If Grey’s Anatomy knows how to do one thing (apart from stay on the air for eleven seasons despite most people being ignorant to its longevity) it’s a tragic death.
In case you didn’t catch last night’s high-stakes episode or were exposed to whisperings of spoilers on social media, Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd, the titular Meredith Grey’s One True Love and Grey Sloane Memorial Hospital’s resident neurosurgeon, departed the earthly realm with a combination of car wreck injuries and shoddy doctoring.
For those who have followed the show for the past decade or just tuned in to see what all the fuss was about, allow me to regale you with Grey’s Anatomy’s top ten death scenes.
When people think of Grey’s Anatomy, they think of its season one-through-three heyday. Smack bang in the middle of that was dreamy heart transplant patient Denny Duquette (played by the equally-as-dreamy Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Izzie going AWOL by cutting Denny’s LVAD wire to move him further up the transplant list. That was all for nothing, though, as Denny later suffered a fatal stroke post-transplant and died. But not before proposing to Izzie.
Season five was when Grey’s started to kill its main cast off left, right and centre. It began with the death of original intern George O’Malley, who got hit by a bus by jumping in front of it to save an unknown woman on his way to join the army. Quelle tragédie. To add to the drama, George was brought into the hospital he used to work at as a John Doe patient, his extensive injuries from the accident rendering him unrecognisable. It was Meredith who made the ID, though, when George traced his nickname, 007—license to kill, after he almost did just that to his first patient—into her hand.
Reed Adamson & Charles Percy.
Grey’s didn’t wait long to thrust their next tragedy on its audience: season six’s cliffhanger saw a gunman loose in the hospital, intent on seeking out and killing McDreamy! He managed to hit his target, but not before taking out Mercy West Hospital transfers Reed Adamson and Charles Percy. Just to tug at those heartstrings even further, as Percy lay dying in Dr. Miranda Bailey’s (and Mandy Moore’s!) arms, he asked her to tell Reed that he loved her. Excuse me, there’s something in my eye.
Having watched Scott Foley more recently on Scandal, it’s hard to believe Dr. Teddy Altman’s husband died all the way back in season eight. His love for Teddy started when he was her patient and she was involved with another man. Thought they only married so Henry could receive Teddy’s health insurance, Teddy soon fell in love with him only for him to die on the table whilst Teddy’s protege Cristina Yang was operating on him. Henry was somewhat of a Manic Pixie Dream Husband, serving as the catalyst for Teddy to break off her friendship with Chief Owen Hunt when he elected not to tell her that Henry had died until after she finished her own surgery.
It seems that one season (seven) without a catastrophe was enough so season eight took us out with a bang. Or, more specifically, a plane crash. Derek’s hand was mangled and Arizona wound up losing a leg, but it was clear that Lexie bore the brunt of the crash, getting pinned under some debris. As Grey’s is wont to do, at least she got to tell Mark she loved him.
Which brings us to McSteamy. He was also involved in the crash but, along with Meredith and Cristina, seemed to escape relatively unscathed. It wasn’t until the first two episodes of the following season that we realised the extent of his injuries, which saw him succumb in hospital. Why you gotta do me like that, Grey’s?
In season nine Cristina took a job at the world famous Mayo Clinic to escape “Seattle Grace Mercy Death”. Without her “person” Meredith and traumatised from last season’s plane crash, “dinosaur” cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Thomas takes Cristina under his wing only to die in the OR during surgery. While not as catastrophic as many of Grey’s other deaths, this one was positioned as yet another tragedy in Cristina’s life.
Season nine’s cliffhanger saw a freak storm hit Seattle, flooding the hospital’s generator and leaving them without power. Intern Ross was sent to find Dr. Webber who was sussing out the damage in the basement however, not wanting to miss out on surgery, he roped intern Heather (played by Tina Majorino) into it which ultimately led to her (and Dr. Webber’s) electrocution. Only one doctor survived.
How many personal tragedies can one person handle?! Meredith has drowned, watched her husband get shot, almost become “pink mist” in a bomb threat, watched her mother try to commit suicide, been abandoned by her father (twice!), given birth in the middle of a massive storm that caused a power outage at the hospital and been in a plane crash in which her sister and husband’s best friend died. Phew!
But last night she faced perhaps the biggest tribulation when her husband Derek Shepherd died. Having saved four people from a car wreck on his way to the airport, we thought Derek would escape unscathed only to have a truck round the corner and ram his car. At the hospital, the doctors stated that they were not equipped to treat such trauma and rushed to treat Derek’s abdominal injuries instead of checking for brain swelling. By the time they realised he needed brain surgery and paged the on-call neurosurgeon, who was 90 minutes away, Derek was braindead. Oh, the tragic irony.
Honorable mentions: Meredith’s distant mother, dying after a long battle with Alzheimer’s; Lexie’s mum, who died after a routine exploratory surgery for reflux, spurring Meredith’s father to disown her… again; Bonnie (who you might remember as Dawson’s Creek’s Abby, a patient impaled by a pole) and Dylan, the bomb squad guy, were both very affecting losses to Meredith in early seasons; Doc, Meredith’s cancer-ridden dog who was then adopted by Derek and Addison; April and Jackson’s surprise pregnancy ended in tragedy as they had to terminate due to a fatal birth defect; Adele, Richard Webber’s wife, died of a heart attack after surgery for an aneurism.
Which Grey’s Anatomy deaths affected you the most?
*Spoiler alert for all eleven seasons of Grey’s Anatomy.
Related: Top 10 Grey’s Anatomy Moments.