[SPOILER ALERT: The below article contains spoilers from the current season of Grey’s Anatomy. Do not continue reading if you are not caught up with the show and don’t wish to know what happens.]
In Italy, her actions could be considered a crime of passion. On The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, she would be dubbed “morally corrupt.” But no matter how you see it, there’s no denying that when Dr. Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) cut her terminally ill fiancée’s LVAD wire to bump him to the top of the heart transplant recipient list, she would never be the same again.
In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find a fan of ABC’s primetime medical drama Grey’s Anatomy who doesn’t consider Denny’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) death in the show’s second season finale to be one of the series’ most iconic and heartbreaking moments.
And while the episode itself was more of a tearjerker than Nicholas Sparks could ever dream of concocting in the estrogen-soaked lab he shares with Jodi Picoult, the sting felt by its aftermath was just as harsh.
It was after Denny’s death that Izzie became a hollow shell of the person she used to be. Who could forget the season three premiere when she lay on her bathroom floor, unable to move or accept the help she was being offered? Even when she found love again in Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) seasons later, she was still (and quite literally in the case of season five) haunted by the memory of Denny.
Now in its eighth season, Grey’s Anatomy remains one of ABC’s highest rated shows. And while Izzie may be long gone (Heigl ended her contract to pursue a career as a film “star”), a situation similar to hers is currently shaking the grounds of Seattle Grace/Mercy West Hospital: the death of Henry Burton.
For those of you who hate good television and therefore don’t know, Henry Burton (the unfairly handsome Scott Foley) was married to Dr. Teddy Altman (Kim Raver). Like Denny, he too began his journey down the road of Grey’s romantic drama as a patient. But despite what many critics and fans are currently hypothesizing, Henry’s death will not turn Teddy into Izzie 2.0.
For starters, Teddy is a tough cookie. This is not to say that she isn’t incredibly impacted by Henry’s unfortunate fate or that Izzie is weak – but rather to point out that Teddy has a thick coat of armor from the tragedy she’s already had to endure. She is, after all, a woman who lost her best friend in 9/11 and later served as a doctor to our troops in Iraq. And whereas you got the impression that Izzie spent her whole life planning a fairytale wedding and ripping out pages of Cosmo, Teddy has never been the girl who wears her heart on her sleeve.
Therefore, the main dividing line at which the comparisons between Denny and Henry’s deaths are drawn is at the coping mechanisms of their significant others.
Following Denny’s death, Izzie immediately wanted to quit her internship program and leave the medical field. Her entire world stopped and she lost sight of her purpose in it. Without Denny, Izzie temporarily lost her entire sense of identity.
But in the episode that followed Teddy’s discovery of Henry’s death (which aired this past Thursday), she was back in the OR, dry-eyed and characteristically bossy as she continued to save the lives of others.
And where Izzie largely blamed herself for Denny’s death, Teddy comes to the realization that Henry’s death was inevitable. In the most recent episode, there’s a devastating reoccurring scene in which Teddy asks Cristina to tell her from beginning to end the measures she took to try and save Henry’s life while operating on him. Difficult as it is, Cristina does this over and over again as she knows that this is something she must do to help her friend begin to heal.
Yet despite Cristina’s inability to save Henry, Teddy points no fingers. At the end of the episode, there’s a particularly poignant scene in which Cristina is once again recounting the events of Henry’s surgery and Teddy chimes in to finish the story with her. The details have all sunk in. She understands how and why Henry died. She knows that nothing could have been done differently to save him. Once again, Teddy comes to terms with the fact that she has lost the most important person in her life.
From what we’ve seen so far, it’s safe to say that Teddy will prove the naysayers wrong and will externalize her pain in a very different way than Izzie did. She refuses to let her loss serve as a catalyst for her personal demise and there’s no doubt that she’ll force herself to soldier on. Now it’s just the question of how.
“I can’t even imagine how she’s going to trust to open up her heart again,” Raver told The Hollywood Reporter. “When she did lose her best friend in 9/11 and went to Iraq, her PTSD wasn’t really apparent; she was very positive. I think that is one of her amazing qualities: she finds the positive, life-affirming thing. But I think there is a depth of sadness underneath all of that. I can’t imagine how she will bounce back from the loss of Henry because I feel for her that was her first and major true love. She imagined the rest of her life with him so I don’t know how she will open up to that again. But that will be an interesting journey.”
Grey’s Anatomy airs on ABC on Thursdays at 9:00. Below, watch the trailer for this week’s new episode: