Right now, it is really hard to be a Cristina (Sandra Oh)/Owen (Kevin McKidd) fan on Grey's Anatomy. That much is obvious — the couple's marriage is slowly disintegrating in front of our eyes; it's tailor made to break our hearts.
But what's notable about this storyline, what makes it more than just another classic Grey’s relationship mess, is that Shonda Rhimes and co. have set up a true Catch-22 for Owen/Cristina shippers. It is basically impossible to be a fan of the characters as individuals and want them to stay together and it’s impossible to be a fan of the couple without wanting them to make it work anyway.
We don't know about you guys, but we're pretty sure that no matter what happens, we're going to end up brokenhearted. Here's why.
Why Owen and Cristina can't be together
We've loved Cristina for years. We've loved all of her, and that absolutely includes that part of her that is intense, career driven, and would never, ever want a child. Frankly, her character is deeply refreshing — it is sadly rare to find totally career-driven female characters on TV who are allowed to actually be happy and fulfilled (and until her marriage started falling apart, we would argue that Cristina was finally happy and fulfilled in recent seasons, PTSD issues aside).
While Cristina is a Grey's original, we've come to love Owen, too. He's screwed up, sure, but it's hard to watch a veteran fight so hard to regain his stability and not come to care about him and his happiness. He deserves to have what he wants in his life, and it's been made inescapably clear this season that that includes children.
So there you have it: He wants kids, she doesn't. The only way for this relationship to work is if one of these characters compromises in a big way. At this point, it would be almost impossible to believe that Owen could ever be truly happy if he made that sacrifice. So that leaves Cristina deciding to become a mother after all.
Now, it's not entirely out of the question that she could make that choice, and that she could come to embrace it. Plenty of people in real life, not to mention characters on TV, enter parenthood reluctantly, only to rise to the occasion beautifully. Heck, even sticking with Grey's, Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) did it just last season.
However, looking at this as fans of the character as she is, we don't want that, not really. We love that Cristina knows her own mind, and we appreciate that she, like so many of Shonda's characters, represents a point-of-view that is sorely lacking on network TV. We don't want that taken away in service of an easy happy ending.
Why we want them together anyway
Here's the problem: Shonda and co. spent three seasons making us fall in love with this couple. And if there's one thing Shonda Rhimes is good at, it's convincing us that two people belong together. Owen and Cristina have been through so much. They have stuck by each other through hell, they have fought bigger issues than almost any other couple on the show.
And beyond that, they work. At some fundamental level — one not involving kids, clearly — they fit. Shonda and co. went and reminded us exactly why they work in the alternate reality episode (Season 8, Episode 13: "If/Then"); in a universe where every major Grey's couple ended up back together, Owen and Cristina found each other.
In the end, this is TV land, and in TV land, things that came before matter in a way that isn't quite the same as in the real world. Because damn it, we're shippers.
In Season 8, Episode 15: "Have You Seen Me Lately?" Cristina made this declaration to Owen: "We used to be able to look at each other, and I'd feel like we'd be okay. There is a reason we are together, Owen. There is a reason we're married." As fans of the couple, we nodded along.
We spent years rooting for them. We've obsessed over their ups and downs, we've followed them through hell and back. We remember when they looked at each other like that. Heck, we can go back and rewatch those episodes. It’s hard to move on when better times are just a DVD away.
Selfishly, we want that happy ending.
And so, one way or the other, we're not going to get what we want. We'll lose the Cristina we love (or, maybe, we'll have to watch Owen give up something that means so much to him), or we'll have to watch one of our favorite Grey's Anatomy ships say goodbye forever.
We'd say we hate Shonda for doing this to us, but we have to hand it to her: She's effectively captured the pain and complexity of a marriage falling apart. So we suppose that's a good thing — though we do think she owes us about $1,000 worth of tissues.
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
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