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Grey's Anatomy: How the finale echoed the season 1 surprise

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ABC; Mitch Haaseth/ABC

Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy. Read at your own risk.

Grey’s Anatomy‘s season 13 finale ended in familiar territory.

During Thursday’s episode, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) broke the news to Riggs (Martin Henderson) that Owen’s (Kevin McKidd) presumed-dead sister Megan (Bridget Regan), with whom Riggs had a romantic relationship, was found alive 10 years after her helicopter crashed.

In some ways, the moment recalls the first season finale, in which Meredith and Derek (Patrick Dempsey) were about to take the next step in their relationship when Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) made her memorable debut as Derek’s ex-wife, immediately wedging herself between the epic romance that eventually became MerDer.

Now, in no way are we comparing the love between Meredith and Derek to this new relationship between Meredith and Riggs. The comparison stems from the fact that, in both cases, Meredith had only just opened herself up to love when a woman came between them, sending Meredith several steps back in her progression.

These are also two wildly different situations. Addison came back into Derek’s life seeking redemption after straying from her marriage. She was ultimately grasping at straws, holding onto a relationship that clearly didn’t work anymore, but proved to be a good foil for MerDer. Her entrance was the road block needed to slow down their forward momentum, allowing Grey’s Anatomy to find new and inventive ways to keep the show’s main romance from getting stale.

The same could be said for Meredith and Riggs. Sure, their romance has been very slow going as Meredith took baby steps toward being comfortable with opening herself up to sharing her life with someone else after the tragic loss of her husband. Now, here’s a new wrinkle that will slow this relationship down, though probably not stop it altogether.

Look to the moment Meredith revealed the news, handled pitch perfectly, as proof: Mer recalled a conversation she and Riggs shared earlier in the season about dreams they’ve had involving their respective deceased partners showing back up alive. In Riggs’ case, the dream really did come true, and he’s quick to rush off to Megan’s side. In a show of growth for Meredith, she’s not angry. Far from it, in fact. She delivers the news delicately because she clearly cares about Riggs. Meredith is immediately supportive, stepping aside knowing he’d do the exact same thing if it was Derek who had reappeared.

However, as Riggs drove off, one can’t help but wonder how Meredith really feels about the situation. While it looks like Meredith may be back to square one, certainly her feelings won’t go away — and surely neither will Riggs’ — which makes for a new kind of love triangle that should be very emotional for all involved. Unlike how Meredith handled this situation last time — pushing Derek further away and basing everything in anger — what happens moving forward should be a breath of fresh air for the series, showcasing Meredith’s growth as she likely continues to support Riggs as he deals with the fallout of Megan’s return.

Megan’s resurrection should also provide a wealth of drama between Owen and Riggs next season. According to Owen, Megan only got on that helicopter because he implored her to leave after learning that Riggs had been cheating on her. Does she even still want to be with Riggs after all these years? Does she hold the events of the last 10 years against Owen for telling her to get on the chopper? Both men will surely go into this reunion with caution. We’ve already seen Owen’s regret at having moved on with his life while Megan was held captive, and Riggs likely will have some similar regrets.

This isn’t even taking into consideration what Megan has been through over the last 10 years while being held captive by rebels in a basement — if we thought Owen’s PTSD was rough, we may see an even more emotional take next season should the show really delve head-first into her story. Honestly, the Shondaland powers that be would be remiss not to use the very talented Regan as much as possible next season.

Grey’s Anatomy will return Thursdays this fall on ABC.