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S11 E21
April 27, 2015 at 02:47 AM EDT

Meredith takes her kids to the hospital, where she finds out that Derek is brain dead. Yes, the neurosurgeon is brain dead. Great irony, Grey’s! (Typed while rolling my eyes. I’m not bitter about this, not at all.)

She goes outside, where the doctor who made some bad decisions about his care is sitting. That doctor goes up to Mer and apologizes: “It was my job to save him and I failed. And now he’s going to die, because I was not a good enough doctor to keep him alive.”

First of all, it’s selfish as hell to go up to a woman who’s about to lose her husband and say that. Second of all, what’s Meredith supposed to say? “It’s okay!”?

Meredith, despite being in shock, gives this doctor the best response she could hope for. “You’re right. You did fail. You weren’t good enough,” Meredith starts before reminding her that tomorrow is another day. “So learn from this, better yourself, and you will be better for next time.”

The whole speech is powerful and tense, and ends with Mer giving the doctor some extra-tough tough love. “You don’t get to waste what would have been the rest of my husband’s life being a quitter,” she says. “So get back inside, because you’re not saving any lives out here.” And then… she throws up in the bushes. Honestly, I’m a little surprised she didn’t vomit sooner.

After that, Meredith goes inside to pull the plug on her husband. Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars,” a song that’s been featured in the show multiple times, starts playing. “Derek,” Meredith whispers. “It’s okay. You go. We’ll be fine.”

A montage of their happy moments together plays, and eventually we return to the hospital room where the nurse asks if Meredith is ready. “No,” she responds. “But go ahead.” And with that, Derek is gone.

Was this a good episode? Not particularly. And, frankly, I’m upset about that. Derek has been with the show from the very beginning. Season one, episode one, minute one, Derek was there. Cristina was here from the beginning too, but she got a wonderful exit: She said her goodbyes, danced it out with Meredith, and moved on to greener pastures. But Derek? All Derek got was a shitty group of doctors who couldn’t figure out how to save him.

This season has been a big one for his relationship with Meredith. They’ve fought and made up and done long distance and realized that they want to spend the rest of their lives together. Two weeks ago, he was telling her how much he loved her and to wait for him—he’d be right back. In hindsight (and, to be honest, at the time), that moment was just too obviously foreshadowing to be viewed as anything but a sign of bad things to come. That’s how most of this episode felt, too. Basically every word exchanged while Derek was helping the car crash victims was a blatant signal that everything wasn’t going to be okay. Example: Derek at one point says, “No one’s going to die.” There’s a thin line between clever foreshadowing and the obnoxious kind, and this episode definitely leaned toward the obnoxious side.

Despite my annoyance with the episode itself, I still bawled when the police showed up at Meredith’s house. I still sobbed when “Chasing Cars” came on. I did that not because the writing was so strong (it wasn’t) or the story was so powerful (it wasn’t), but because I’ve known Derek Shepherd for 10 years.

Sticking with a show for 10 years requires a certain commitment, a certain attachment to its characters. And the magic of Grey’s is that its characters made committing to the show almost irresistible. Sure, it has its weak moments, and there are still characters I wish didn’t exist, but every so often, Meredith or Derek or Webber will have a moment that reminds me why I keep watching, why I never stopped—so watching one of those characters die hurts. It really, really hurts.

Shonda Rhimes’ Twitter bio says, “Remember, it’s not real, okay?” She’s right; it’s not. But the emotions I’m feeling—the emotions a lot of us are feeling—prove the power of the characters she’s created over the years. I can logically know it’s not real, but that’s not going to stop me from mourning for a bit.

The season’s not over, so what’s to come is probably going to be lots of grieving—and maybe a return of Dark and Twisty Meredith. But, for now, let’s remember Shepherd in all his dreamy, dreamy glory. Grey’s will never be the same without you, McDreamy. We’ll miss you.

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