‘Grey’s Anatomy’: George O’ Malley Returned and ‘Smashed’ Fans Hearts ‘Into a Thousand Pieces’

Grey’s Anatomy fans cried over George O’ Malley’s death all over again on Dec. 3, 2020. Viewers waited two weeks for the return of another character from Meredith Grey’s (Ellen Pompeo) past, and the appearance of T. R. Knight reprising his role was not disappointing.

[Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for Season 17 of  Grey’s Anatomy.]

'Grey's Anatomy' alum T. R. Knight
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ alum T. R. Knight | Bob D’Amico/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

‘Grey’s Anatomy’: How did George O’ Malley die?

In the season 5 finale of Grey’s Anatomy, George joined the army to become a Trauma Surgeon. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.), who was the hospital’s chief at the time, gave him his last day off to spend time with his family before leaving. 

On his way home, George jumped in front of a bus to save someone’s life. He was hit by the bus in the process and rushed to what was Seattle Grace Hospital at the time. He entered as a John Doe because he was so unrecognizable.

'Grey's Anatomy' stars T. R. Knight and Ellen Pompeo
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ stars T. R. Knight and Ellen Pompeo | BG005/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

As the episode continued, John Doe seemed to show a particular interest in Meredith Grey. He tried several times to trace the numbers “007” on her hand, but she didn’t know what he was doing. 

When she finally realized that John Doe was George O’Malley, the surgeons all rushed to save him. However, it was too late. Many fans still believe George’s death was one of the most devastating on the show. However, it also started the trend of heartbreaking prominent character deaths.

George returned to Meredith’s unconsciousness to tell her the kids would not be OK

When Meredith sees George, she immediately wants to know why he’s there. Throughout the episode, they discuss how her children would react to her death. She wants to know if she gets to decide or not, and that’s when George breaks fans’ hearts all over again.

“I don’t’ know,” George responds. “I didn’t. I would have stayed if I could have. It’s different for everyone, though.”


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He admits that he didn’t want to die, and viewers were heartbroken over his death again, over 10 years later. George also tells Meredith that his mother still hasn’t gotten over her son dying. He tries to “shake it out of her,” but it doesn’t’ work. 

“Some grief is heavier than other grief,” he adds. “Sometimes it moves through you, and sometimes it just gets stuck.”

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ fans are crying their eyes out over George’s return

Grey’s Anatomy viewers went through all of the emotions with the return of George O’ Malley. They were excited to see him again, although a few were disappointed it wasn’t Meredith’s half-sister Lexie Grey. Then the tears began falling when viewers heard that George would not have chosen to die. 

“George talking about how he would have chosen to live just smashed my heart into a thousand pieces,” one fan wrote on Reddit.

Other fans share the same sentiments. 

“Ouch ‘I would’ve stayed if I could’ve.’ I’m NOT OK,” added another fan.