‘Grey’s Anatomy’: How Will Season 18 Bring Back Meredith Grey’s Mother?

Grey’s Anatomy Season 18 will pick up after Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) spent the majority of the previous season in a coma. While she was unconscious with COVID-19, Pompeo’s character found herself face to face with several loved ones who died in previous seasons of the ABC medical drama. One who was noticeably missing, however, was Meredith’s mother, Dr. Ellis Grey (Kate Burton). The show will reportedly make up for that in its upcoming season, bringing the character back for the new episodes. However, it’s unclear how exactly Grey’s plans to do that.

Kate Burton will return as Dr. Ellis Grey in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 18

Kate Burton, who plays Meredith Grey's mother on Greys Anatomy, wearing a black blazer and smiling at the camera. Her hair is down and she's standing in front of a white wall.
Kate Burton | Donna Ward/Getty Images

Meredith’s mother plays a significant role in the surgeon’s journey, even though she passes away in season 3 of Grey’s Anatomy. The show brings her back several times after, using everything from dreams to spiritual visitations to alternate-universe episodes to have her interact with Meredith once more.

That’s why it’s surprising that Burton didn’t show up in Grey’s Anatomy Season 17, when Meredith found herself in a long-term dream state. However, Deadline confirms that she’ll reprise her role as Ellis Grey in the upcoming episodes of the show. She’ll reportedly appear multiple times throughout Grey’s Anatomy Season 18, though how the series plans to bring the character back remains a mystery.

How will the ABC series bring back Meredith Grey’s mother this time?

When considering how Grey’s Anatomy could bring Ellis Grey back into Meredith’s life, the most obvious answer seems to be through a dream. It’s possible season 18 will see Meredith’s mother appearing to her while she sleeps, though the dreams would need to be repetitive for her to show up as much as suggested.

The series could also throw in episodes that harken back to the past, much like season 8’s “If/Then,” which showed fans an alternate reality where Ellis’ life played out differently, or season 15’s “Flowers Grow Out of My Grave,” which saw Meredith remembering loved ones on the Day of the Dead.

It’s unlikely season 18 will put Meredith back in a coma, though she could unearth more memories from when she was unconscious. Could Ellis and Meredith have already spoken without fans being privy to it? When bringing back the dead, anything’s possible, and Grey’s Anatomy has proven it knows how to get creative in doing so.

What is the premiere date for ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 18?

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Grey’s Anatomy Season 18 is set to premiere on Sept. 30, 2021. The new season is currently in production, and it could very well be the show’s last. According to TVLine, the contracts of original cast members Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson, and James Pickens Jr. expire next year. Pompeo has previously suggested the show could be nearing its end, so it wouldn’t be completely out of left field for ABC to wrap things here.

In fact, Pompeo believed the show might end with season 17, something she admitted during an interview with Variety.

“We don’t know when the show is really ending yet,” she said. “But the truth is, this year could be it.”

That was before she signed a new deal, allotting her $575,000 per episode. Still, the Grey’s Anatomy star has been vocal about the fact that they’re running out of stories to tell. Pompeo even recently hinted she may quit acting after the series concludes, showing she’s already thinking about the future.

Could the return of Meredith Grey’s mom signal the end of the ABC series? It’s possible, and it would be a compelling reason to bring Burton on board one more time before the series ends.

Grey’s Anatomy Season 18 premieres on ABC on Sept. 30 at 9 p.m. ET.