There hasn’t been an American medical series to run as long as Grey’s Anatomy, which has been renewed for its 19th season. Debuting in 2005, Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey has faced everything from medical disasters to near-fatal accidents and a number of personal tragedies.
The series has had many near misses for when it could have ended, ranging from Meredith gaining a happy outlook when things worked out in her relationship with Derek to when the doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial got their lives in order. There have been more than several times that the drama series could have closed its doors to send fans home happy, and it’s worth looking into how Grey’s Anatomy might have looked if it had gone that way.
When The Original Interns Became Attendings
The show started out about the group of interns looking to work their way up the hospital’s ranks. Although Grey’s Anatomy’s first season hasn’t aged well in terms of the characters’ friendships, many fans still consider Meredith, Cristina, Alex, George, and Izzie as the original protagonists.
They were promoted to residents by the end of the fourth season before becoming attendings by the eighth season’s finale. It would have been the best time to conclude things there because their struggles around the hospital were finally validated. Moreover, Grey’s Anatomy’s initial premise of the characters establishing themselves as full-on doctors was completed by then.
When Meredith Returned From Limbo
It’s been perfectly clear for a while that Grey’s Anatomy can’t continue without Meredith since she’s the center of the series. But what the show could have done was to use the arc of her supposed death to make her life worth living. It nearly happened in the third season when Meredith was said to have drowned.
After meeting Denny in limbo and making peace with her mother when the latter died, Meredith had the closure she needed. The series could have ended with Meredith returning to life with newfound appreciation that enabled her to embrace who she was, thus finishing up the main character’s story.
When Meredith And Derek Definitively Got Back Together
The fourth season’s finale had no cliffhangers and featured all Grey’s Anatomy characters overcoming the misunderstandings that had plagued them previously. Meredith decided to go all-in with her feelings for Derek and asked him to get back together in a grand gesture on the property that Derek owned.
The pair put their problems behind to definitively become a couple, which remained intact until Derek’s death, meaning this really was it. The show could have come to a close with the couple now firmly as each other’s romantic partners to leave fans with a happy ending.
When Mercy West Merged With Seattle Grace
It appeared as if the show didn’t have any stories to tell with the characters at Seattle Grace anymore, as rival hospital Mercy West was merged with it to add in new cast members. However, it was a chance for Grey’s Anatomy to end things if the showrunners wanted to go that way.
The merger saw some characters being let go, while the roles of the existing staff also changed. It was an angle that could have been structured to show that life goes on and that Meredith’s group would face this new challenge with the experiences they had at Seattle Grace.
When Meredith Moved On From Derek’s Death
The eleventh season’s main arc was about Meredith dealing with Derek’s death, which she was able to overcome by the finale. Here, Richard and Catherine were married and all the main characters were in attendance, with Meredith dancing it out with Amelia and Maggie.
The shot of Meredith regaining her happiness after a torrid struggle would have been a good way to leave things since it implied that she now knew how to manage to be a mother and a doctor. Everyone else was also at a happy place at the time, so all stories were wrapped up neatly.
When Cristina Left The Hospital
Cristina’s departure was significant because she and Meredith were the primary friendship duo for Grey’s Anatomy. In addition, Cristina represented the drive to succeed, while Meredith’s role was to bring focus on the relationship-based material – the two balanced the show’s premise this way.
With Cristina leaving, Grey’s Anatomy had the chance to split the friends but have them assure one another that they would be fine because their bond had prepared them for this moment. There were enough implications that Meredith would be happy with Derek while Cristina would find success abroad for the series to come to a close.
When Alex And Jo Got Married
Alex and Jo were a romance Grey’s Anatomy fans didn’t see coming in their first season together, but they ended up becoming one of the more popular couples. The fourteenth season ended on a happy note with Meredith officiating the pair’s wedding, while April also reunited with Matthew.
There was also a heavy implication that Arizona would get back together with Callie when she left Seattle, and it was a time when the remaining characters were happy in their lives as well. The final shot of Alex and Jo’s wedding was a perfect moment that fans would have remembered as the ending of the story onscreen but the beginning of the next phase in the characters’ lives.
When Meredith Won The Harper Avery Award
Meredith became more focused on her career after she sorted out her personal life following Derek’s demise and the result of her efforts was eventually shown. Meredith ended up winning the Harper Avery award, which has been shown as the most prestigious to win for doctors.
Meredith’s victory validated her long journey to success while proving she could do whatever she set her mind to despite her past struggles. Grey’s Anatomy could have finished on this note with Meredith happy with her achievements, as fans would have left her when things were at their peak in Meredith’s life.
When Derek And Meredith Officially Adopted Their Daughter
Meredith and Derek had a long relationship progression that saw them go from lovers to the breakup stage, eventually getting married and suffering from a miscarriage. They also had to go through a lot to finally adopt Zola, with the moment they officially became parents being one of Grey’s Anatomy’s most notable.
Finishing up the series here would have brought a happy ending to Meredith and Derek’s story, as their perseverance would have paid off after about eight years of their lives onscreen. There wasn’t anywhere else to go for them at the time either since new plotlines had to be opened up for the lead pair to face new issues.
When The Hospital Became Grey Sloan Memorial
The deaths of Mark Sloan and Lexie Grey led to a storyline where the survivors of the plane crash became part of the board of directors of the hospital. They decided to honor their friends by renaming Seattle Grace Mercy West to Grey Sloan Memorial, which enabled them to move on from the trauma.
It was perhaps the best way overall to wrap up Grey’s Anatomy since the main characters now had control of the hospital they had dedicated so many years to. Grey Sloan Memorial now operated with a lot of heart rather than purely as a business, with the doctors now in charge to make it a happy place. Finishing things off here would have left viewers happily speculating how positive the future looked for the protagonists.