Warning: Major spoilers from Thursday’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy. If you’ve seen it, you’re safe to proceed. If you haven’t, stop! Watch the episode and then come back!
Grey’s Anatomy fans are in mourning.
ABC’s long-running medical drama killed off one of its main characters, Dr. Derek Shepherd, in dramatic fashion on Thursday’s episode. That meant saying goodbye to series star Patrick Dempsey, who was with the show since its 2005 debut.
After saving four car accident victims and sending them to the hospital, Derek was rushed to the emergency room himself after a large semi struck his car. Unfortunately for him, a team of under-trained doctors were unable to save him in time, forcing Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) to make the difficult decision to pull the plug.
Following Thursday’s emotional death, creator Shonda Rhimes – who also wrote the episode – issued a statement explaining Dempsey’s exit and the end of Derek’s story, something she “never imagined” would come.
“Derek Shepherd is and will always be an incredibly important character – for Meredith, for me and for the fans,” Rhimes said. “I absolutely never imagined saying goodbye to our ‘McDreamy.’”
She also praised Dempsey’s performance over the last 11 seasons.
“Patrick Dempsey’s performance shaped Derek in a way that I know we both hope became a meaningful example – happy, sad, romantic, painful and always true – of what young women should demand from modern love,” she continued. “His loss will be felt by all.”
Rhimes promised Grey’s fans that the possibilities for this “next chapter” in Meredith’s journey “are endless,” as they “enter uncharted territory.” She ended her statement with a nod to Meredith’s late mother Ellis Grey, “The carousel never stops turning.”
ABC also issued a statement following the episode, explaining that Dempsey was leaving the show “to pursue other interests.”
“'McDreamy' will be greatly missed and we wish Patrick the very best in his future endeavors,” the network wrote.
The shocking twist was leaked early Thursday when an Entertainment Weekly subscriber received an early copy of this week’s issue revealing the surprising departure.
Dempsey spoke with EW, revealing that he wasn't surprised by Derek's fate. "It was just a natural progression with the way the story was unfolding. It was like, Okay! This was obviously the right time," he said, adding later, "I’m still processing it. This is part of the mourning process, the post Grey’s experience."
On Friday afternoon, Dempsey took to Twitter to thank the Grey's fans for their support over the past decade.
I want to thank all the fans, what an incredible 11 yrs, I love you all— Patrick Dempsey (@PatrickDempsey) April 24, 2015
In January 2014, Dempsey inked a two-season deal to stay on Grey’s through season 12. However, leading up to his eventful exit, reports suggested Dempsey and Rhimes clashed, supposedly why he did not appear in five episodes this season.
A car aficionado, the 49-year-old actor hinted in January 2013 that he was possibly looking to leave Grey’s.
"I'm not necessarily bored with the show, I'm very grateful that I have a show that's on for 10 years, but I'm not the creator, I'm not the writer,” he said at the time. “We're coming up on 200 episodes, [now] it's about surviving. There's not a lot of homework that goes into it. You try to be present and not get caught acting. I'm grateful I have the gig, but it's not the same thing as being in a racecar.”
Are you shocked by Patrick Dempsey’s exit? Tell us in the comments below and hit us up on Twitter by using the #ETnow hashtag!
Grey’s Anatomy’s two-hour episode airs next Thursday at 8 p.m. on ABC.
Still can’t believe this is the end of Derek's story? Press play below to relive the lead-up to the big car crash.