Does Shonda Rhimes Know How ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Will End?

To get right to the point, yes, Shonda Rhimes definitely knows how Grey’s Anatomy will end. Or at least she once did.

Put it this way: Rhimes probably still has some idea how the long-running medical drama will end. She’s just not quite sure when it will end. Even she is probably surprised the show has lasted as long as it has. And Grey’s still has at least two seasons to go.

Rhimes had an ending planned

Shonda Rhimes at the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
Shonda Rhimes | Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Rhimes was quoted in Deadline telling this to EW:

“I have written the end of the show at least six times,” Rhimes told EW. “But we just don’t end. Every time I thought, ‘This is how the show should end,’ we’ve gone past those moments, so I’ve stopped trying. I have no idea now.”

Here’s the kicker: That Deadline piece is from September 21, 2018. Since then, Grey’s Anatomy has been renewed for not one but two seasons — which will take it through at least season 17.

So the earliest it could come to an end is in 2021, unless Rhimes and company decide to pull the plug early. 

So does the ending Rhimes had in mind still hold, and the show’s other writers have to add additional material leading up to that ending? Or does the two-season extension throw everything up in the air, requiring Rhimes to come up with a new ending? 

‘Grey’s’ will end when Ellen Pompeo says so

A somewhat more recent piece from E! Tries to shed some light on the alleged ending by quoting what Rhimes and others have said in the past. Maybe the most convincing evidence comes from something Rhimes said in 2017, about a pact she made with her series lead: 

“The show will exist as long as both of us want to do it. If she wants to stop, we’re stopping. So, I don’t know if we’ll see 600, but I want to keep it feeling fresh. As long as there are fresh stories to tell and as long as we’re both excited about the stories being told, we’re in. So, we’ll see where that takes us.”

Current showrunner Krista Vernoff echoed those sentiments, while Pompeo seems to seesaw back and forth. At times she seems ready to hang up her scrubs for good, but she also takes a wait and see approach, probably because people still watch the show.

In 2018, she said: “It’s about time that I mix it up. I’m definitely looking for a change.”

Pompeo’s most evergreen quote is likely this one: “I take it day by day and season by season.”

How does ‘Grey’s’ stack up against other long-running shows?

Even before starting its new season, Grey’s Anatomy has astounded almost everyone by lasting as long as it has. It practically goes without saying that it’s TV’s longest-running medical drama, but it’s also one of TV’s longest-running shows of any kind. 

Well, almost any kind. If you consider unscripted shows like news magazine and television programming, Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t even come close to the top 10 — not when you have Sesame Street going strong after 50 years.

For that matter, many daytime shows have been on much longer, with another medical show, General Hospital still running after premiering in 1963. Meet the Press has everybody beat with a jaw-dropping 72 years. 

It’s when you do an apples to apples comparison that Grey’s run remains impressive. Among scripted live-action shows still on the air, Grey’s with 15 completed seasons is third place behind NCIS with 16 seasons and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit with 20.