How 17 Grey's Anatomy characters left the show
Over the years, we've said goodbye to a number of VIPs from the Seattle section of the Shondaverse; some part in sweet sorrow, while others left a less satisfying taste in our mouths.
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 (Isaiah Washington).
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 (Justin Chambers) 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 (Ellen Pompeo) 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 (Sara Ramirez), she literally just walked away from everything.
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.
Dr. Alex Karev (Justin Chambers)
Almost two months after Grey's Anatomy star Justin Chambers' announced he was leaving the show — and almost four months after his last physical appearance on the show — the drama gave his character, Alex Karev, a proper farewell episode. In the hour, Alex wrote letters to Meredith, Jo, Bailey, and Richard, explaining that he'd recently reconnected with Izzie and found out that, five years prior, she used their embryos to have twins. And so, the one-time bad boy decided to move to Kansas and be with Izzie and their two kids, Eli and Alexis.
Dr. Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti)
After joining the show in season 11, Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti) became a staple of the Grey's Anatomy world, even falling for the woman herself, Meredith Grey. But in season 17, his determination to stop a sex trafficker resulted in a shocking stabbing. Although Teddy and Owen (Kevin McKidd) thought they'd saved DeLuca in surgery, things took a turn for the worse, and DeLuca didn't make it out alive. He did, however, get to say a proper goodbye to Meredith on the beach.
Dr. Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams)
After joining the show in season 6 as the hottest of those annoying Mercy West interns, Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) became a beloved character. And when it came time to say goodbye to him in season 17, the show sent him off with a mission: He moved to Boston to run the Harper Avery Foundation in the hopes of making the world a better place. And yes, April (Drew) moved with him. His final episode saw him hand in his resignation to Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and say goodbye to Jo (Camilla Luddington) before busting Meredith (Pompeo) out of the hospital following her COVID stay. He then, simply, drove away.