ellen pompeo as meredith grey in grey's anatomy

Throughout this season-long Grey's Anatomy arc in which Ellen Pompeo's Meredith spent so much of her time laid out in the hospital - at least when she wasn't out spending quality comatose time with long-gone characters like McDreamy and George - fans worried that this might be the medical drama's swan song on ABC. And the multiple stars whose exits have been confirmed throughout the season, as well as all of the guest-spot returns, haven't done much to dissuade such fears. But now, ABC has finally announced its official renewal order for Grey's Anatomy Season 18, with Station 19 also getting renewed for Season 5 at the same time.

Now, just because Grey's Anatomy was renewed for Season 18 doesn't necessarily mean that Ellen Pompeo is coming back as Meredith, right? Of course it does, silly people! Despite spending much of the season giving interviews where she entertained the idea of wrapping up her character's story this season, Pompeo did indeed sign a contract extension to keep Meredith's story going for at least one more year, according to TVLine. It would have been more comforting to see the actress and producer sign on for two more years, but we have to make do with what's there.

Fans can take comfort not only in knowing that Ellen Pompeo will be back for Season 18 (and presumably with a storyline that actually allows her to once again communicate with conscious people on the reg), but that showrunner Krista Vernoff will also be maintaining her position as the Grey's Anatomy boss, as well as the showrunner for the crossover-friendly sister series Station 19 for its new season. Beyond Pompeo, Vernoff was perhaps the other biggest signaler of potential doomsdays, having previously stated she was crafting the end of Season 17 in a way where the finale could serve as both a season-capper and a conclusion for the entire series. Now we know the stakes won't be quite so high when that installment arrives on June 3.

As great as it is to know that Grey's Anatomy and Station 19 are returning for new seasons later this year, that means fans now have to fully consider that Season 18 is going to happen without Jesse Williams' Jackson Avery, with that departure only having recently been made public. Which makes his potentially final on-screen time with former co-star Sarah Drew all the more important. Considering the hit drama already bid a depressing farewell to Giacomo Gianniotti's Andrew DeLuca just in this back half of the season, we can only hope no other major exits are incoming.

That said, now that we know Season 18 is confirmed, that just strengthens our chances of seeing Sandra Oh making a long-awaited return as Cristina Yang, assuming it doesn't happen before the end of this season gets here. That would be even better.

So how will Season 17 close out, and will it lead into any potentially meaningful arcs to start off Season 18? Fans will just have to wait and find out when Grey's Anatomy episodes air Thursday nights on ABC at 9:00 p.m. ET.

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