I have mentioned, I believe, my fondness for April Kepner on Grey’s Anatomy? And then along came episode 8.21, in which she is a hysterical sobbing mess (a little too hysterical for someone with her capabilities), gets into a drunken brawl (okay, that part is sort of awesome), sleeps with Jackson (a sort of oh-no-you-guys-are-friends-yet-really-there-are-no-friendships-in-Grey’s-without-sexual-tension-so-go-for-it mishmash), and then freaks out (bad). Because Jesus will be mad at her that she’s had sex.
As this piece discusses, it is a prime example of Retconning, in which a series rewrites its own history, and not terribly effectively. There’s a difference between a shock reveal and something that makes you go “uh… what? That doesn’t even make sense.”
So for everything up to that moment, there was never any mention of April having particular religious beliefs. Not even when she had to face down a psychotic gun-man. The ‘adult virgin’ status was about wanting to wait for it to be ‘special’, then waiting too long and finding it awkward and a big deal. Then suddenly: angst! But not angst that would have made sense and fitted with the consequences of drunkenly sleeping with your best friend the night before the biggest exams of your life and it being your first time and oh-what-does-it-all-mean and where-do-we-go-from-here. Oh no. Jesus-angst. Sudden Jesus-angst.
What the hell?
Even Christian fans are going “Jesus wouldn’t hate her!”, incidentally. Which is sort of missing the point – that what we learn about April here isn’t just an articulation of misguided beliefs (although…), but something that flat-out doesn’t fit with everything we’ve learned about her before.
And on a storytelling level, honestly, it’s far less interesting. Super-Christian girl ‘saves herself’? Yawn. Woman with sexual desires but uncertain about what to do or how to get what she wants because society deems there’s an acceptable window for ‘first times’ and struggling with all that? And searching for meaningful connections in the oversexed hospital which realistically is going to be where she meets most potential love interests? That’s interesting.
Sometimes retcons can be fun, if they’re done knowingly. (The Simpsons episode ‘That 90s Show’ is one of my favourite episodes of TV ever.) But this one feels… a little ick. A little not-really-thought-out. A little let’s-amp-up-the-drama-by-surprising-everyone-without-considering-whether-the-surprise-makes-sense.
Plot twists and shock reveals are supposed to surprise and, well, shock. But when they come out of nowhere, it’s not clever plotting. It’s cheating, and it’s unsatisfying for readers, or viewers, or whoever.
Sigh. Back to my Cristina-worship and Arizona-adoration I go…