How 16 Grey's Anatomy characters left the show
Dr. Alex Karev (Justin Chambers)
Justin Chambers' Alex Karev made it halfway into Grey's Anatomy season 16 before his abrupt exit: The actor announced he was leaving the show nearly two months after his final episode aired. In that final episode, Karev is last seen helping Meredith save her medical license at her hearing. In the following episode, it's mentioned that he's returned home to care for his mother.
Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh)
Sandra Oh’s Cristina Yang saw the hospital through 10 seasons — and its countless name changes — before she left “her person” for a top cardiothoracic job in Switzerland. The cosmic perfection of this job is that she inherited it from her former mentor (and former fiancé, Dr. Preston Burke).
Dr. Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington)
Did Isaiah Washington's Burke deserve a little more of a goodbye? Think there’s an argument to be made there, but at least his goodbye was true to his character. Burke would’ve just walked away. Not to mention that his final speech was one of the show’s greatest, and it gave us this moment, another Grey’s classic.
Dr. Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl)
Originally, Katherine Heigl's Izzie walked away after she thought that Alex got her fired, but she later returned to tell him about her new job and to show him she was cancer free. It was a great moment to watch Alex stick up for himself and tell her that he deserved someone who would stay, but it's a bummer that this show made us dislike Izzie toward the end. Izzie's final comment to Meredith about this not being home but just some place she worked? Harsh!
Dr. George O'Malley (T.R. Knight)
Did George deserve to be dragged under a bus? Hell no. But we can understand why they did it, and it did create one of the single most shocking moments in TV history. As much as T.R. Knight's character deserved more, the chills that come during that “007” moment reminds us what a great impact it had. And seeing him in uniform meeting Izzie at the elevator? Love.
Dr. Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith)
Brooke Smith's Hahn was a talented heart surgeon, and yet the thing that drove her away from the hospital was romance? Not great. After Hahn’s “You can’t be kind of a lesbian” speech to Callie, she literally just walked away from everything.
Dr. Teddy Altman (Kim Raver)
Kim Raver's Teddy never fully recovered from losing Henry, but it was hard not to love that she was going to turn down a new job in order to stay with Owen, who was going through Cristina troubles. Instead, Owen decided to put his friend first, and he fired Teddy. There were tears. There was a hug. And Teddy told Owen to fight for Cristina.
Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh)
Addison’s original departure didn’t have much flare, other than the convertible she was driving, but her secondary departure was decidedly improved. After returning to Seattle for the first time post-L.A., she gave Meredith a speech about fighting for Derek that remains one the Kate Walsh character's best moments ever.
Dr. Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh)
Lexie’s death certainly carried an emotional punch, but aside from Mark’s speech, it didn’t sit well. For starters, there wasn’t much of a shock factor because we knew Chyler Leigh was leaving the show, but even putting that aside, her death was a little too violent. There are a number of ways you can kill someone via plane crash. Did she really have to be pinned down and spitting up blood when Mark confessed his love?
Dr. Mark Sloan (Eric Dane)
It sucked to see Mark go, but at least he got an entire episode dedicated to his farewell. We got to spend a little time walking down memory lane, and then we got to cry with Derek and Callie as they sat by his bedside. Plus, we love that they let him wake up and be McSteamy one last time before saying goodbye.
Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey)
Oh, McDreamy: If there's anything worse than losing our beloved Dr. Shepherd to brain injuries from a car crash (after he saved four people from a different car crash), it was listening to Derek's inner thoughts as the surgeons at a teaching hospital slowly, agonizingly fumbled through his care. "You're too late," he said, totally conscious, but unable to speak. This one was a real punch in the gut for us... and for Meredith.
Dr. Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez)
After 10 years at Grey Sloan, Callie unceremoniously left the hospital when her girlfriend Penny (Samantha Sloyan) scored a grant that took her to the East Coast. Ramirez's swan song was initially unclear as the cast was going through contract negotiations, so many fans didn't get closure when she exited.
Dr. Stephanie Edwards (Jerrika Hinton)
At the close of season 13, Stephanie set an escaped rapist patient on fire, causing an explosion that nearly claimed her life. Fortunately, she survived, but subsequently, she called it quits, realizing that she's spent most of her life in the hospital and it was now time to find her own happiness.
Dr. Nathan Riggs (Martin Henderson)
Though Grey's had been flirting with the idea of its most complicated love triangle yet — Riggs' presumed dead fiancée Megan Hunt (Abigail Spencer) was found alive just as his relationship with Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) was heating up — the show did what almost seems like the unthinkable: Riggs actually got a happy ending, moving to Los Angeles with Megan and her adopted son to start fresh.
Dr. April Kepner (Sarah Drew)
Two weeks after a terrible accident almost left her dead, April Kepner bid farewell to the team at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. She was given a far sweeter exit than some of the former Grey's players, as she married her on-and-off love Matthew in a surprise wedding. Jackson, Arizona, and Sofia served as witnesses (after Jo and Alex's pre-planned ceremony fell apart) and then the happy couple rode off into the proverbial sunset.
Dr. Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw)
A part of Seattle Grace/Grey's Memorial since season five, Arizona left the show during the season 14 finale. She moved to New York City, where a reconciliation with ex-wife Callie Torres may or may not be taking place (off-screen, of course). What we do know is that Robbins will finally get to live in the same city as her daughter, Sofia, once again — and the parting shot of the pair heading off to the Big Apple together was as cathartic as fans of Grey's Anatomy can ask for.