Between a plane crash, shooting and getting hit by a bus right after you announce you’re leaving to join the army, Grey’s Anatomy has certainly had some memorable ways of writing off their characters. The March 5 episode, entitled “Leave A Light On,” had the daunting task of *sad spoiler alert* saying goodbye to the medical drama’s favorite pediatric surgeon, Alex Karev. Alex was a fan favorite (I back this up as an ex-Grey’s fan) mainly due to his tremendous character growth; from indirectly giving George syphilis to becoming Meredith’s “person.”
Since Justin Chambers, who played Alex Karev for the past 15 seasons, already appeared in his final episode earlier this season, we only had a voiceover to say goodbye with. The last we saw of the OG cast member in person, he was leaving to go care for his sick mother, and was subsequently missing from the fall finale episode in November. Since Chambers seemingly wasn’t available to film in person, his farewell episode focused on letters, narrated by Chambers, that Alex sent to the people closest to him at Grey-Sloane, including Meredith, Bailey and his wife, Jo. The episode also contained a bunch of flashbacks from earlier seasons.
Grey’s Anatomy, no stranger to plot twists, chalked up Alex’s abrupt exit to the fact he found out his ex-wife Izzie Stevens, played by Katherine Heigl, ended up using the embryos she had frozen millions of seasons ago to have Alex’s kids. Still with me? Yeah, they brought back the whole Alex/Izzie relationship in their time of need. Because of this, Alex dipped out of Seattle and decided to stay with Izzie and his new-found kids (who are twins, btw), and send Jo divorce papers. She handled it pretty well, though, and went straight to work at the hospital after reading Alex’s letter.
Possibly due to the repeated trauma (is Owen on call?) Grey’s Anatomy fans have gone through with losing so many characters, a lot of people weren’t happy with Alex’s sendoff and took to social media to vent.
“Yeah Shonda, I thought killing Derek, having Lexi’s body get eaten by wolves, Mark waking up to just die, blowing up the hospital, was too much but this… a new one for the books #GreysAnatomy,” James Ogrady tweeted to the show’s creator Shonda Rhimes, garnering over 3,000 likes.
Fans of the show were so fired up about the ending, they started trending on Twitter (nothing new to Grey’s fans, though). Most people were upset over the writing, and some even compared Alex’s exit to Patrick Dempsey’s character Derek Shepherd’s. Derek was infamously killed off in season 11 after being Meredith’s love interest and fan-favorite for over 10 years. The writers most likely didn’t want to face blowback for killing off yet another major character, so they had Alex leave the hospital instead— his character development an unfortunate casualty.
Why Chambers Left Grey’s
As mad as people are, you can’t say they didn’t have a warning. It was announced Chambers was leaving the show on January 10, 2020, and an official statement was posted on his social media shortly after.
“There’s no good time to say goodbye to a show and character that’s defined so much of my life for the past 15 years,” Chambers said. “For some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time. As I move on from Grey’s Anatomy, I want to thank the ABC family, Shonda Rhimes, original castmembers Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens, and the rest of the amazing cast and crew, both past and present, and, of course, the fans for an extraordinary ride.”
Krista Vernoff, who’s currently the showrunner on Grey’s, tweeted about having to write Alex off.
“It is nearly impossible to say goodbye to Alex Karev, that is as true for me and for all of the writers at Grey’s Anatomy as it is for the fans. We have loved writing Alex. And we have loved watching Justin Chambers’ nuanced portrayal of him,” Vernoff said.
“For 16 seasons, 16 years, we have grown up alongside Alex Karev. We have been frustrated by his limitations and we have been inspired by his growth and we have come to love him deeply and to think of him as one of our very best friends. We will miss him terribly. And we will always be grateful for his impact, on our show, on our hearts, on our fans, on the world.”
Ellen Pompeo, who plays the main character, Meredith Grey, also had something to say about the situation.
“For me personally for Karev to go back to the beginning…. was the best possible storyline. It pays homage to those incredible first years and the incredible cast …that created a foundation so strong that the show is still standing. So let’s not be sad. As our fearless leader DA always says let’s PULL UP and celebrate the actors the writers and the fantastic crew who make this show come to life every week,” Pompeo said in a recent Instagram caption, which is linked in its entirety below.
Although it’s always sad to see a character go, it seems like the writers did the best with what they could (which really isn’t much considering how many characters they’ve had to kill off over the years). At least we still have Meredith, right?