SPOILER ALERT: This story includes details about the March 5 episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
Alex Karev’s 16-year journey on Grey’s Anatomy came to an end tonight. The episode of the ABC medical drama, titled “‘Leave A Light On”, finally explained what happened to Dr. Karev, and it was a shocker.
The episode provided closure not for one but for two characters played by original cast members who had abruptly left the series a decade apart, Justin Chambers, who played Alex Karev, and Katherine Heigl who played his first wife, Izzie Stevens.
Alex and Izzie’s love story seemingly came to an end when cancer survivor Izzie was last seen in Season 6 leaving Seattle after Alex refused to resume their marriage. Alex eventually moved on, marrying Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington).
For the past 10 years Grey’s fans have been clamoring for Izzie to get a proper ending. It was revealed early in the episode tonight that Alex, who also had been last seen leaving Seattle, had gotten back together with Izzie after ten years, leaving many fans in shock and disbelief, which they shared on social media.
The news that the beloved pediatric surgeon had run off to be with Izzie was first disclosed in a letter read by Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo). In another shocking plot twist, it was revealed that Izzie gave birth to twins and Alex is the father!
Alex’s letter provided some context — the rekindling of the old romance had started when Karev reached out to Izzie in an effort to help Meredith when she was in danger of losing her medical license.
Fast forward to Alex now living on a farm in Kansas and raising the kids with Izzie. ‘I’m finally exactly where I should be. I never had that before,” he wrote.
The development somewhat resembles the ending for the main couple on another iconic medical drama, ER’s Doug and Carol, played by George Clooney and Julianna Margulies, who also left the show at different times. There, Carol also had given birth to the couple’s twins unbeknownst to Doug, with the couple eventually reuniting to live happily ever after with their kids.
Alex wrote letters to all his original colleagues, including Grey, Miranda Bailey, and Richard Webber, as well as wife Jo, who he also served with divorce paper at the same time and left her all his shares in Grey Sloan Memorial. In his letter to Jo, he tries to explain his decision to leave her.
“I have a chance to make this family whole, and I just hope you loved me back enough to let me take it,” she read to herself.
At the top of the letter to Jo, Alex took accountability for his abrupt actions and for not breaking up with her face to face. “You’re more than a letter. This right here, this cowardice, this letter, it’s officially the worst thing I’ve ever done,” he acknowledged.
For Alex, it all came down to being there for his 5-year-old children.
“I can’t lie to you and pretend the truth isn’t the truth. That I love you, and I love Izzie,” he wrote. “But If it was just me missing her or nostalgia or whatever, I would have been able to walk away and come back to you. But Izzie had my kids, and I know you get what that really means.”
The episode was filled with flashback scenes, many of them recounting Izzie and Alex’s epic love journey.
In the end, the doctors appeared to come to terms with Alex’s decision. The episode signed off with a voiceover from Meredith saying, “There is really no good way to say goodbye.”
Grey’s Anatomy showrunner and executive producer Krista Vernoff echoed that sentiment in a statement Thursday night.
“It is nearly impossible to say goodbye to Alex Karev,” she said: “That is as true for me and for all of the writers at Grey’s Anatomy as it is for the fans. We have loved writing Alex. And we have loved watching Justin Chambers’ nuanced portrayal of him. For 16 seasons, 16 years, we have grown up alongside Alex Karev. We have been frustrated by his limitations and we have been inspired by his growth and we have come to love him deeply and to think of him as one of our very best friends. We will miss him terribly. And we will always be grateful for his impact, on our show, on our hearts, on our fans, on the world.”
Vernoff did not address the way Alex was sent off.
In conjunction of Grey’s Anatomy farewell to Alex Karev, ABC released an emotional video retrospective of the character online. You can watch it above.
Alex was last seen in Grey’s Anatomy‘s November 14 episode, in which he left the hospital to take care of his sick mother. As Deadline revealed when breaking the news of Chambers’ departure from the show in early January, that had been his last appearance on the series.
Because the exit was so sudden, it took the writers time to craft a proper farewell for the character. There had been dropping clues in recent episodes building toward tonight’s big reveal of his fate. In one episode, Jo (Luddington) told Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) that he had stopped returning her calls and that he was “going through something.” In last week’s episode, Jo went further. Alex “left me,” said. “I think he woke up one day and felt the need to escape his life and me.”
Chambers’ Dr. Alex Karev was introduced in the pilot episode for Grey’s Anatomy as a surgical intern at Seattle Grace Hospital, eventually rising to resident and later becoming a pediatric surgical fellow.
Alex quickly become a fan favorite with his attentive skills in pediatrics and compassionate nature with friends. Initially disliked by his fellow interns because of his brusque and dismissive manner with patients and co-workers, he earned their respect because of his profound skill for his specialty.
After being sacked as department head of pediatric surgery, Alex was hired as Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery at Pacific Northwest General Hospital.
“There’s no good time to say goodbye to a show and character that’s defined so much of my life for the past 15 years,” Chambers said in a statement to Deadline in January. “For some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time.”
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