Why you should care
We’re saying goodbye to one of TV’s strongest female protagonists. Have a heart, will ya?
Cristina Yang is one of TV’s most important characters of all time. There, I said it.
No, but seriously, Sandra Oh and Shonda Rhimes should be given all the awards for what they did with Grey’s Anatomy’s Cristina Yang, whose last episode airs tonight. She was a kickass, career-driven woman and a loyal-as-hell friend who demands respect while eliciting sympathy. Watching her relationships with men and her unapologetic struggle with not wanting to be a mother was inspiring, and her deep friendship with Meredith Grey makes Carrie Bradshaw and her girls look like amateur hour.
Yes, she’s a character on a nighttime soap, but she’s also a rare, complex female character who never tried to charm us into liking her, never lapsed into cartoonish villainy, yet always remained engaging and central to the story.
When Meredith embraces Cristina, it leaves an image Grey’s fans will forever carry in their memory.
Trying to choose one scene to encompass the brilliance that is Sandra Oh’s acting can be paralyzing: The search for just one can make any Grey’s Anatomy aficionado plummet down a rabbit hole. Is her best scene when she joined grieving, prom-dress wearing Dr. Izzie Stevens on the bathroom floor to explain sitting shiva? Or when she talked to fellow surgeon George about losing his father and joining the dead dad club? Or when she sat at the bar avoiding what she thought was a fact — that Meredith was going to die? Or any scene with her husband/ex/lover Owen? (Let me tell you what work was NOT her best. One word: icicle.)
For those of you needing a Sandra Oh fix, her next role is in the upcoming Melissa McCarthy movie Tammy. A crime comedy? Flex those chops, girl.
You can see my conundrum. (Even writing about this is making me upset. Don’t judge. I spent a decade of my life with these characters. I could have a Grey’s Ph.D.)
Ultimately, I chose the iconic wedding dress scene because of the vast mix of emotions expressed by Sandra/Cristina, and the way it captures the crucial significance of Mer and Cristina’s friendship. They are each other’s “person,” as we are told repeatedly throughout the series. Those of you who aren’t Grey’s fans, or who have forgotten because you abandoned ship (for shame), should know that this is the moment Cristina comes home after being stood up at the altar by Preston Burke.
Burke and his mother had tried to mold Cristina into an eyebrowless, choker-wearing wifey, shaping her both physically and emotionally into something that she wasn’t, and trying to change the Yang we know and love. But Burke was more than just her groom; he was her mentor. And for the intellectually driven Cristina, that is a greater loss than being abandoned by her life partner.
Her repeated “dammit, dammit” and sobs are more than just cries of sorrow for her loss of partner, mentor and herself; they are cries of tortured relief in being “set free” from a life she did not want. Sandra Oh pulls it off brilliantly, and when Ellen Pompeo’s supporting Meredith embraces Cristina, it leaves an image Grey’s fans will forever carry in their memory.
I dare you not to cry.
Actually, don’t cry. Yang would call us wusses for crying. In her honor, Cristina Yang would want us to have a dance party.