Unless you somehow managed to avoid the bombshell at the end of Grey’s Anatomy’s two-hour season 17 premiere, you already know who we’re talking about: So, here’s Derek Shepherd’s Grey’s Anatomy return, explained.
ICYMI, Grey’s Anatomy season 17 premiered on Thursday, November 12 with episodes “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and “The Center Won’t Hold,” where we see Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital reeling from the crushing reality of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the premiere’s start, audiences watch what appears to be a daydream from Meredith (Ellen Pompeo): She’s at the beach, her voiceover sharing a haunting metaphor. “I’ve heard that when tidal waves hit, there are often people watching onshore,” she says, “They see the disaster coming. They see the horizon disappearing. They don’t really see until it’s too late.” Moments later, Meredith is back to reality, and her team is fielding their own disaster as COVID-19 ravages their patients.
After brutal shifts and several nights without sleep, things seem to catch up to Meredith herself. “The Center Won’t Hold” ends with doctor Cormac Hayes finding Meredith passed out and unresponsive in the parking lot outside the hospital. Suddenly, viewers are transported back to Meredith’s beach dream sequence. Meredith, walking down a sun-soaked beach, sees someone in the distance. “Oh my god,” she says. And OMG is right.
It’s Derek, her late husband, who died tragically during season 11 of Grey’s Anatomy.
So yes, McDreamy’s back, even if only in Meredith’s dreams. And apparently, it’s not the last you’ll see of him: A teaser for the November 19 episode of Grey’s Anatomy proves actor Patrick Dempsey is set to return for his Derek cameo.
It was a shock for fans in more ways than one. Of course, there’s the obvious fact that Derek isn’t alive in the series—but Grey’s fans may also remember that when Dempsey left his role, it wasn’t on the best of terms. While Dempsey’s played mum on his real reasons for leaving the show, he hinted to People in 2015 that the show’s grueling schedule became too much to handle. “I think after a certain period of time, no matter how much money you make, you want control out of your own schedule,” Dempsey said at the time.
But now, in a November 12 interview with Deadline, Dempsey revealed that his return to the show felt “fun” and “rewarding.”
“I think the whole atmosphere has changed, certainly working at the beach, and seeing everybody again was really a very healing process, and really rewarding, and a lot of fun,” he told the outlet. “And hopefully, that feeling translates, and the fans enjoy it. I know that they’ve been wanting us to get back together, and I think this will satisfy a lot of people, and surprise a lot of people, hopefully.”
“It was really exciting and fun, and it was great to see everybody,” Dempsey continued. “The dynamic behind the camera had changed. There’s much more diversity within the crew. There was a nice balance, too, of equality that I was seeing. So, culturally, there was a lot of things that were different, that I thought were very positive and very inspiring, actually.”
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