By Natalie Abrams
February 10, 2016 at 12:00 PM EST
Mitchell Haaseth/ABC
  • TV Show

She’s survived a drowning, a hospital shooter, a plane crash, and myriad other maladies, but when Grey’s Anatomy returns on Thursday, Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) will face one of her toughest challenges yet when she’s brutally attacked by a patient.

“I’m super excited for the fans to see [episode] 1209,” Pompeo previously told EW ahead of the reveal of Meredith’s attack. “It’s for sure the [best] thing I’ve ever done on the show.”

The harrowing midseason return is helmed by two-time Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington. “Let’s just say I’m a huge fan,” Pompeo says. “It’s a total dream come true. I’m such a fan of his as an actor. I did love his movies also, loved Antwone Fisher.”

RELATED: The Evolution of Meredith Grey

“We’ve never had anybody of his caliber come and direct our show ever,” the actress continues. “His charisma, he changes the energy in the room completely. Everybody is just at the top of their game. We don’t get a lot of actors of his caliber — there’s no actor of his caliber really; he’s in a league all of his own, for sure — who are going to come in and bring his energy to it. The fact that he’s not coming from TV, the fact that he’s coming from film, he has such a level of intelligence with his storytelling, and the way he sees the story to tell it. He’s not going by a formula. He’s not going by what we normally do. He’s not going by what he knows the show to be. It’s a completely independent artistic experience for him. That was so needed and so refreshing 12 seasons in.”

For her part, executive producer Shonda Rhimes calls the midseason return “extraordinary and very, very powerful,” noting that the hour “puts us on a path for the beginning of the second half of the season” when it comes to Meredith’s evolution. More on that here.

Grey’s Anatomy returns Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. In the meantime, watch the aftermath of Meredith’s attack here.

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