Worry not, Grey’s Anatomy is still stable and in good condition after losing a major artery: its titular character, Dr. Meredith Grey.
Season 19 of the ShondaLand medical drama on ABC returned Thursday night for a bittersweet yet gracious send-off to Grey, who has been played by Ellen Pompeo for nearly 18 years.
In typical Grey’s Anatomy fashion, Pompeo’s final episode is a cocktail of drama, despair, love, heartbreak, and (eventually) hope that ends in Grey and her kids flying to Boston, where they’ll now live while she researches Alzheimer’s disease.
Notably — and thankfully — Grey wasn’t killed off, which leaves open the possibility of a return, although death has never stopped beloved characters from coming back to the show in dream sequences.
Still, Grey’s Anatomy without Pompeo feels unimaginable, and several cast members (as well as fans) are now tasked with embracing a new era on one of ABC’s longest-running and most dependable scripted shows.
“I’m not really sure how the show is going to work out without her, because she’s been there since the very beginning,” Mariana Maciel, a fan from Mexico, told BuzzFeed News ahead of Thursday’s episode.
Fortunately, the show remains in good hands with Chandra Wilson (who plays Dr. Miranda Bailey) and James Pickens Jr. (Dr. Richard Webber) taking up the reins as the longest-running original cast members.
“Her presence isn’t necessarily gone. [Pompeo is] still very much a part of the fabric of daily Grey’s Anatomy life,” Wilson told BuzzFeed News. Still, she admitted, “It’s kind of weird. It’s like we’re saying goodbye, but are we?”
To be clear, no, they — and fans — are not. Pompeo will continue to perform the voiceovers that play at the beginning and end of almost every episode to offer that sense of normalcy, but she’ll no longer act in every episode.
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