Grey's Anatomy Needs to Figure Out a Better Way of Writing Off Characters

at .

Whenever it's announced that an actor is departing Grey's Anatomy, it's natural to wonder what horrific death will get written for their character.

Perhaps we don't need to worry about characters dying so much anymore because, lately, Grey's has been letting them live and find life beyond Grey Sloan. 

Nathan, April, Arizona, and Alex were written off in ways the show seemed to consider happy endings.

Reunited Grey's Couples - Grey's Anatomy

Besides not killing the character off, those happy endings all involved the departing character getting back together with their ex-lover.   

These "happy endings" make me wish Grey's Anatomy would go back to killing off its main characters.

It's would be one thing if Grey's Anatomy wrote a reunite with an ex-lover exit for one character, but now they've tried to pull off this trick multiple times to diminishing results.

Besides being repetitive, this type of ending doesn't do the departing character justice.

It kind of worked for Nathan to reunite with Megan, but the reasons why it kind of worked were unique to his character and his storyline. 

Dashing Doc - Grey's Anatomy Season 13 Episode 14

For one thing, Nathan's tenure at Grey Sloan was pretty short. He debuted on Grey's Anatomy Season 12 Episode 6, and his last appearance was on Grey's Season 14 Episode 5.  He didn't have the time to grow and change the way characters with longer runs do.

Megan was always part of his storyline, so from that perspective, it made sense the two of them would wind up together. 

Even so, it was not a completely satisfying way to write out Nathan because Meredith was the real force behind pushing the couple back together.  The plotting carried a cynical subtext of the writers shooing out a character as fast as possible.

A similar subtext clouded the departure of April Kepner.

April's last episode, Grey's Anatomy Season 14 Episode 24, featured her getting married to Matthew, the guy she left at the altar to run away with Jackson back on Grey's Anatomy Season 10 Episode 13.

Roadside Engagement  - Grey's Anatomy Season 10 Episode 13

Instead of April marrying Matthew being a grand, romantic moment, it came off as giving April a consolation prize before she rides into the sunset. 

April didn't marry Matthew the first time because he represented everything April thought she wanted but didn't actually want. Her decision to leave Matthew at the altar was disrespectful, but it wasn't the wrong choice.   

Grey's Anatomy subsequently choosing to marry April off to Matthew invalidates her journey. It feels like Grey's Anatomy was saying April should have married Matthew all along and everything she suffered after leaving him at the altar was because she chose Jackson over Matthew.

The show did try to mitigate this harsh implication because they had April and Matthew reconnect after each of them went through major tragedies and explained they got back together after understanding each other better than they did before.

The problem with this explanation is the show told us instead of showing it. Seeing more of it play out onscreen would have made the new April and Matthew dynamic more believable and the end of April’s onscreen story more satisfying.

Mapril 2.0 - Grey's Anatomy Season 14 Episode 24

The flaw of telling instead of showing also marred Arizona’s departure and her implied reconciliation with Callie. 

Arizona and Callie had one of the nastiest splits featured on Grey’s Anatomy. Their downward spiral included infidelity and a no holds bars custody battle on Grey's Anatomy Season 12 Episode 22.

Additionally, Callie moved on to have a relationship with Penny, a relationship she moved across the country to continue. 

After all the hurt Arizona and Callie put each other through, we’re expected to believe a few text messages and a pep talk from Richard and April is enough for Arizona to consider getting back together with Callie a good idea.

Giving out the crumbs of a story is not a substitute for actually telling a story, and why did Grey's Anatomy feel the need to tack on a romantic component to Arizona's ending when it wasn't logistically possible to tell it properly or necessary?

Arizona gasps  - Grey's Anatomy

Grey's Anatomy characters tend to value their professions more than their romantic lives. Having Arizona co-run a women's clinic with Dr. Herman is a happy ending on its own. Arizona didn't need to be with Callie to live happily ever after.

At least Arizona was able to leave Seattle with her characterization intact. The same cannot be said about Alex's exit, which Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 16 detailed. 

Yes, behind the scenes realities hindered Grey's Anatomy's abilities to write a farewell for Alex. Those factors do not justify character assassination.

Alex transformed himself into one of TV's most loyal characters. Him abandoning Jo for Izzie -- kids or no kids -- was completely out of character. It made him, someone known for brutal honesty, a liar because he repeatedly said he was not carrying a torch for Izzie and loved Jo.

The Alex leaves Jo for Izzie ending also reeks of Grey's rewriting its history to make Alex and Izzie a love story for the ages when it wasn't. Those two, mostly Alex to Izzie, treated each other horribly most of the time.  

Alex holding Izzie's photo - Grey's Anatomy Season 1 Episode 4

There were other ways to write out Alex without tarnishing his character, such as having Alex continue to run Pac-North offscreen. Probably the biggest argument against this is it limits storylines for Jo.

This is a weak argument because Jo has gotten storylines independent of her relationship with Alex, and Grey's Anatomy needs to overcome its weakness of losing interest in main characters who aren't sleeping with another main character.

The best exit written for a Grey's Anatomy character was Cristina's. In the lead up to her leaving, Cristina saw her ex-fiancee, Dr. Burke on Grey's Anatomy Season 10 Episode 22.

The episode completely sunk the idea of Cristina and Burke becoming a couple again. It recognized the two of them became stronger, different, better people after the dissolution of their relationship.

Grey's Anatomy should have remembered this when they were crafting exits for Nathan, April, Arizona, and Alex instead of forcing them into fantasy endings with ex-lovers and undermining his or her character growth.

Backing Mer- Tall  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 8

The characters deserve better and so does the audience. 

Over to you, TV Fanatics!

Are you tired of Grey's Anatomy reuniting departing characters with their long lost ex-lover?

What would be a better way of writing off characters?

Hit the comments below.

You can watch Grey's Anatomy online at TV Fanatic. 

Becca Newton is a staff writer for TV Fanatic.

Show Comments
Tags: ,

Grey's Anatomy Quotes

MEREDITH: "You don't get to call me a whore. When I met you, I thought I had found the person that I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I was done! All the boys and all the bars and all the obvious daddy issues, who cares? I was done. You left me. You chose Addison. I'm all glued back together now. I make no apologies for how I chose to repair what you broke. You don't get to call me a whore."
DEREK: "This thing with us is finished. It's over."
MEREDITH: "Finally."
DEREK: "Yeah, it's done."
MEREDITH: "It is done."

Arizona: Oh my God! I mean, I understand why you're into her. She's hot. Wait, she likes you?
Nathan: What? I mean, I'm going to try not to be offended at that.
Arizona: No, no, no. It's just that Derek was, Derek was epic for her. They were the great love story. I mean, that girl's heart beat for Derek Shepherd. It just, it never occurred to me that she would ever be with anyone else. He was perfect. He was everything. That man turned her world. It, I spooked you. Don't be spooked.