Grey’s Anatomy: The Great Denny/Henry Debate

As soon as Scott Foley’s role on the show became clear – a probably-terminal patient who marries one of the doctors – the Internet went wild with speculation. Would this be “another Denny situation,” or would Henry settle into the show? When Foley got a recurring role on True Blood, everyone’s worst fears were practically confirmed. And, true to suspicion, Henry didn’t make it through his last big surgery (though watching the evolution of that secret was possibly my favorite moment this season).

I’m not going to say I wasn’t disappointed by Henry’s death. I was. I think everyone was – how can you not love Scott Foley? He brought out a different, softer side of Teddy, and I enjoyed her character growth through that.

However, the central argument here is Denny versus Henry. I started to write about how the similarities stop after the basic premise of male patient with a heart problem falls in love with his doctor, but as I rewatched “Losing My Religion” and “Suddenly,” I realized that it isn’t the patient that’s different, but rather the surrounding situation and reaction to the tragedies.

Denny was unfortunately a “regular” at Seattle Grace who made promises to Izzie that he probably knew in all likelihood that he couldn’t keep because of his health. He knew he was nearly at the end of his rope, regardless of what happened with the new heart, and he knew she had fallen in love with him for a variety of reasons. I’m not saying he didn’t love her, but I am saying that I don’t think he loved her as much as she thought she loved him. Before he died, Denny said to her that Izzie had never seen him outside the walls of the hospital. That’s always rung true for me – I’m just not sure it would have worked between them, had he lived. Call it my love for Izzie and Alex, call it what you will. I just don’t believe in it (though that doesn’t mean I don’t cry every time I watch the end of season two).

However, when you look at Henry, you see another patient with heart problems whose life has been completely ruined by it. He knows he’ll die because he can’t pay for treatment, not because it was always a certainty, like it was with Denny. Teddy offered Henry her insurance out of convenience rather than initial feelings, and fell in love with him over time. Unlike Izzie, Teddy knew where she was in life — yes, she was a little lost, but she wasn’t on the edge like Izzie was. She was an established surgeon with an already mostly fulfilled life, and she found herself falling in love the way it should be—unexpectedly, beautifully, happily. The Teddy and Henry plot arc is probably one of my favorites of the past couple of seasons just because it’s so pure, and compared to all of the underhanded dealing at SGMW lately, this plot arc soared, which brought us down so much harder.

In season eight, the hospital is in a completely different place than it was in season two. When the show started, the hospital felt more frenetic, more uncertain, because we followed the interns, who had a hard time figuring out what they were meant to be doing. In season eight, though, the ones who remain are now residents and are settled into their positions as they look for their specialties. We don’t feel as rushed now, as viewers. The doctors know what they’re doing, and sometimes the medicine takes a backseat to personal issues, as we’ve seen in the past season or two. This evolution is clearer in fewer places more than in the character of Cristina, who was a front-row witness to both situations; in both scenarios, Cristina was conflicted in her emotions, but in the latter she was able to handle the situation as an adult would, no matter how hard it was for her to do so. Henry’s death also felt a lot more isolated, just as Teddy is. When Denny died, Izzie had the support of her four fellow interns. It’s very telling that Teddy began to mourn Henry alone in the darkened room, which I presume is foreshadowing for the hole she’s about to go down.

This also calls to issue the debate between Izzie and Teddy. I think this has a big hand in differentiating the two situations. Where Izzie was inexperienced, desperate, and, I believe still fighting her own feelings for Alex, Teddy is much more mature and might have made a different decision. It’s not to say that had Teddy not been in surgery she might not have done something equally desperate to save his life. However, I don’t think she would have done something like cut an LVAD and lie about it. I think Teddy would have gone into surgery and done what she did best. In the end, there’s no way to tell if that would have been enough to save him, but it’s still an important distinction to make when separating the two cases. And there’s no way to tell what Teddy will do next, but somehow I don’t think she’s going to quit SGMW. She’s been through a war (which may be telling in how she deals with this tragedy) and she’s already been through something similar once with Owen – I suspect she’s made of stronger stuff than Izzie was during the Denny tragedy.

So, yes, two patients we cared greatly about died after falling in love with their doctors. And, you know, the stories were different, but they both wound up dying of natural causes. There wasn’t anything anyone could have done. But that’s life, you know? Maybe the SGMW doctors get a little more than their fair share of heartbreak, but maybe that’s expected when you’re in the figurative line of fire more frequently, as a surgeon.

I will say that I cried during both episodes due to my attachment to both Denny and Henry. Even if the two situations are eerily similar, I don’t mind at all because of how they show how much the characters have grown since Denny’s death. I definitely recommend watching the two episodes back to back (but only if you feel like having your heart ripped out and stomped on twice in a row). Shonda and co. are nothing if not able to break our hearts suddenly and then drag it out. I know I’m going to miss Henry, though I look forward to Kim Raver’s performance in her mourning of her short-lived marriage. We can only hope that Henry doesn’t make any supernatural appearances, though.

Grey’s Anatomy airs on ABC at 9/8C on Thursdays. The next episode is entitled “This Magic Moment” (A risky surgery which involves conjoined twins has the doctors split into two teams. Meredith acts as a buffer between Bailey and Ben, Alex is taught a lesson in the OR by Webber. Teddy questions Cristina about Henry’s surgery.). Source: Grey’s Anatomy Wikipedia.

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About Bailey

I'm a writer and a feminist. I read a lot of books and I watch a lot of television.

2 Responses to “Grey’s Anatomy: The Great Denny/Henry Debate”

  1. Katy – definitely! I was unsure about her at first (though I don’t know why since she came basically straight from 24), but I love what she’s brought to the show. I hope this doesn’t mean she’s on her way out, now that Henry died and she’s pretty much done with Cristina. More Kim Raver!

  2. Kim’s performance here is one of the best I’ve seen on the show. Brava!

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