Full disclosure here, while I always loved Derek Shepherd, I never boarded the Greys Anatomy Meredith & McDreamy ship. Don’t get me wrong, I really did like them together, for the most part, but they weren’t the reason I kept coming back season after season. No, I came back for O’Malley and Izzie and Cristina and Bailey and Lexie and Mark and eventually Jackson and April and Ben and Arizona. I could keep going, but Greys has had A LOT of people walk through its halls since the beginning.
My point is, I’ve never been here for McDreamy. I liked him, but he wasn’t the be all and end all to Greys Anatomy. But that didn’t mean I could ever imagine a Greys universe in which he no longer existed, at least, not in the physical sense. So when word came back that Patrick Dempsey would soon be exiting the role of Dr. Derek Shepherd I didn’t believe it. Shonda Rhimes, Ellen Pompeo, and Dempsey had all spent over a decade building that story from the ground up, there’s no way it could just end.
Except, that’s exactly what happened. Derek’s story ended and the third chapter of Meredith’s was just beginning. By killing Derek off Rhimes did the only thing storywise that she could have done in this situation. I get that fans of both the pairing and Derek were upset she chose this path, but honestly, this was one of those cases were no choice was going to be a good one. And it was either end their love story as the love story they created it to be or blow it all up and make the years that came before essentially meaningless.
When it comes to Dr. Meredith Grey, we have a love/hate relationship. Not that she is aware of this, of course, she is a fictional character after all. And let’s be honest, if she were real, she wouldn’t care. Meredith is a complicated character, to say the least. She’s strong, resilient, loyal, passionate, stubborn, self-absorbed, cruel, loving, and a million other things. It is because of all of these that I both love her and can not stand her. She’s not someone I would ever want to be friends with, but she is someone I would want on my side.
With both Cristina Yang and Shepherd gone I wondered who would soften her edges now? Who would be that person to remind us that Meredith had this huge heart capable of great love and compassion? Turns out, she didn’t anyone to do that for her. Oh sure, she still had her moments where she was unnecessarily cruel to others and she still has a habit of dismissing anyone she has no use for as if they don’t matter.
But apparently while I wasn’t looking Meredith grew up. She was no longer that dark and twisty girl we met in season one. Oh, she was still quite complicated and she didn’t stop being any of those things I mentioned earlier. And yet, she was softer somehow. Maybe it was all those years of being loved unconditionally by Cristina and Derek that did it or maybe it was through her love for her children or the love and support of her family at the hospital that did it. I’m guessing it was a combination of all of them.
The worst thing Rhimes could have done was to pretend like Derek didn’t exist or to have Meredith move on before the audience was ready, so she didn’t. Oh sure, she jumped the show forward in time by a lot, but even then she didn’t use it as an easy excuse to have Mer hit the sheets. The writers knew that for the viewers it had only been a few months since saying goodbye to Derek and they weren’t ready to see her with anyone, not even a one night stand.
I thought I would miss Derek. I thought Greys wouldn’t be able to recover from his loss. I was wrong. In a way, Greys and Meredith have become stronger without him. They both had to prove they had what it took to stand on their own and that they did. The show did it by letting other characters shine while Meredith became a true member of the ensemble and Meredith did it while weaving her way through the long and ardous journey of moving on.