It was touch and go for a while, but it looks like Richard Webber is in the clear.
After weeks of worrying about Richard's health, Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 21 -- an impromptu season finale revealed that the character was suffering from cobalt poisoning.
Link performed surgery that seemingly saved Richard's life, but this being Grey's Anatomy, fans are still worried about his fate.
In an interview with Deadline following the airing of the finale, showrunner Krista Vernoff opened up about whether the role played by James Pickens Jr. was safe.
"Yes," she said, adding:
"and I thought that that was one of the most amazing things about this diagnosis, was that the cobalt poisoning thing is real and it really can cause all of those symptoms."
"It can cause dementia-like symptoms. It can cause Parkinson's-like symptoms – tremors, hallucinations – and the amazing thing about it is that once you diagnose it, and you get the leaky hip out of your body, you can recover, totally."
"That felt, just as the storyteller, an amazing thing because it let us give Jim Pickens this really rich, rich material, without us having to permanently disable his character."
"I think that that was an amazing ride for the fans, because the outcry of [us] showing symptoms that don't feel like they have cures."
Pickens Jr. is one of few remaining original series regulars on the venerable ABC drama, so losing him would be a big blow, especially given that fans are still struggling to say goodbye to Justin Chambers' Alex.
But Vernoff said the pay-off to the Richard storyline was "satisfying" because fans were so invested in the character.
"There's not really a cure for Parkinson's. There's not a cure for Alzheimer's," she explained.
"So I know everyone was in a panic, and so, we got to tell this really satisfying story, and we got to let people know that sometimes, there's another diagnosis for those symptoms – which we found fascinating, as a group of writers who write medicine, that it's so rare to see something this satisfying."
Knowing Richard was in the clear is probably a breath of fresh air for fans following those reports that someone was slated to die in the now-scrapped season finale.
Grey's Anatomy produced 21 of 25 episodes this season because the series was shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.