'Grey's Anatomy' Stars Say Season 17 Finale Has a Big Cliffhanger (Exclusive)

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Wedding bells are in the air for Maggie and Winston on the season 17 finale of Grey's Anatomy, but will they make it down the aisle? On Thursday's season closer, titled "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," the couple decides to say "I do," but their road to marriage won't be without complications as several family members express their objections to the union. Even so, there's a happy resolution to it all.

"No. 1 is Winston's grandmother and obstacle No. 2 is Maggie's father. Even though there is a disruption or it doesn't go according to plan, they'll be happy," Grey's star Kelly McCreary tells ET's Katie Krause. "The fans will still be very happy with the outcome."

"Winston has been really patient up until the last episode... He knows what he wants and he's very adamant and his priorities have shifted," her co-star, Anthony Hill, tells ET. "He was a carpe diem guy before the pandemic but after COVID struck, it shifted his priorities in a way that made him understand what No. 1 was and Maggie and family and relationships and so because of that, he's been one solid thing that she's had where she knows it's the real deal and he's not going anywhere."

For one thing, Richard has been tapped to officiate the wedding, which McCreary says was the only logical choice. "It's been really interesting exploring this relationship or how the relationship has grown between Maggie and her adopted father who she met as an adult," the actress explains. "They're colleagues and yet they did have a sort of immediate bond. There's so much love and tenderness between them from the very beginning after a little hiccup."

"I think one of the most beautiful things about Maggie is that she's taken in everyone. She's embraced this new family and weddings are such a great opportunity to make the space... and to let people know how important they are to you, so I love that Richard was the one Maggie invited to step in and do that officiating duty," McCreary adds.

A promo for the finale reveals Meredith makes it back to the beach, but for what reason? McCreary played coy, promising it's not for an ominous reason. "She's got a really, really great reason to go back to the beach and I think that people will be happy to see her there," she says.

But in classic Grey's fashion, there are major life turns for several of the Grey Sloan doctors that will propel season 18 forward as relationships fall apart and some are strengthened following a tough COVID year. Asked if the finale includes a big cliffhanger, McCreary answered in the affirmative, "Yes."

"I think the fans are going to feel the way that we felt making it, which was we made it through a tough season, a tough season of life [which] many of us are very much still [in] and we managed to find some joy and we managed to have some love. And yet there is still heartbreak, yet there was still grief and I think that we do a great job at holding all of those things at the same time," McCreary says. "The finale will feel as hopeful about the future as I think many of us in real life feel right now, that things will improve and can improve and we have seen improvement and we're investing in that."

Grey's Anatomy
ABC

With an 18th season on the horizon, McCreary and Hill revealed that the May 10 renewal came down to the wire. Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens Jr., the last remaining original cast members from season 1, are all confirmed to return.

"We didn't know. Nobody knew what would happen and there was just, like, wild speculation," she says, before referencing the emotional returns of former stars Patrick Dempsey, T.R. Knight, Chyler Leigh, Eric Dane and Sarah Drew. "We were all wondering, 'Oh, does it mean something that all of these characters from the past are coming back? What do they have planned, you know, for closing out this show which has such a long storied legacy?'"

"On the one hand, it seems like a really great way to close it out so it was like, 'What does that mean?'" McCreary continues. "There was still a lot of story to tell and wrap up and finish, so I was excited that we'll have a chance to do that or even to continue the story further to spin off some stories. It's nice to know that it didn't come to an abrupt end. It would've felt very abrupt to me, to be honest, and I'm glad we can tease things out a little bit longer."

Adds Hill: "That was a topic of discussion [on the the show's future]. I remember every table read for the last five episodes or so, we were all kind of wondering, 'What are we gonna do? How is this gonna go?' Nobody knew up until literally the last day; we still didn’t know what was going to happen, so they had written some things in to possibly make it a series finale and thank goodness we not only got through a season during the pandemic and during such a rough time, but we got to tell these stories and we also get to come back next season."

Because she introduced spinoffs into the conversation -- a consistent topic for Grey's at this point in its legacy -- McCreary expressed optimism that there is room for the Grey's universe to expand even more. (Its sister show, Station 19, was picked up for a fifth season. And Private Practice, centered on Dr. Addison Montgomery, had a successful six-season run.) Recently, ABC Signature President Jonnie Davis walked back comments that they were actively looking to develop a new Grey's spinoff. "There are no conversations about a spinoff of Grey’s Anatomy at this time," read a statement, in part, to Deadline.

"Apparently there are [conversations about spinoffs]," McCreary speculates. "I don't know anything about them, but yes, apparently there is talk of spinoffs. I mean, we've done spinoffs in the past... And so there are just a million worlds that could be explored. You could see any of these doctors. We could go into the past. We could go into the future. There's a million ways to do it. I don't know what they're cooking up but it's a whole universe. It's 17 seasons worth of storytelling. It could be a spinoff of a patient from 10 seasons ago for all we know. There's a lot of potential there."

If there's one thing McCreary is sure of, it's that she's leaving an open mind for when and if Maggie's story comes to a natural end point. "Maggie Pierce and I have been together for seven years and it's been an incredible journey. But the way that we saw some characters leave because their stories came to an end in a really graceful, beautiful way -- I thought with Jackson's departure and as tragic as it was, DeLuca's departure -- wherever the story goes I feel like I hold on to it loosely. I hold on to Maggie loosely... Longevity or whether that means a long time or a short time, I'm happy to do it."

As for the final episode of the season, Hill hints it will be classic Grey's. "There's always fireworks and it's a finale and it's Grey's Anatomy, so you know that you're going to see something pretty great," he teases. "There's going to be a lot of joy and of course, there's going to be a lot of drama. It's Grey's Anatomy."

The Grey's Anatomy finale airs Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. For more on Grey's Anatomy, watch below.

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