‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Alex’s Abrupt Departure Was Terrible, But So Was Izzie’s

After almost two decades on the air, Grey’s Anatomy has seen numerous characters come and go over the years.

Sometimes exits are beautiful tributes to beloved characters or provide closure essential to that character’s journey. Over the years, however, there have been some questionable choices made by the show’s writers on how some characters will exit. Though the top medical drama is now gearing up for the 18th installment, some fans have been left questioning a few of those choices that were readdressed in season 16.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Izzie’s exit

Izzie has been gone from Grey’s Anatomy for quite a while, but the way she and Alex’s storylines were wrapped up in season 16 has a lot of fans looking back and questioning the way the character left. During season 5 of the show, Izzie’s character was diagnosed with cancer. Throughout her treatment, her and Alex bonded and eventually married.

During the hospital merger later that season, Izzie incorrectly administers medicine to a patient and is fired for her negligence. She believes Alex is partly to blame, and writes her husband a letter and entirely ghosts him. After later realizing that Alex wasn’t responsible, Izzie returns to show Alex that she’s cancer-free. Though Alex is happy for her, he says he deserves someone who will stay for him, and that he’s moved on.

Though most fans seem to think this is uncharacteristic for Izzie, the writers’ hands were likely tied as Katherine Heigl had made it perfectly clear she was no longer available to portray the character.

Despite the character being critically acclaimed and a fan favorite, Heigl famously declined a 2008 Emmy nomination, telling the New York Times “I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention.”

Since it seems that there was a pretty contentious relationship between the writers and the actress, Heigl may not have left them many options to work with.

Alex pulls an Izzie

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After the departure of his wife, Alex would spend another 11 seasons on the show. He would eventually go on to marry Jo (twice). In season 15 the couple are ready to move away for new opportunities in Boston but decide to stay.

The couple had progressively more problems, and at the end of the season, Alex is fired from his position for insurance fraud. He would assist Meredith in multiple ways during the trial to reinstate her medical license in season 16 but would disappear during the middle of the season, ghosting Jo just like Izzie had ghosted him.

Though the audience had expected a departure since actor Justin Chambers had already announced his exit, they didn’t expect it to happen that way. After so many years of the character, it seemed an odd way to write him out, but it wouldn’t be the last time fans would see him.

Alex and Izzie

Both Alex and Izzie’s departure left fans feeling a little sore, but they would both be revisited in the season 16 episode “Leave a Light On.” The episode saw Alex write letters to several characters, including his wife Jo. He detailed how during the trial he had reconnected with Izzie and had discovered that she had had two children from embryos that the two had frozen when Izzie had cancer. Upon finding this, he re-established a relationship with his ex and eventually moved to Kansas to start a life with her and their kids.

Writers concluding character arcs are usually a good thing. Fans want closure for their favorite characters, but it’s hard to fix storylines that didn’t ring true for a character with a quick epilogue. On Reddit, fans have voiced their conflicting opinions on the two. While many fans think Alex leaving Jo the way Izzie left him was so uncharacteristic, others aren’t so sure.

“Nothing would challenge how he felt about Izzie and ultimately when he had a shot at that again, he did pull an a**hole move on Jo to be truly happy himself,” one poster writes, though they continue and point out that being a bad person wasn’t exactly out of character for Alex. “Not out of character for Alex. He was never going to be 100% perfect! The letters were awful and unforgivable, but many guys pull this cowardly move when leaving their wives unexpectedly out of the blue.”

Other commenters are quick to point the finger that Izzie leaving him so abruptly was so out of character, why would he even want to go back to her? “I felt Izzies (sic) exit was horrible, I just couldn’t see her leaving Alex like that, and I couldn’t accept she’d just leave and never return again when there was no real reason for it (unlike Alex’s exit).”

While the two characters got their closure and their happy ending, fans just may never be satisfied with this one. As it was unlikely that Katherine Heigl was coming back, the writers might’ve just seen it as the best they could do for the legacy of the characters. While it would be great if the show could be crafted perfectly, after almost two decades, most fans are just thrilled that they get to see season 18.

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