Grey's Anatomy shocked fans everywhere with the death of Dr. Derek Shepherd back in Season 11. Patrick Dempsey was such a key member of the cast for such a long time that it's been hard to imagine the rest of the show without him. The show may be called Grey's Anatomy, but Derek was nearly as important a character as Meredith during the first eleven seasons. Now, Dempsey has weighed in on a possible return to Grey's. Dempsey said this about a return to the medical drama:
People keep asking me to come back to life and come back to the show. I think, unfortunately, he has passed.
Fans who have been missing that extra dose of dreaminess courtesy of Derek Shepherd will undoubtedly be bummed by Patrick Dempsey's reveal that the character is probably not coming back. Still, it's not a huge surprise. Grey's Anatomy has found ways to bring characters back to the land of the living, but Derek was super dead in Season 11. He lost brain function before Meredith finally made the decision to pull the plug, and he had a funeral. The show didn't exactly leave wiggle room about whether or not he could come back as a living character.
Grey's Anatomy has brought back characters in other ways after their deaths. Flashbacks have worked to raise the emotional stakes and reintroduce familiar faces that have passed away, and the show infamously brought back a character as a ghost/hallucination who was actually a symptom of a brain tumor. Grey's certainly couldn't pull a Denny 2.0 and bring back Derek that way. We can hope that Patrick Dempsey didn't entirely close the door on ever returning to the show. His reveal that Derek is as dead as ever in his chat with Cosmopolitan UK didn't rule out a cameo or guest appearance in the future. We can hope, right?
Of course, there is the question of how willing Patrick Dempsey might be to show up on Grey's Anatomy once more. He doesn't seem to have left the show with nearly as much bad blood as Katherine Heigl did, but Derek was killed off before Dempsey's contract officially expired. Dempsey had expressed that he was ready to move on from the show, and he didn't seem too heartbroken at leaving the series behind. Shonda Rhimes has explained that Derek had to die because the only other option was splitting him from Meredith; now that Meredith is trying to move on, it might actually be counterproductive to bring Dempsey back and remind fans of the dynamic that was lost with McDreamy's death.
Only time will tell if Patrick Dempsey ever returns to Grey's Anatomy in any capacity. It's encouraging to know that Dempsey doesn't want the show to pull a completely implausible switcheroo and bring Derek back to life, and it doesn't mean that we'll never get another glimpse of Derek. That's what flashbacks are for.
Grey's Anatomy returns to ABC for Season 13 on Thursday, September 22 at 8 p.m. ET. Check out our fall TV premiere schedule to see when your other favorite shows will be back on the airwaves in the near future.