What is Grey’s Anatomy without its Grey?


Long has many a Grey’s fan wondered how long will the show go on, already beating medical drama forebear ER to become the longest-running primetime medical drama in US history.

Across 19 seasons, we have followed the highs and lows of the doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital but now only three original characters remain and the primary focus remains our eponymous protagonist, Dr Meredith Grey, played by Ellen Pompeo.

Of course, Grey’s has always been an ensemble full of beloved figures but Meredith is the voice of the show, the constant presence, the anchor to the stories.

Despite not always being the most likeable, Meredith’s balance between stern and warm has always made her a riveting protagonist. Despite her brilliance in the medical field, Meredith has struggled across her life.

Having had to face a dark family backstory, a troubled on-off romance with Dr Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), widowhood, single motherhood and the endless departures of friends and loved ones, it has been Meredith’s ability to carry on and show such powerful endurance that has earned her and the show the love of millions.

In fact, one of the most riveting seasons of the show did not come until its 12th run, following the departure of Dempsey and Sandra Oh as Meredith’s “person” Dr Christina Yang, as we watched Meredith carve out a new identity for herself as a widow and without her best friend - who was this complicated professional woman now without these loved ones to help sure up her identity?

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As such, as Meredith has evolved over the years, her journey has remained the vital beating heart of Grey’s, despite the numerous riveting romances and startling medical crises that have arisen.

As such, for the series to continue without said beating heart just feels like one departure too many.

We’ve lost some iconic characters over the years played by some beloved stars, but none would be so keenly felt as losing the show’s leading lady. There are multiple entertaining and impressive characters still in the series - including fellow original characters Dr Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Dr Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr) - but taking the show so far away from its key protagonist just feels like a step too far.

Ellen Pompeo as Dr Meredith Grey in Grey's Anatomy season 19.
Ellen Pompeo as Dr Meredith Grey in Grey's Anatomy season 19. ABC

Pompeo has had time out from the part somewhat before, having a reduced role when she needed to take maternity leave in the show's fifth season and then had a reduced presence in the COVID-19-focused 17th season, but never to the extent being touted now.

What seemed like a temporary departure before a full-time return for Pompeo now seems like a full-time departure with temporary “guest” visits down the line.

Taking to Instagram following the airing of the winter finale in the US, Pompeo penned: "I am eternally grateful and humbled by the love and support you have all shown me, Meredith GREY and the show for 19 seasons!

"Through it all….none of it …would have been possible without the best fans in the world. You all are RIDERS and you all have made the ride so fun and ICONIC!!"

Ellen Pompeo as Dr Meredith Grey in Grey's Anatomy season 19.
Ellen Pompeo as Dr Meredith Grey in Grey's Anatomy season 19. ABC

Pompeo carried on: "I love you madly and appreciate you right back. This isn’t your first time on the rollercoaster… you know the show must go on and I’ll definitely be back to visit. With a lot of love and immense gratitude XoE [prayer-hands emoji, red heart emoji]".

Sounds like a goodbye to me!

Perhaps there is room for other spin-offs to continue the story of these characters (the show previously had the Addison Montgomery-focused Private Practice and still has firefighter drama Station 19), but shows that have tried to continue without their central protagonist as the key focus rarely work out too great - take fellow medical series Scrubs as an example.

Of course, the series remains an audience winner for network ABC, but for many fans, the end goal of Grey's Anatomy always appeared to be an emotional resolution to Meredith's story, aside from everything else, and if we are getting it now then why continue beyond it?

If Meredith is really stepping away from Grey’s Anatomy for good, then it would be the polite thing to call a time of death on the show.

Grey's Anatomy seasons 1 to 19 are available to stream on Disney Plus now – sign up to Disney+ for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year now.

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