Emmy spotlight: Ellen Pompeo directs ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ as Meredith & Maggie deal with mommy issues

“Goodbye Mom,” Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) says in voice-over at the end of Thursday’s emotional episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” Pompeo stepped behind the camera for the first time to direct “Be Still, My Soul,” which turned out not just to be a great Meredith episode as she comes to accept her mom’s death, but also a stand-out hour for Maggie (Kelly McCreary) and her mother Diane (LaTanya Richardson Jackson). Thanks to Pompeo’s directing and a strong script by Meg Marinis, several cast members gave the best performances of Season 13, including McCreary, James Pickens Jr., Chandra Wilson and guest star Jackson.

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In true “Grey’s Anatomy” fashion the central story of Maggie dealing with her mother Diane’s breast cancer soon affects all of the other doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, particularly Meredith who finally accepts the death of Ellis (Kate Burton). The similarities between Ellis and Diane were quite prominent throughout the episode. Much like how Ellis went on an Alzheimer’s trial before her death, Maggie urges her mother to go on a trial for her breast cancer. It soon makes Diane sick and weak, leading to an emotional fallout between half-sisters Maggie and Meredith.

When her breast cancer doesn’t get better, Diane and Maggie have a quiet moment in a hospital room as Maggie applies polish to her mother’s fingernails. “Find a decent man who loves you just a little more than you love him,” Diane tells her daughter. “He needs to think he is lucky to have you and not the other way around. Never make yourself small for anyone. Be your own person. And try wearing a little lipstick.” As Maggie goes to open the window to let in some fresh air, Diane passes away. Maggie breaks down, weeping as she finishes applying the fingernail polish.

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Will the show’s emotional mother-daughter episode help any of its performers be recognized at the upcoming Emmy Awards? McCreary certainly gives an empathetic, impactful performance as a doctor fighting for the life of a patient that just happens to be her mother. Our sister site TV Line agrees, as Charlie Mason notes, “Kelly McCreary gave a crushing performance as Dr. Pierce [in] the heartbreaking hour.” And it’s also possible that Jackson could earn a guest actress nomination for her emotional deathbed scene, as Emmy voters love when characters kick the bucket.

“Grey’s Anatomy” has had an up-and-down history at the Emmys. Over the past dozen years it’s been up for 39 nominations but has only won five trophies: Best Drama Casting (2006), Katherine Heigl as Best Drama Supporting Actress (2007), Best Non-Prosthetic Makeup (2010), Best Prosthetic Makeup (2010) and Loretta Devine as Best Drama Guest Actress (2011). Since it’s been five years since the show won a trophy, perhaps Emmy voters have simply moved on from the long-running medical series. If that’s true, we hope they came back Thursday night to watch “Be Still, My Soul.”

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