Everyone on Grey’s Anatomy (creator: Shonda Rhimes) has had a rough go of it, and it’s not hard to see why — the place is a disaster magnet. With plane crashes, active shooters, bombs in body cavities, ferry accidents, and more, Grey Sloan is a doomed place that subjects its people to more than someone ever should ever have to face. Jo Wilson is one those people who has had to deal with an unimaginable amount of trauma — and part of her traumatic past is about to catch up with her. What happened between Jo and her husband on Grey’s Anatomy? It's a long and difficult story to tell.
Jo came on the scene as a fresh-faced intern ready to show her mettle and kick Seattle ass in medicining. The first time we ever heard of her estranged husband Paul was in a conversation with DeLuca. Jo told him that she was actually married, and whenever she did something “wrong” in her husband’s eyes, he would hit her. Eventually she escaped Paul’s abusive behavior, and fled to Seattle. Paul said that he would find her and kill her if she tried to divorce him, so she never did divorce him. Instead, she just changed her name and left. Jo has been a steel trap for most of the show — she grew up in foster homes as a child, lived in her car, and then some. Despite all the hardship she's faced, she’s paved her own way for her success and met and exceeded every challenge.
That being said, she keeps a lot of her feelings close to the vest, and all of these confessions came out to DeLuca only because Alex had proposed to her. She can’t marry Alex because she is already married. She also told Deluca that “Jo Wilson” isn’t her real name. (It's Brooke.)
Jo was pretty right not to tell Alex all of this at first, mostly because Alex is a pretty volatile person. She was afraid that he would go and kill Paul, and past Alex might have. Adult Alex has gotten better in controlling his impulses. The problem that Jo is having with running from her past, though, is that it’s holding her back from her future. Jo assisted Meredith on the case that earned Meredith a Harper Avery Award, but Jo was hesitant to put her name and picture — her real name — on it because it meant that Paul would find her. Eventually, Jo decided that she couldn’t live like this anymore, and she started divorce proceedings against Paul. “I don’t want to hide anymore,” Jo said to Alex. Then, in the final moments of the winter finale of Season 14, Jo walked out of the elevator to find Paul in Grey Sloan. Gulp. (I screamed. I’ll admit it).
Now, the winter premiere is here, and we’re about to pick up where we left off, with Paul standing in the hospital and Jo looking like she’s seen a ghost. This is a big episode, and it will be a big moment for Jo. Camilla Luddington, who plays Jo, told Entertainment Weekly, “[The show] picks up exactly with that same beat walking out of the elevator, and you see her paralyzed. Jo is honestly trying to get ahead of the situation and do any damage control that she knows he will try and do. That’s, in general, how you see Jo handle the rest of the episode.”
Given the current political and social climate of women’s rights, Time’s Up, and more, Luddington said to EW that this episode is especially poignant:
"Really this story is about a woman that is no longer feeling silenced and finding the strength to use her voice, to be heard, to be believed, to feel empowered. I think that’s the heart of this story at the end of the day, and that’s exactly what’s going on right now. It just feels crazy that it’s airing during this particular moment, but now I feel like it was meant to be, too.
If any show can handle the serious issue of domestic violence with grace and gravity, it’s Grey’s Anatomy. “We wanted to tell this story right, and also educate people that have misconceptions about domestic abuse, who it happens to, and what it looks like,” said Luddington to EW. "Conversations have been going on for a very, very long time in order to tell this story the right way.”
Tune in Thursday, Jan. 18 at 8 p.m. ET to see how Grey's Anatomy — and Jo — handles this monumental storyline.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.