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Most Grey’s Anatomy fans will tell you that one of the most devastating moments on the show was when Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) died. Watching Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) cuddle with him in bed after he was pronounced brain dead was heart-wrenching. However, some fans are pointing out that it wasn’t actually all that tragic.

Derek Shepard death shocked fans when it happened
Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepard | Scott Garfield/Getty Images

When does Derek die? What season and what episode does Derek die? Learn more. 

What season does Derek die?

The episode when Derek Shepherd died is one that most Grey’s Anatomy fans will never forget. The fateful incident happened in season 11, episode 21, and it was titled, “How To Save a Life.”

McDreamy was on his way to Washington D.C. to quit the President’s brain-mapping project when he witnessed a car accident. The doctor quickly pulled over to help. He ended up saving a young girl, her mother, and another couple involved in the crash. Then as Derek is about to leave the scene, he is run over by a semi-truck.

Shepherd was taken to the nearest ER; however, he couldn’t speak. As the doctors examined him, Derek subconsciously told them that he needs a head CT scan. Dr. Penelope Blake (Samantha Sloyan) wanted to perform a CT but was dismissed by her attending, Dr. Paul Castello (Mike McColl). To viewers dismay, McDreamy is taken into surgery without the brain scan.

By the time the doctors discovered that he had a blown pupil, Shepherd realized he was about to die. The neurosurgeon arrived at the OR too late, and as viewers sat on the edge of their seats at home, McDreamy was pronounced brain dead.

Why wasn’t Derek Shepherd’s death all that devastating?

Although the episode didn’t leave a dry eye in anyone’s living room, fans pointed out that Meredith might be better off without McDreamy. Now that the show is in the off-season, many viewers rewatched the series from the beginning, pointing out Derek’s many flaws.

“I cannot stand Derek,” one fan wrote on Reddit. “He always blames Meredith for their problems and deflects any problems that she has with him. He lies about having a wife. That’s her problem for not accepting his apology. He can’t handle her life challenges; his empathy has limits. But that’s her problem for not being emotionally stable.”


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Many fans agree with the original Reddit post. Although McDreamy’s death was tragic and heartbreaking, the couple did not have a great relationship. 

“I totally idealized their relationship over the last few seasons, but after going back and rewatching the series, he was always holding her back,” another fan added.

If we take out the fact that he left three children without a father, fans feel that Meredith was better off without Derek.

“I feel like it was a total power-imbalanced relationship,” one viewer wrote. “She was an intern, and he was her superior. Even after she told him to stop pursuing her and that it was inappropriate, he still pursued her, and she eventually caved in.”

Some fans still stand by Derek and Meredith’s relationship

“I get the Derek hate,” wrote another fan. “He’s flawed like all the rest of the characters. But Meredith wasn’t always a martyr in that relationship. She, too, had her moments.”

While the topic of fans disliking Derek comes up often on discussion boards, there are always viewers who defend him. His death was one of the more gut-wrenching moments on the show, even if many fans point out that he was not an excellent match for Meredith.