6:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Grey's Anatomy' Postmortem: Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey on Derek's Major Move
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 1108, "Risk," of ABC's Grey's Anatomy.]
The other shoe on ABC's Grey's Anatomy has finally dropped.
During Thursday's midseason finale, Derek (Patrick Dempsey) finally accepted the president's brain mapping job in Washington, D.C. The decision came after Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek spent the first half of season 11 bickering and admittedly supporting their marriage with Band-Aids.
Derek's decision doesn't come lightly — in fact, they both finally agree that he should take the job — after the duo nearly consumed Grey Sloan Memorial with a debate over a Maggie's (Kelly McCreary) patient. Meredith sided with her half-sister, while Derek brought Richard (James Pickens) into the fray for support.
Naturally, the couple winds up fighting again and after the president won't take no for an answer, both agree that it's best for Derek to head for D.C.
"I see it as a tremendous opportunity for a really good and interesting conflict that we have not seen between them," Dempsey told The Hollywood Reporter during a set visit for the midseason finale. "We have no idea what [showrunner] Shonda Rhimes has in her mind and where she's going to take [their story]. She might want to break them up to bring them back together. That would be the thing to do. We have a long way to go in this season, so there's a lot you can do and resolve or not resolve. We'll see what happens."
The decision comes after Meredith admitted to Callie that the duo have been constantly fighting and distracting themselves with Derek's so-called time-outs — after which their debates get worse.
"I didn't know where Derek was going to go," Dempsey says of Derek's story line. "I'm liking that direction. The last couple of episodes for me, and certainly for Derek, there's a lot of conflict internally, and that's good."
Despite Derek's major career shift — which comes after he nearly had kid sister Amelia removed from her spot at head of neuro at the hospital — Pompeo doesn't think Derek will be out of Seattle for too long.
"I don't know how long they'll keep it up, but in TV time, a few episodes is a long time. I have no idea what they're going to do, but I'm advocating for him to stay away longer because I think if he comes back too soon it's not realistic," she told THR on set. "If you're going to make that big move then — if he's committing to the president then he's committed. You can't just back out. So that sounds like a serious commitment to me. I hope that he doesn't rush back to Seattle, because that will undermine the importance of that job. It will feel less important if it's just over."
Dempsey, meanwhile, says he'd be open to a Derek-focused Grey's Anatomy spinoff set in Washington. "It would be fun for him to be there and have juggling the political aspect of it be the frustration," he says with his trademark smile. "A lot of the conflict is getting caught up in the politics of getting things done and dealing with the competitive nature of all the different departments he's trying to organize. It would be fun for them to really bring a nice spotlight to that program so that people have a better understanding of what's really going on and how amazing it will be when this gets figured out. To me, that could be really exciting and informative, and a lot of opportunity for conflict and drama certainly."
But while life in Shondaland is always unpredictable, Pompeo wants fans to rest easy when it comes to Grey's Anatomy's central couple.
"Meredith and Derek aren't breaking up. That's not happening," she tells THR. "Eventually at some point we'll get back to being good, I'm sure. We go in cycles, but hopefully we'll play out the relationship in realistic ways, and we get interesting stuff so that we can give good performances."
To that end, Grey's Anatomy veteran Jim Parriott — who served as a writer and exec producer during seasons one and two — has returned to the writers' room.
"I'm really excited about his return to the show," Dempsey says. "It's a great step for Shonda to be able to bring someone in like that, because he was so valuable the first year. He made a big impact for us, and that has really instilled a lot of confidence in the show's direction and keeping it fresh."
See more 'Grey's Anatomy's' Famous Departures
There is, however, one thing that Dempsey doesn't want to see for Meredith and Derek.
"God, I hope no more weddings!" he says with a laugh. "We have weddings — or galas or proms — every season but who knows what they've got planned."
What did you think of Grey's Anatomy's winter finale? Sound off in the comments below. Grey's returns from its holiday break on Jan. 29 on ABC.