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Season 11 of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy may go down as the Shonda Rhimes medical drama’s most depressing yet, following the death of leading man Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey).
See more ‘Grey’s Anatomy’s’ Famous Departures
The season opened on a downer, with Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and company getting used to life without Cristina Yang, following co-star Sandra Oh‘s decision to exit the series after season 10. Of course, Cristina’s departure opened the door for the long-running series finally to introduce Mer’s half sister, Maggie (new series regular Kelly McCreary) and to bring Derek’s sister Amelia (Private Practice alum Caterina Scorsone) to Grey Sloan full time, which provided multiple stories to explore. Chief among them was Maggie’s relationship with her then-unknown father, Richard (James Pickens Jr.), and Meredith.
Ahead of Derek’s funeral on this Thursday’s episode, here are 11 ways Grey’s Anatomy‘s 11th season has been its most depressing yet. And while, yes, the show has been a downer of late, as Rhimes has been prone to say: TV gets boring when everyone is happy, and Grey’s is, after all, a drama.
1. Derek dies.
Showrunner Rhimes said in a statement following Dempsey’s exit episode that she “never imagined saying goodbye” to the show’s “McDreamy” — and neither did longtime Grey’s fans (and MerDer ‘shippers). This one is a fundamental change that opens the door to bring back a dark and twisty Meredith — who is now a widowed mother of two. (Let’s just hope she’s not pregnant after their final tryst, because — seriously — that could make Derek’s death even more depressing than it already is.)
2. Maggie has the genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s.
Granted, this played as a bit of an uplifting moment when Maggie learned that her late biological mother, Ellis (Kate Burton), was the one with the Alzheimer’s gene — so she didn’t get it from her father, Richard. But still, Meredith’s new “person” has the thing that Mer fears the most.
In an episode that spanned 30 days, Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) hit couples therapy in a bid to work out their issues. The resulting in-home separation ended with Callie realizing that she didn’t want to mend the marriage and wanted to break free of her codependence and regain her individuality. Arizona, on the other hand, had the opposite reaction and realized just how great her life with Callie was. Sad faces everywhere. As of now, they’re starting to date other people.
4. Ellis attempted suicide when Meredith was little.
One of the better aspects of season 11 has been how Grey’s has honored its past. In the season premiere, flashbacks revealed how Ellis gave birth to baby Maggie before she moved from Boston to Seattle with little Meredith. Subsequent flashbacks also revealed Meredith recalling that her mother was in two hospitals: one when Maggie was born and a second when Ellis tried to commit suicide. Those flashbacks were instrumental in Derek’s death, as Meredith recalled the similar experience of police arriving at her home.
5. Dr. Herman is blind.
Geena Davis‘ Dr. Nicole Herman arrived in Seattle with a chip on her shoulder and a big secret: She had an inoperable brain tumor and six months to live. Following her split with Callie, Arizona threw herself into work and broke down Herman’s rough exterior — and ultimately told Amelia about Herman’s secret. Eventually, a confident Amelia (and Stephanie) saved Herman’s life — but at a cost: her vision, ending the star fetal surgeon’s career.
6. Derek cheats on Meredith.
After a stretch of bickering between Meredith and Derek, things in the midseason finale escalated to the point where they agreed that it would be best for him to head to D.C. and take the long-simmering job working for the president. But following a major breakthrough, Derek and his research fellow shared a smooch — prompting his immediate return to Seattle after another woman answered his cellphone. That ultimately set up the need for him to leave the McMansion after makeup sex for his doomed trip back to D.C. Rhimes was right to say that fans should have been worried about the beloved couple in more ways than one.
7. April and Jackson lose their baby.
Talk about devastating. April (Sarah Drew) and new husband Jackson (Jesse Williams) found out that their unborn son was type-two osteogenesis imperfecta — aka brittle bone disorder — and had little to no hope of survival beyond a few days. Ultimately, the story — which a pregnant Drew filmed after pitching it to Rhimes — tested both April and Jackson’s faith and also helped bring Amelia and Owen together.
8. Amelia nearly loses her job when her drug-addict past comes out.
Working tirelessly to rebuild her personal and professional life, Amelia’s past as a drug addict was revealed to her Grey Sloan peers when a patient outed her in the middle of the hospital, putting her position as the new head of neuro in jeopardy. Worse: Brother Derek didn’t come to her defense immediately.
9. Owen and Amelia’s fleeting romance.
Owen (Kevin McKidd) has had a hard time moving on after Cristina’s moving to Switzerland. He only began to explore dating again after emotionally connecting with Amelia. After a string of interruptions, their budding romance finally was consummated and a new supercouple was born — only to see Meredith “pull the rug out” from under Amelia when she warned her sister-in-law not to hurt Owen. Amelia began to rethink things, and Owen ultimately stopped fighting for her when his PTSD flared up.
10. Plane-crash PTSD.
Maggie and Amelia learn about the tortured history of their friends at Grey Sloan when a plane crashes into a prenatal yoga class, bringing up issues for Owen, Arizona and Meredith.
11. The “unfathomable crisis” coming in the season finale.
The May 14 season finale, “You’re My Home,” will see the doctors tackle an unfathomable crisis and get reminded of what’s important — and be brought closer together. While it’s unclear what sort of catastrophic event the season finale has in store, this is Shondaland, so it’s anyone’s guess.
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