldon see her off as a shriveled, immobile and broken woman perishing from terminal cancer. Miranda is terrified of what her future with Sheldon will be as she enters the last stage of her life, and Sheldon makes the decision to stick by her even through the worst of times, because let’s face it; Sheldon is going through some of the same trials. He’s lonely and feels old. Sheldon doesn’t have time not to live. And while impulsiveness may not match Sheldon’s character, quitting his job and moving on will give him and Miranda the few days of happiness that they deserve, as they face uncertain fates together. It’s just another grand leap of faith that hopefully ends in the fairytale Sheldon wants, needs and deserves.
Sam isn’t on for impulsivities either. Quite often, I’ve found the dude to be a conservative stick in the mud with a closed mind, but he surprises in this finale. During Naomi’s return at Addison and Jake’s wedding, she and Sam randomly enjoy a spontaneous, reckless night together. It’s unexpected and seems thrown in, honestly, but I totally understand Rhimes’ love for Sam and Naomi. And given the entire themes of the episode, it makes some sense. Naomi’s relationship with Fife has ended quite coldly in fact, and it has marked another failure for her. Why should she want to ever start again? Three months later, during a visit back to the practice, we learn that Naomi is indeed pregnant with Sam’s baby. Addison struggles to keep the information to herself, but her being the one to keep the wheels rolling here, ends up giving Sam the needed push to take the love of his life back. After hearing of Sam’s disapproval of having more children and his inability to truly commit, Naomi is even more apprehensive about restarting a relationship with her ex-husband, who she has a lot of history with, just as Addison has with her ex-husband, Derek Shepherd.
Needless to say, Sam once again screws Stephanie over after begging for her back a few episodes back. Harsh! I feel bad for Stephanie the most, because she’s the only one who doesn’t get any semblance of a happy ending. Sam declares his love, his true love to Naomi, awkwardly during a business meeting. I can’t say I totally care for this loving reunion, but it is a grand gesture for fans and shippers of what seemed to be a long lost ship, Sam and Naomi. In yet another big leap of faith, the two get married. Hopefully the second time will be a charm, just as Addison’s is. And as we close, Violet finishes her book. When asked what her new piece is about she insists on a simple and sweet answer that honors everything up until this point: “Joy”. Violet then reveals her ‘snappy’ title--a very appropriate title that her group of flawed yet happy friends and co-workers argue over: Private Practice. Totally cheesy, but somehow it works!
It’s a surprising fairytale ending for a series about cheaters who happen to be doctors in practice. They all move on. And while this is the end of the series, this is not the end of Private Practice. The legacy lives on and this series finale does well to give us the feeling that the wheels are still turning. No deterrents! There is happiness and all is well in the world. The beautifully flawed and now healed doctors of Seaside Wellness and St. Ambrose Hospital continue to see patients, gossip about each other, laugh, converse on controversial matters with their patients, endure life’s occasional hardships, and revel in their new beginnings--New beginnings that took real courage and trust to embark on. No one knows where Addison Montgomery and her tribe of doctors are headed in the lives next, but right now all is considerably well. No one is dying. No one is cheating. No one is hurting. This is just the beginning of the end. And for now, that’s all we need to know, as we wave goodbye to Grey’s Anatomy’s surprisingly striking sister series that has gained a following of its own and has done so through the great work of Shonda Rhimes and her entire team! It will be weird not to see Kate Walsh every week now, but it’s time for us to take a big leap of faith and say goodbye and move onto something new. The series finale of Private Practice, “In Which We Say Goodbye” gets 4 out of 5 stars!
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© Patrick Broadnax 2013