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Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Shonda Rhimes defended her creative decision to amputate the leg of a fan favorite character, and vowing that the story line would indeed have a happy ending.
During the ABC medical drama’s eighth-season finale, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), Derek (Patrick Dempsey), Cristina (Sandra Oh), Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) and Mark (Eric Dane) were left stranded after their plane crashed heading from Seattle to Boise, with Lexie (Chyler Leigh) failing to make it out alive.
Season nine picked up to flash-forward after the crash, revealing not only that Mark would succumb to the internal injuries sustained in the crash but also that Arizona — who was left with a severe injury to her leg (bone was exposed) — would eventually lose the limb after an infection threatened her life.
“It felt real to me that Arizona would lose her leg,” Rhimes wrote late Thursday on her Shondaland blog. “That someone we love so much would go from being ambulatory to WORKING on being ambulatory, that we would begin to understand what it is like to be differently-abled from watching a person we love BECOME differently-abled.”
During Thursday’s episode, which flashed back to reveal how the survivors were rescued and fill in the blanks between the crash and the events in the premiere, Arizona asked that her wife Callie (Sara Ramirez) promise that she wouldn’t allow her leg to be amputated. However, as Callie is performing surgery on Derek’s injured hand, Arizona crashes and Alex — whom Arizona replaced on the doomed flight — is forced to cut off Arizona’s leg in order to save her life, thus putting Callie on the hot seat with her partner.
“It must be terribly difficult to be Callie right now. To have your partner hate you. To have your sex life taken away. To have your BEST FRIEND taken away,” Rhimes wrote. “Arizona has been taken from her and Callie is doing her best to survive that.”
Rhimes also touted Capshaw’s performance and promised that Callie and Arizona would find their way back to each other.
“Callie and Arizona are going to have a fun romance-y, sexy love life again,” she vowed. “And you are going to see it this season. That’s important to me. I stated in the Writers Room that Arizona could not lose a leg unless we were going to see how a person missing a leg could be sexy and fun and romance-y. So get ready for it — Arizona is gonna get her mojo back in a BIG WAY. And (spoiler alert!) it’s gonna happen before Valentine’s Day.”
The prolific showrunner behind Grey’s, Private Practice and Scandal, who received death threats via Twitter after Dane’s Mark Sloan died in the season nine premiere, also used the posting to blast those who suggested Arizona’s character was targeted for the story line because of her sexual orientation.
“We don’t punish people for their sexual preferences. That is so 1985. We allow people, no matter what their sexual preference, to have complex storylines,” Rhimes wrote. “I felt it important to develop a storyline that detailed what happens when an able-bodied person loses a limb and then how that person resumes their life. It’s upsetting to me that ‘disabled’ is a word that never enters into a conversation about how we live our lives.”
“So, y’know, if you think she lost a leg because she is a lesbian, I say, ‘GET A LIFE.’ Or maybe ‘LOSE A LEG.’ And then see how you feel about a sexy adorable person who happens to have a residual stump,” she noted. “Think about it. And then GET WITH THE PROGRAM. Please. Thank you.”
Capshaw, meanwhile, recently told The Hollywood Reporter that the storyline wasn’t something she ever expected to see on Grey’s.
“It’s a rare story in the sense that we think that while there are many people who have had to amputate or will have to amputate, it’s not something people are aware of in their daily life,” she said. “It’s still something where it’s rare to see someone who is an amputee and a lot of times I think you might see someone who is but might not know about the disability. I don’t think I thought of it, it wasn’t even in my ether that it could happen to one of the characters on the show.”
What do you think of Arizona’s story line? Are you relieved that there’s good news coming for “Calzona”? Hit the comments with your thoughts. Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.
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