How Derek Shepherd Returned To Grey's Anatomy

grey's anatomy derek

Last night's episode of Grey's Anatomy was pretty crazypants. Instead of a larger story within the hospital and its residents, we were given a capsule episode that focused on one surgery. The episode, titled after the Hamilton song "The Room Where It Happens", saw Meredith, Owen, Edwards, and Richard attempt to save a patient whose body was trying to kill itself. We were told that all of the surgeons are overworked and overtired, leading them to see visions of their past while attempting to save a life. It was stylistically unique, shed a light into each of the character's backstories, and showed the best of what Grey's Anatomy has to offer. But then they really dropped the mic.

The final moments of the episode featured Meredith scrubbing out of the marathon surgery. At the sinks, she looks over and sees none other than Derek Shepherd scrubbing in. He smiled that McDreamy smile, said hello to his wife, and TV audiences collectively sighed. For one brief moment Derek was back on the show, before reality set back in and this vision ceased.

Before you get too excited, it's important to note that Patrick Dempsey didn't return for a new episode. According to Hollywood Life, the footage of Derek was actually from a Season 2 episode, when Addison had come onto the show and stolen McDreamy back from Meredith. A clever use of CGI put this memory into the newest episode, and we watched as Meredith remembered he was gone all over again.

Derek's return to the series was a jaw dropping way to end the episode, and cemented "The Room Where It Happens" as the best episode of Season 13 thus far. The episode challenged itself, gave us a deeper understanding of four main characters, paced itself superbly. And then there's the McDreamy factor.

The newest episode also gave us a different perspective of Derek's death in Season 11. Once it was revealed that the John Doe had a family who was in the hospital, we were transported back to the day McDreamy died. While we originally saw Meredith's reaction, we weren't shown how she told their children that Derek was gone forever. Meredith's vision of telling Zola and Derek Jr. was truly heartbreaking, once again proving why Meredith is the lead character. Ellen Pompeo's performance was nuanced and complicated, despite Derek's death happening years ago and having to work with child actors.

You can watch the scene in question below.

It should be interesting to see if the revelations made in last night's episode affect the characters moving forward. Initial reports indicated that Season 13 would focus on the remaining original cast members- Meredith, Bailey, Alex, and Richard. But with Owen and Edwards both having breakthroughs last night (we finally saw Owen's sister!), perhaps Season 13 will be the ensemble piece we're used to watching every week.

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays on ABC.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.