SPOILER ALERT: The story includes details about the Season 17 premiere of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy.
The two-hour Season 17 premiere of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy ended with a jaw-dropping moment five and a half years in the making. The series’ original male lead Patrick Dempsey made a return, with his character, Derek Shepherd, appearing in a beach dream sequence after Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith collapsed in the Grey Sloan parking lot. The reunion of Grey’s Anatomy’s all-time favorite couple was a joyous culmination of the premiere, which tackled the grim realities of the coronavirus pandemic. After the episode aired, Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff issued a statement addressing the big, while Pompeo discussed it on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. Dempsey joined in with an Instagram post on Friday.
Find out more below and check out Deadline’s exclusive Q&A with Vernoff, Pompeo and Dempsey, in which they share the back story of the big return and answer burning questions from the premiere.
Vernoff was the first to address fans after the season opener aired on the East Coast, posting a gallery with behind-the-scenes photos she had taken of Pompeo and Dempsey during the filming the beach scene. She also spoke of McDreamy’s surprise return.
The most important task we had this season was to honor the reality of this global pandemic and the impact it’s having —particularly on healthcare workers. Along with that we had to come up with creative ways to allow our show to still be fun and romantic and provide some escapism. Enter Patrick Dempsey. The beach motif – which will continue beyond the premiere – provided a way for us to live outside the pandemic even for a little while here and there. And Derek’s return provided pure joy for us, for Meredith, and for the fans. Season 17 has been a Herculean effort by our cast, our crew, our writers, and our partners at Disney and ABC – and we are proud of it. But our effort is nothing compared to the work of our Frontline healthcare workers to whom this season is dedicated. We hope our show inspires you to wear your masks to protect them and each other. As Derek Shepherd would say, ‘It’s a beautiful day to save lives.’
In Instagram posts on Friday, Dempsey and Ellen, who shared matching photos from the beach shoot, urged fans to wear a mask.
In her appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Pompeo spoke about reuniting with Dempsey.
“It was so fun,” she said. “Because we know that people are gonna freak out, and we all know 2020 has been a really long, ugly road. And we were so happy just to be able to film these scenes and know how much joy it was gonna bring people. We definitely had a ball.”
Kimmel touted the magnitude of the plot point.
“Not since McSteamy fractured his penis have seen anything this shocking on the show,” he quipped.
Kimmel also compared Dempsey’s return from the dead to another ABC drama series, which premiered the same season Grey’s Anatomy made it’s debut, saying that Grey’s “dabbled with ‘Lost’ territory” with the twist.
Said Pompeo, “Seventeen seasons. We’ve dabbled in everything there is to dabble.”
Kimmel also grilled Pompeo whether her character Meredith is dead or in a coma. Pompeo stayed mostly mum but a promo for next week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy released after the end of the premiere answers that question. (See it under the video of Pompeo’s JKL appearance.)
— Greys Anatomy (@GreysABC) November 13, 2020