[This article contains specific plot details about last night’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, “Leave A Light On.”]
After 15 years on the air, you would think that Grey’s Anatomy would be better at writing off long-term characters. Sometimes, those actors leave the long-running series via dramatic events like plane or truck crashes (the unexpected death of Patrick Dempsey’s Derek on a highway, for instance); sometimes, they get an enviable ending like getting to run a hospital in Zurich (Sandra Oh’s beloved Cristina).
The fate of original cast member Justin Chambers’ Alex Karev, revealed last night on Grey’s Anatomy, fell somewhere in the middle of those two options—a compromise that appeared to satisfy no one. In a series of letters, delivered by Chambers in voiceover but never onscreen, Alex reveals that he has left his wife, his job, his “person” Meredith Grey, and all of Seattle. He is now living in Kansas with his ex-wife Izzy Stevens (the character portrayed by Katherine Heigl, who also did not appear onscreen) and their twins, which Izzy gave birth to five years ago using Alex’s preserved sperm.
It was a snoozer of an episode, frankly, full of clips depicting Alex’s important relationships with Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), his wife Jo (Camilla Luddington), and his mentors Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Richard Weber (James Pickens Jr.). Although it was kind of fun to see shots of the original five MAGIC interns, no amount of nostalgia could get viewers to buy Izzy and Alex as the show’s endgame love story. “Izzy” was trending on Twitter before the episode was even over.
Chambers’ departure from the show was announced last year, and he made his final onscreen appearance on the show in November. So, from a practical viewpoint, Alex’s emotional letters explain his long absence. But, from a plot standpoint, fans refused to accept that Alex would leave his devoted wife and break up with her by sending her a letter (and signed divorce papers) for the woman who broke up with him via letter (and signed divorce papers) several Grey’s seasons ago. And this is to say nothing of the fact that Izzy gave birth to his children and just didn’t tell him for five years? Alex explains in his letters that he only got in touch with Izzy when he was trying to drum up character references for Meredith when she was fighting for her medical license, and then heard kids in the background while on the phone with her. Finding out they were his apparently filled him with delight instead of rage, which...is a choice.
While some of the ragefest still unfolds on Twitter today, The Hollywood Reporter announces that the final Karev episode did bring Grey’s its highest ratings in six weeks. And Grey’s will keep on keepin’ on: It was ABC’s highest-rated drama last season and has already been renewed through season 17.
Whoever draws the vitriol associated with last night’s episode, it remains an awkward ending for a character who had a truly impressive restoration arc—Alex started out as a hotshot asshole intern, and wound up being, outside of Meredith, the show’s beating heart. And that guy just left town without even saying goodbye to Meredith’s daughter, Zola? Fuck that. Alex Karev deserved better. We all did.
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