Spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen last night’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, “How to Save a Life,” or somehow didn’t read the dozens of spoilery headlines across the Internet.
Last night, Shonda Rhimes and Grey’s Anatomy gave fans something of a huge shock by killing off mainstay character Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd, following weeks of the most morbid form of “will they/won’t they” possible. Those who have been paying attention to the behind-the-scenes drama knew that Patrick Dempsey probably wasn’t going to be around much longer, but his death-by-18-wheeler was still a surprise, and one that Dempsey seems to be handling quite well.
The actor spoke with EW prior to the episode’s airing, where he was asked about having just signed a two-year extension for Grey’s Anatomy last year. Here’s his carefully worded explanation for the change in direction.
It just sort of evolved. It just kind of happened. It really was something that was kind of surprising that unfolded, and it just naturally came to be. Which was pretty good. I like the way it has all played out.
The way it “all played out” basically took Derek out of the show for chunks at a time, giving him a potentially adulterous storyline that preceded his “what happened to Derek?” arc that we’ve dealt with for the past few episodes. So the only reason Dempsey would “like” that is if he wanted out of everything already. And from recent reports that his on-set behavior ran contradictory to how Shonda Rhimes wanted things, it doesn’t seem like he thought he’d be sticking around for years to come.
One big clue on that front is that Rhimes wrote the episode herself, her first since the Season 8 finale, “Flight.” And it doesn’t seem like Derek’s death was something that was planned far in advance, as evidenced by Dempsey’s response when asked when he found out he was being written off.
Things happened very quickly, where we were like, ‘Oh, this is where it’s going to go.’ It just sort of unfolded in a very organic way. I don’t remember the date. It was not in the fall. Maybe February or March. It happened very quickly.
He goes on to say he wasn’t surprised to find that it was happening, which again feeds into the fact that he must have been at least part of the driving force behind it in some way. Most people who are completely happy with their jobs show some kind of strong emotions once it all turns sour, but Dempsey has been as cool and quiet as a cucumber.
Perhaps we’ll get some kind of a long tell-all in the next few years, after the dust has settled from Derek’s car getting plowed. But for now, Patrick Dempsey likes it as is.