Three Weddings and No Funeral: Saying Goodbye to Arizona on “Grey’s Anatomy”

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Saying Goodbye to Arizona Robbins was Painful, but left a Bittersweet Hope for Calzona Fans

When the news broke that Arizona Robbins would be making her exit from Grey’s Anatomy, the lesbian community went into full-blown panic mode questioning why and speculating how the character would be written out of the series she’s been part of for nearly a decade. Jessica Capshaw’s spirited, soulful, and slightly goofy portrayal of the pediatric powerhouse has been some of the strongest representation we’ve had on television over the last several years.

Arizona first hit the scene at Grey-Sloan Memorial back when it was Seattle Grace midway through season five in the episode “Which You Were Here”. She was introduced as the new chief of pediatric surgery and potential love interest of fan favorite Callie Torres. The iconic “Calzona” was born, and the rest is, well you know, is history.

Arizona Robbins Stepped Onto the Screen as a Confident Lesbian, and That’s One Reason We Loved Her So Much

As one of the few recurring characters to start in such a widely watched series, what is even more special about Arizona is her established sexuality. With Callie, we saw a beautifully written, boldly acted coming out story arc. But Arizona stepped onto our screens as a confident lesbian already. She was so bubbly, so buoyant, and so sure of herself and her sexuality. She be-bopped around the hospital on wheels and hot pink to make her child patients feel happy in a hospital. Arizona Robbins is a treasure, and it’s utterly heartbreaking for fans to have to give her up.

Saying Goodbye Without Burying Any Gays

The moment we were all dreading occurred in last week’s season 14 finale, when Arizona made her final farewell. There was no big, emotional goodbye, but rather a seamless, sweet exit for the character that’s been set up over the last several episodes. We all probably should have trusted Shonda Rhimes a bit more when it came to how she would handle the character’s exit. Careful not to fall victim to the “bury your gays” trope or to shoehorn in a divisive conflict like the one that split up Alex and Maggie in SupergirlGrey’s instead opted for sending Arizona off with the promise of a happy future and the potential for reconciliation.

Callie and Arizona’s daughter Sofia has been in Seattle with Arizona for the better part of the year after making the request to come home and be with her other mom. When Callie first left for New York City, Arizona had offered up alternating years in custody, so this wasn’t necessarily a surprise. However, Sofia has been progressively more unhappy with her life in Seattle after having established a home, a school, and friendships in NYC.

Fans who were wondering what the trigger would be for Arizona’s exit were given their answer a couple weeks ago when she made the decision to not only send Sofia back to be with her other mom, but decide to head to NYC herself so that Sofia could have both of her parents in the same place. This decision was made after a particularly poignant speech Arizona made to one of her patients about her love for roller skating and the decision Callie made to amputate her legs after the plane crash.

Arizona’s Final Episode Didn’t End in a Tragic Lesbian Farewell, and for That We Are Grateful

Very little pomp and circumstance surrounded the sendoff of Arizona after this reveal. She turned in her notice, and for the most part, everyone was supportive. In typical Arizona fashion, she refused to have any in-depth, emotional conversations about her upcoming move, and that choked up refusal was fitting for her character. What we got in place of sadness, tears, and tributes was something even better. We got happiness, and we got hope.

Arizona’s final episode featured her last day and one big wedding disaster that resulted in three beautiful weddings and no tragic lesbian farewell. The theme of the last few episodes of season 14 have explored reconciliation, specifically between couples who had relationships that were previously fractured. Alex got the forgiveness of the nurse he had given syphilis to (remember Olivia?!), Arizona reunited with her old mentor, Owen and Amelia seem to be rekindling the flame, Teddy is back and pregnant, and April and Matthew are not only back together, they made a last minute decision to tie the knot in lieu of Alex and Jo’s ceremony.

Callie and Arizona are the Bette and Tina of this generation, the ultimate on again off again couple we hate to love and love to hate.

All of these reunions seem to be foreshadowing for the one that’s about to take place off-screen. In this last episode, Arizona can’t seem to wipe the smile off her face every time she gets a text from Callie, who is eagerly awaiting the arrival of her daughter and ex-wife in NYC. Both April and Dr. Webber chime in on Arizona’s external monologue on whether or not it’s okay for her to be getting the butterflies again from someone who’s hurt her so badly in the past, providing encouragement and prompting her for forgiveness.

Celebrating the Off-Screen Future of Calzona

We finally get to see one of said texts from Callie at the close of the finale, which reads “I can’t wait to see you!”. Calzona fans, rejoice! We might not get the on screen reunion we’ve been praying for over the last couple years, but who could ask for a better set-up for the future of these two? Callie and Arizona are the Bette and Tina of this generation, the ultimate on again off again couple who hate to love and love to hate. We’re rooting for them even when they’re breaking our hearts.

Circumstances have continuously not been on their side, but if the stars can align in New York City, there’s no reason Callie, Arizona, and Sofia can’t build a new life together as a family. I only wish we could be there to see it.

Short of an actual Sara Ramirez appearance, this send-off is really best case scenario. Arizona looks truly happy at the idea of her future, and it’s the first time we’ve seen hope in her eyes since before she and Callie went through their brutal divorce. Circumstances have continuously not been on their side, but if the stars can align in New York City, there’s no reason Callie, Arizona, and Sofia can’t build a new life together as a family. I only wish we could be there to see it. But I’m grateful for the glimpse we did get, and for the happy ending Calzona fans are left to envision for our favorite couple.

So What’s Next in Lesbian Representation on Grey’s?

For all of those worried about the future of lesbian and bi representation on Grey’s Anatomy now that both Arizona and Callie are gone for good, fear not. Carina DeLuca, the bisexual babe who studies sex at Grey-Sloan Memorial looks to be a permanent fixture on the series since Arizona convinced her to stay in Seattle instead of going back to Italy. She’s heartbroken that Arizona is leaving, but hopefully, we’ll get to see her move on with a more fleshed out storyline now that Dr. Robbins is gone. Teryn Helm (aka Hellmouth), the new intern who is enthusiastically and unapologetically in love with Meredith Grey, will hopefully be promoted to series regular since her debut this season. She’s spunky and outspoken and would be a perfect person to step into Arizona’s perky lesbian shoes.

The departure of Arizona Robbins marks the end of an era on Grey’s Anatomy, but hopefully not the end of the show’s thoughtful and thorough treatment of lesbian and bisexual women. 

The departure of Arizona Robbins marks the end of an era on Grey’s Anatomy, but hopefully not the end of the show’s thoughtful and thorough treatment of lesbian and bisexual women.  Thank you Arizona, for giving us such powerful representation, and thank you Shonda Rhimes for leaving Calzona fans with joy and hope for these characters. Here’s to the next billion season at Grey-Sloan Memorial!

 

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