Warning: Major spoilers ahead from Thursday’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy. If you’ve watched, proceed! If you haven’t, stop!
Did that just happen?!
Grey’s Anatomy changed everything when one of its main characters, Dr. Derek Shepherd (aka McDreamy), was dramatically killed off on Thursday’s episode – effectively saying goodbye to series star Patrick Dempsey after an 11-season run.
"After 11 seasons on Grey’s Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey is moving on to pursue other interests. Dr. Derek Shepherd is an iconic character and we’ve been proud to be the home of 'McDreamy' and the 'Mer/Der' love story," ABC said in a statement. "The devotion of Grey’s fans throughout the years has been a testament to the creative mind of Shonda Rhimes and Dempsey’s talent. 'McDreamy' will be greatly missed and we wish Patrick the very best in his future endeavors."
"Derek Shepherd is and will always be an incredibly important character -- for Meredith, for me and for the fans. I absolutely never imagined saying goodbye to our 'McDreamy,'" Rhimes said in a statement. "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. His loss will be felt by all. Now, Meredith and the entire Grey's Anatomy family are about to enter uncharted territory as we head into this new chapter of her life. The possibilities for what may come are endless. As Ellis Grey would say: The carousel never stops turning.”
Derek’s tragic end came after he made the big decision to leave his prestigious job in Washington, D.C. to return to his family in in Seattle. To make matters more heartbreaking, Derek and his wife Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) had just put their marriage back together and were so totally in love again after he’d been gone for months. The couple was even excitedly talking about having a third child.
As the gifted neurosurgeon was on his way to the airport to officially leave his post in D.C., he narrowly missed a horrific car accident involving a speed-craving sports car and saved a woman’s life. After saving the lives of four car accident victims and sending them to the hospital, a large semi hits Derek's car as he attempts to get back on the road. Rushed to the hospital, Derek was still alive and breathing but it was the improperly-trained doctors at the hospital that cost him his life. (Why didn't they just get the CT scan?!)
Meredith received the tragic news from the neurosurgeon who attempted to save Derek's life, and hours later, she made the difficult choice to terminate all life-sustaining abilities for her husband. As for Meredith's goodbye to Derek, it was all set to a Sleeping at Last cover of Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars." All. The. Tears.
Dempsey had been a regular on the Shonda Rhimes medical drama since the very beginning, when Grey’s debuted on the network as a midseason show in 2005. Grey’s quickly became a mainstream success for ABC and anchored the competitive 9 p.m. Thursday time slot for the majority of its run before vacating the time period this season for Rhimes’ political fixer drama Scandal.
In January 2014, Dempsey and Pompeo had signed two-year deals securing their spots through season 12. However, leading up to his exit, reports had suggested that he clashed with Rhimes, which may have been why he did not appear for five episodes this season -- his absence explained as a change in Derek’s job status.
A car aficionado, the 49-year-old actor has made it clear in the past a desire to focus on his love of vintage automobiles over acting. At the Television Critics Association press tour in January 2013, while promoting a racing docu-series, Dempsey hinted that his time on Grey’s could be coming to a close.
“When you're in a long show, there's less discovery and more of an endurance of having to be present," Dempsey said at the time. "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. 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.”
Hmmmmm... could the speed-racing car that caused the course of Derek’s life to change forever be related to the actor’s admitted true passion? We see what you did there, Shonda!
Dempsey is just the latest original Grey’s star to depart the series, following Sandra Oh’s most recent exit at the end of season 10. It is unclear whether he would reprise his role should the show earn a 12th-season renewal.
News of Dempsey's departure was leaked earlier when an Entertainment Weekly subscriber received an early copy of the next issue breaking the shocking news.
"We are surprised that an EW subscriber may have received their issue a day earlier than planned. We always try our best to bring readers exclusive news first. We would like to apologize to fans of the show that learned the news ahead of time," the publication said in a statement early Thursday.
Following the game-changing episode, Dempsey admitted 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 told EW, adding later, "I’m still processing it. This is part of the mourning process, the post Grey’s experience."
Are you shocked by Patrick Dempsey’s exit? Were you satisfied by the end to Derek’s story? 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 Shepherd? Press play on the video below to relive the lead-up to the end of Derek’s story.