My apologies for the spoilers, but if you don’t know that Derek Shepherd died on the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy, then you obviously haven’t been on the internet recently.
I went into last week’s Grey’s Anatomy episode 11×21 “How to Save a Life” expecting McDreamy to die. Shonda Rhimes really couldn’t have made it more obvious with foreshadowing moments in the last few episodes like Amelia Shepherd angrily telling Meredith she couldn’t “judge her until she had lost the love of her life.” Dun dun DUUUUUUUNNNN. And then there was all the “Where’s Derek?” and “The episode America will never forget” promotion which I thought was a bit overkill.
Because honestly, the episode I’ll never forget was the plane crash where Lexie (my favorite TV character of all time) died within the first 20 minutes and Cristina, in a very meta-moment, called their hospital “Mercy Death” because what are the odds that all the horrible things that have happened to them would happen? Cristina, if Shonda Rhimes is producing your show, then the odds are really high.
And I keep watching Grey’s Anatomy (even though I thought season 9 was going to be their last, but they tricked us all and announced a season 10 at the last minute), I feel kind of done with it. Like I literally watch for the medical stories and how they emotionally and psychologically affect the characters. I can take or leave the sex and the soap opera style character drama. Half the time, I’m not really sure why I keep watching. I have a hard time abandoning stories though. Just like I won’t stop reading a novel no matter how bad it is, I don’t like quitting a TV show before I’ve found some kind of catharsis in the storyline.
And how can there be catharsis now? Derek is dead. You’ve got half-orphaned children everywhere on this show. You’ve got a completely distorted and mangled view of love. You’ve got a mess that doesn’t seem to want to end!
Plus Derek was a jerk for 95% of this season. First, he was a whiny, conceited sourpuss who blamed Meredith for his unhappiness and couldn’t stand for his sister to be his boss. Then he disappeared for nearly half the season and was made to look like he cheated. For a measly two episodes near the end he looks like the perfect husband—the McDreamy we all know and love. And finally, in one heart wrenching episode he’s a hero and then an idiot who stops in the middle of the road to look at his phone. So now he’s dead. It was sudden and unexpected but also completely set up in the most obnoxious way because really how else were we going to torture Meredith if we didn’t kill off her husband?
So does this mean I’m done with Grey’s Anatomy? Probably not. I’d like to see how they finish out the season and what’s suggested for next season. I really would like to stop watching but not because they killed Derek. If I were going to stop watching for killing off a character it would have been Lexie. Also I’m not so petty as to DEMAND from showrunners to appease my wishes for the series or threaten them with quitting their show. Oooooooooh! I’m sure they’re so scared.
I will say that I thought “How to Save a Life” was one of their better episode recently. It kept me on my toes and in tears for the majority of the episode. I especially liked hearing Derek’s thoughts (or narration) as he was admitted to the rural medical center, misdiagnosed, and slowly died on the operating table. That’s such a real fear for people—having untrained doctors who miss something. A critical something that leads to death or permanent damage.
At Grey-Sloane Memorial Hospital there’s always a saving grace. Enough time to realize the mistake. A doctor with a forceful enough voice to have her opinion heard. But that all looks like fantasy in comparison to what happened to Derek. What happened to Derek (besides the semi-truck ramming him side-on from a straight stretch of road) feels more real. THAT might actually happen to you.
And that’s what makes this episode powerful. So McDreamy dies and it’s a tragedy. A well-foreshadowed tragedy. What makes the episode so “unforgettable” as all those promotions touted is how close to home the dying because of a doctor’s mistake hits.