Derek really is leaving Grey Sloan Memorial.

As we saw in the Grey’s Anatomy winter finale, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) firmly encouraged Derek (Patrick Dempsey) to finally take that position in Washington D.C. after spending months resenting her for not taking it in the first place.

“We end them in a fairly dark place,” executive producer Shonda Rhimes tells EW. “He’s walking away and she’s sort of pushed him out the door. It’s like, you call someone’s bluff and push them out the door. He’s having a hard time, she’s having a hard time with this.”

The closing moments of the finale were juxtaposed to the big breakup between Ellis Grey (Kate Burton) and Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.), which insinuated that Meredith had finally completed the transformation of becoming her cold and heartless mother. “I love the echoes of her mother that are in there and what that means for her. I love the idea that this could possibly mean that for the first time in her life at the hospital, she has neither Cristina [Sandra Oh] nor Derek, and therefore is essentially alone and how she’s going to cope with that. It’s going to be very interesting for her.”

EW has confirmed that the show will not be taking place in both Seattle and Washington, D.C., which means that Derek will be missing in action. “It’s highly possible that we might not see Derek for a while,” Rhimes says, adding that Dempsey is not gone for good by any means. “There will be a time when you see him again, yes, but it’s probable that you won’t see Derek for a while.”

Grey’s Anatomy returns Thursday, Jan. 29 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Grey's Anatomy

Meredith. Alex. Bailey. The doctors are definitely in on Shonda Rhimes' hospital melodrama.

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