Wait, How Many Times Has Shonda Rhimes Written The Ending To Grey’s Anatomy?

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(Image credit: ABC)

Even if you’re not the biggest Grey’s Anatomy fan, it would be basically impossible to doubt that the medical drama is one of the biggest shows to ever grace our TV screens. The show debuted in late March of 2005 as a mid-season replacement, and became a nearly instant hit / cultural phenomenon. Now, 18 very impressive seasons in, series creator Shonda Rhimes has admitted to the surprising number of times that she attempted to write the Grey’s Anatomy ending: eight!

While Grey’s is still going strong on ABC after nearly innumerable cast changes and storylines that have saddened, rocked and disappointed its viewers, Shonda Rhimes herself handed total creative control over to Krista Vernoff, one of the series’ original writers who’s now acted as showrunner since Season 14. But, not only did Rhimes steer the ship for many years, she still has control over when Grey’s Anatomy ends. When asked by Variety how the show might make its swan song, though, Rhimes said:

I’ve written the end of that series, I want to say, a good eight times. I was like, ‘And that will be the end!’ Or, ‘That’ll be the final thing that’s ever said or done!’ And all of those things have already happened. So I give up on that, you know what I mean?

Well, this is the problem with a drama like Grey’s, I imagine. Even though the series is still very focused on Meredith Grey’s near-death experiences, triumphs and coma recovery, all of the main players could change at any time and the show can, technically, still go on. So, it makes total sense that Rhimes would come up with so many potential endings for the hit (which became the longest-running American primetime medical drama by the end of February, 2019), only to find a use for them on screen and then have the good doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital keep on keepin’ on.

Actually, when you really think about how long Grey’s Anatomy has been on the air, and how many things have happened over the course of almost 18 full seasons, it’s almost a remarkable show of restraint on Rhimes’ part to have only tried to come up with the finale about eight times. She admitted to something similar back in 2018, so it seems that her mind hasn’t quite been able to stop thinking over the problem, which just goes to show how emotionally invested she continues to be, and that’s probably a good thing for viewers. 

Of course, all of this is important because, as Grey’s Anatomy continues to get even longer in the tooth, (and as the show is now down to only three original players remaining), longtime fans have been questioning how much longer it will go on, and noticed star Ellen Pompeo’s recent caginess on when she’d like to move on from this Meredith-based time in her career. It sounds like all we can really hope for is that the current showrunner at least asks for some input on the Grey’s Anatomy ending from Shonda Rhimes when the time finally comes. It sounds like she’s very good at coming up with ideas.

Grey’s Anatomy continues in Season 18 on ABC, Thursdays at 9 p.m. EST, but for more to watch right now, check out our 2021 fall TV schedule

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Yennefer's apprentice, Gilmore Girl; will Vulcan nerve pinch pretty much anyone if prompted with cheese...Yes, even Jamie Fraser.