‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Missed an Opportunity for a Fascinating Storyline When It (Sort of) Brought Izzie Back

During the early days of Grey’s Anatomy, Katherine Heigl’s Izzie and Justin Chambers’ Alex were one of the show’s ultimate ‘will they, won’t they’ couples.

The on-again, off-again romance between the two got heated several times before Heigl’s famous departure from the series. However, when Chambers left the show after 16 years, creators were forced to tie up another storyline without a satisfying ending. 

‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Karev’s time at Seattle Grace

When Alex Karev was introduced in Grey’s Anatomy, he was a frat boy whose indifference to the others made him loathsome and childish. However, as the series went on, we saw that Karev was a good-hearted person whose behavior could be explained away by a life filled with hardships and heartbreak.

As his Fandom page covers, Dr. Karev went from an embattled young adult to a married, middle-aged man who found out he was the father of Izzie’s children. While Chambers provided a voiceover for his character’s departure, all of this played out through a letter that he wrote his wife explaining why he left her and moved away. 

The ending did not sit well with fans. 

‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Farewell, Karev

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Fans like Reddit user u/pinkrabbit12 saw this plot thread as another tedious example of the long-running show failing to connect loose ends and bring back characters who, off-screen issues aside, would likely return for their friends’ major life events. Instead, they saw Alex’s decision to move away as an intriguing plot point that creators handled off-screen instead of setting the stage for what they got. 

“The whole plot of Alex leaving. H is so frustratingly dumb. You found out you have some kids, so you have to stay in Kansas forever starting right that second and can’t come home and deal with it like a decent human? Ugh,” they wrote.

U/sucksfor_you agreed, although they acknowledged the hardships that would have made a satisfying finale hard to get. 

“The thing that [messed] me up too is that Izzie thawing out those Alex-pops and having some random kids would’ve been such an interesting storyline to actually play out. Mostly because it’s a supremely [messed] up thing to do without Alex’s knowledge, which gets glossed over,” they wrote.

It’s true. While a perfect world allows every character to come back in a way that best feeds the story, sometimes off-camera drama causes the creators to think less about how it makes sense to the plot and how they have to adjust the series whatever curveballs life throws this way. 

It’s something that they take quite seriously, and showrunner Krista Vernoff recently addressed it. 

Doctors leave the building

Katherine Heigl as Izzie Stevens
Katherine Heigl as Izzie Stevens | Scott Garfield/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Karev was obviously an essential part of the series. Sixteen years are hard to write away regardless of who it is. However, Justin Chambers’ swift departure meant that the Karev’s exit could not get the same treatment past characters may have gotten. In a perfect world, a season-long arc could have ended with Katherine Heigl returning as Izzie and telling him that he had kids. However, with neither side onboard, that was not possible. 

With Chambers gone, Vernoff saw two equally challenging choices. 

“I believe that there would’ve been at least as big an outcry if we had killed that character off-camera, and those were our choices. It was kill the character off-camera, or come up with some believable way that he gets his happily ever after,” Vernoff told Deadline.

It’s true. Heigl’s departure from the series was less-than-amicable, and while Chambers’ departure remains shrouded in mystery, the swiftness implies that something was brewing behind the scenes. The series has brought previously embattled actors back in the past, and Chambers may be another example. However, given the situation that Chambers handed the show’s creators, a satisfying ending for Karev was never in the cards.