'Grey's Anatomy' Wastes No Time Moving on After Derek's Death

Thursday's two-hour episode spanned months as the Shonda Rhimes drama underwent a creative reboot.
ABC/Mitchell Haaseth

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the two-hour "She's Leaving Home" episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy.]

ABC's Grey's Anatomy started a new chapter Thursday as Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) began her post-McDreamy life when the newly widowed mother of two returned to Grey Sloan Memorial hospital to share the news of her husband Derek's (Patrick Dempsey) tragic death.

Derek died during the April 23 episode, when he was involved in a car crash and doctors at a nearby hospital were ill-prepared and unable to save his life.

Read more 'Grey's Anatomy': 11 Ways Season 11 Has Been Its Most Depressing Yet

Thursday's two-hour episode spanned months — from Derek's death through Valentine's Day — to reveal that Meredith, haunted by memories of Ellis' attempted suicide following her split with Richard, followed in her mother's footsteps and left Seattle with her two children after Derek's funeral.

Here's how everyone changed during the course of the episode.  

Read more 'Grey's Anatomy' Star on Patrick Dempsey's Departure: It's a "Fundamental Change"

Meredith: Following in her mother's footsteps, she takes off with the kids. After being MIA for months, viewers see her again on Christmas, where she's revealed to be pregnant. It turns out that her last romp with Derek produced the couple's third child. By the beach, she continues to have memories of her time with Derek — and parallels with Ellis. In another parallel, she goes into labor and starts bleeding — forcing Zola to call 911 in a scene that was paired with little Mer calling for help when Ellis attempted suicide. Ultimately, Meredith has the baby — a girl, fittingly named Ellis, after her mother — and Alex, her emergency contact, is called to come to her side. Mer tells Alex that she wasn't sure if she could do it and thought she would die during childbirth — but now she sees Derek in baby Ellis. The scenes are intercut with flashbacks of Derek telling Mer that she is the one who gets everyone to move forward because she has seen and survived worse, and Ellis giving Maggie up for adoption and telling her story of how the carousel never stops turning.

The episode concludes as Alex, Meredith, Zola, Bailey and baby Ellis return to the Dream House and adjust to life back in Seattle. With memories of Ellis revealing that Mer is anything but ordinary, Meredith returns to life as a mother of three and Amelia holds baby Ellis for the first time. After catching up on the year she missed with Maggie and Alex, Mer returns to work — complete with Derek's lucky scrub cap — as flashbacks to Ellis reveal that she's making the choice to move on from her split with Richard.

Amelia: After Owen tells Amelia the news of Derek's death, she reacts by making jokes about her dead brother. Months later, she has thrown herself into work and hasn't been going to meetings for a reason: She feels like she will let down her patients' families she isn't at the hospital for hours to treat their loved ones — like the doctor at the "podunk" hospital that failed Derek. Ultimately, Owen and Amelia share a heart-to-heart in which he tells Amelia — who has scored a bag of Oxy but hasn't taken any yet — that she has to feel her feelings. Amelia — who notes that all of the men in her life have died — winds up breaking down in his arms as she truly begins to cope with Derek's death. 

Read more 'Grey's Anatomy' Star on Patrick Dempsey's Departure: It's a "Fundamental Change"

Maggie: She's frustrated that Meredith took off and reveals that she came to Seattle to learn more about her biological family — and Meredith's departure feels like an abandonment. Ultimately, they reconnect after Meredith returns home.

Owen: He hands over the role of chief to Webber when he re-enlists — with April. Ultimately, he and April return to Seattle just in time to witness Amelia's meltdown. (More on that below.)

April and Jackson: April joins Owen in a bid to learn new techniques and make a difference, much to husband Jackson's dismay. Turns out that April wasn't quite over the loss of their baby and needed to, as Arizona said, learn to walk again. Come New Year's, Jackson is furious that April has extended her tour three times and he has no idea where his wife is after a round of gunfire during their last call. Turns out he was unable to reach her for a reason: She hopped on a flight and wound up coming home to surprise Jackson.

Read more 'Grey's Anatomy's' Shonda Rhimes Explains Patrick Dempsey's Departure

Callie: She's treating Dan (Kevin Alejandro), the cop she connected with earlier this season, when he comes in with a leg injury. The two continue to flirt, but at Christmas, he shares that he was glad she came into his life to help save him. At home, Callie and Sofia decorate for Christmas, and Callie opts to leave Arizona's stocking in storage. By New Year's, Dan is walking again with a robotic leg and Callie's assistance. Overcome with emotion, Callie starts crying when she realizes that the reason Dan's brain can tell his leg what to do is because of the sensors that Derek made. "He was a brilliant surgeon and a good friend — and he would have loved this," Callie tells Dan.

Arizona: As a board member, Arizona lashes out at a random doctor, complaining that they haven't hired a replacement for Derek — clearly still mourning her own loss. She leans on Alex and Maggie during the process.

Alex and Jo: On Thanksgiving, Alex finally reaches Meredith — who reassures him that she and the kids are fine and demands he stop calling her before hanging up on him. At Christmas, Jackson, Maggie, Richard and Arizona join Jo and Alex with pizza. Jo, meanwhile, is already becoming the latest member of Jackson's plastics posse. Ultimately, Alex is the one who seemingly becomes Meredith's new person, as he is listed as her emergency contact.

See more'Grey's Anatomy's' Famous Departures

Richard and Catherine: Richard takes over the hospital and plans to propose to Catherine — who stops him in his tracks before he can go through with it. Maggie tells Catherine that she should accept Richard's romantic gestures, even if she doesn't want them. On Valentine's Day, Catherine — on the iconic staircase — professes her love for Richard and proposes to him in a grand romantic gesture of her own. His response: "About damned time," as the rest of the hospital finally gets some uplifting news.  

Bailey and Ben: They continue to debate their differing opinions about DNRs. She doesn't want heroic measures, while he does. On Valentine's Day, after Ben gives Bailey his living will that grants her permission to pull his plug, Bailey changes her mind. She reveals that since Derek died, she's scared that something will happen to Ben. They decide that they can't plan for everything and opt to live in the moment, in their bubble together.

What did you think of how Grey's Anatomy moved forward after Derek's death? Sound off in the comments below. Grey's airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit

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