The shocking twists and major character deaths are usually left for season finales of Grey’s Anatomy, but How to Save a Life did something different. It was not totally unexpected after the sweet, loving moments between Meredith and Derek two weeks ago, but it was not completely expected. There was hope that the two would survive somehow.
One thing that Grey’s Anatomy handles well is the death of major characters and this week was no different. While Meredith worries about her husband, who she has not heard from since leaving to resign at the White House, he is saving lives after a car accident. The trailer for this week’s episode showed a high speed crash and a car explosion, leaving fans wondering whether Patrick Dempsey was going to say goodbye to Grey’s Anatomy for good.
Many fans argued that he had signed on into the 12th season, if there is one, but that has never stopped character deaths before. It did not stop the death this time. There are not many original cast members left, with Ellen Pompeo, Justin Chambers, James Pickens Jr. and Chandra Wilson left.
Last week, viewers found out that Derek never made his flight. This week, viewers found out why. He was saving a family after a car accident, continually promising that nobody would die. Of course, when anyone says that on Grey’s Anatomy, a death is just around the corner and How to Save a Life did just that.
Just when it looked like everyone would be safe, a truck came in and crashed into Derek. It was partially his own fault. He stopped in the middle of the road to check his phone, rather than waiting until he crossed.
In a twist, the truck did not kill him instantly. An ambulance got him to the hospital, where he was surrounded by poorly trained doctors. Poor Derek even realized that he would not get the treatment he would need because the doctors were not properly trained. If only he had gotten to Grey-Sloan Memorial, like Callie had after her car accident that led to the epic musical episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
It will be interesting to see how Meredith and the rest of the doctors at Grey-Sloan Memorial will deal with all this. Meredith was seen towards the end of the episode and there was at least a tearful goodbye. At least Meredith and Derek got the goodbye that Lexie and Mark got during the season eight finale.
One of the most moving moments of the whole episode was seeing Pompeo’s range of emotions. Meredith goes through many stages that families go through when she has to give the bad news. She had the anger, the resignation when she realized there was nothing she could do, and the compassion she had for the young doctor who had failed to save her husband. There was also the moment on the deathbed, when Meredith told Derek to stop hanging on; that they would be fine; that it would be okay leaving his wife and two small children behind.
Season 11 has been Derek light, but there was always hope that he would return and things would go back to normal. Fans will have mixed emotions, just like they did with the plane crash and the decision to kill off Lexie and Mark, but there will be others who see it as a necessary decision to help move characters on. How to Save a Life has certainly hinted that this could be the end for Grey’s Anatomy by killing off another main character.
Opinion by Alexandria Ingham