‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Keeps Trying to Replace Derek, But It Will Never Work

Grey’s Anatomy wouldn’t be in its 17th season if it didn’t have a strong opening, and while the show remains a massive hit nearly two decades into its run, it still owes a lot to its earliest days.

While the show is, at its core, an ensemble piece about the workers at Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital, it’s really about the titular Meredith Grey. While fans still love the series, many miss a character who hasn’t been on the series in years. 

Paging Dr. Grey

Dozens of characters have come and gone throughout the series’ run, but Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey remains headstrong 17 years into her run on the series. Throughout that time, fans have watched Grey fall in and out of love, watched as her loved ones pass away, cope with the tragedies that come with her job, and manage several difficult personalities both through her doctors and her patients. 

In many ways, it is Grey’s private life that shapes everything else. The show has gotten bigger in scale and made stars out of more than one cast member, but had Grey not been there as the hospital’s backbone, things might have gone much differently.

As a hard-working doctor with little time to waste on love, several men have tried throughout the series’ run, but her original relationship with Derek is still the highlight of her love life. 

‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Meredith and Derek’s wild ride

Patrick Dempsey
Patrick Dempsey | Michael Desmond/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Meredith met Derek through their job. As her married boss, the two tried to keep their relationship professional until a spur-of-the-moment one-night-stand complicated things. However, rather than hiding her feelings, Meredith and Derek eventually come clean after he agrees to leave his wife and start a relationship with Grey.

The relationship had its ups and downs for eleven years, but when Dempsey left the show in season 11, a wrench was put into the whole thing. 

From Chris O’Donnell’s Finn, a rebound after Derek resisted her pleas to Nathan, Finn, and William Thorpe, Meredith has had her ups and downs when it comes to her relationships. Pompeo reflected on this shifting tone, acknowledging that she wanted Grey’s love life to be authentic. 

“I think that a show that runs for as long as Grey’s, the show has had to grow with the characters,” Pompeo told Good Housekeeping. “I’m 15 years older now, so I’m so much stronger a person than I was then. It just evolves,” the actress said (per Good Housekeeping). “The writers get to know you, they watch the dailies and they watch the show. Grey’s is so unique, because we’ve been on the air for so long, they’ve all watched me grow up. Shonda and the writers, we’ve all grown up together.”

Despite Derek’s death and Dempsey’s departure, that initial relationship is still the best the show has had to offer. 

‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Reddit chimes in

Speaking about the men in Meredith’s life, many fans on Reddit spoke about their desire to see her end up with someone like Derek. However, as u/HorseToothGary points out, recreating what once worked doesn’t necessarily make for compelling television.

“Meredith and Derek were too good together. They made the show the hit it was in the beginning. No other combo will ever come close. Patrick Dempsey was just too perfect. It would be like trying to replace Han Solo with Leia. Not possible.”

Meredith has to grapple with loss like everyone else, and while the series has had its hits and misses over 17 years, this helps keep the show fresh. After all, Meredith is the driving force that has allowed Grey’s cast to flourish for as long as it has. With no signs of slowing down, either, perhaps true love still awaits its biggest star.