Grey’s Anatomy is a show that really likes to take it there, again and again. No storyline is too absurd. A cliffhanger about performing delicate surgery on a deer? Sure. Fave character happens to get a rare form of cancer? Why not. Everyone boning everyone boning everyone else boning your best friend in a closet or an elevator or an attic? Anything goes! It’s Grey’s!
[Here be spoilers!]
But last night, something happened that actually managed to shock fans into stunned silence, then rage, then denial, acceptance, sorrow, all that. We watched the entirety of our Twitter timelines and Facebook feeds transition through textbook Elizabeth Kübler-Ross emotions. That is because, seemingly out of nowhere, Grey’s Anatomy killed off one of the two most important characters of its 11-season run. Bye, bye, Dr. Derek Shepherd (no relation). The god Shonda giveth, and the god Shonda taketh away.
But why! Fans asked. Why now! Patrick Dempsey, who will never be known by anything but McDreamy so long as his real-life shall live, had just signed a two-year contract with the show, and unlike other characters who’ve faded away over the years—RIP Private Practice—Derek’s place in the Grey’s pantheon was so mighty, so thick with gravitas, it seemed an impossibility.
And yet. His death from a car wreck and subsequent shoddy doctoring (ironic!) was something of an inevitability as far as advancing the storyline, to hear both Rhimes and Dempsey tell it. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Dempsey called it “a natural progression” and “obviously the right time”:
I think it will be very shocking, the way it happens. It’s really going to be powerful. But life is like that. I think any time an original cast member has left, there’s always a void that will never be filled. Shepherd is a beloved character. People don’t want to lose him. He’s been in their lives for over 10 years. But it goes on, and it will evolve.
This goes along with my theory that Shonda Rhimes is trying to get all of her viewers to be better people by taking us through the gamut of all profound emotions and making us deal alongside her characters. “Now, Meredith and the entire Grey’s Anatomy family are about to enter uncharted territory as we head into this new chapter of her life,” Rhimes said in a statement. “The possibilities for what may come are endless. As Ellis Grey would say ... the carousel never stops turning.”
The carousel... it never does.
Please indulge in the most Grey’s video of all time, an ABC retrospective of McDreamy’s 10 years on the show, set to a weepy, melodramatic Fray song titled “How to Save a Life,” with a cottony soft focus fade-out at the end. It celebrates Meredith and Derek’s strength through the drama (remember when she met Addison? Ouch) and proves to us that while one partner may die, the love they shared, simply, never does.
Derek, you will live on in our hearts. Forever.
Image via screenshot
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