Grey's Anatomy Guest Review

Grey’s Anatomy 11×21 – How to Save a Life

“It’s a beautiful day to save lives...”


Raise your hand if you’ve ever been emotionally victimized by Shonda Rhimes. Okay, now put that hand down and wipe away those tears.

I don’t know how to feel about an episode like this, but if you are one of the lucky ones who still doesn’t know what happened, please avoid this spoilerific review. Personally, I wasn’t shocked because the internet once again ruined a pivotal twist for me. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now and not head on over to Facebook before watching, or that Entertainment Weekly would be kind enough to have less spoilery article titles. But nope.

So what happened? Shonda Rhimes took over the role of The Demon’s Head (instead of Oliver Queen) and killed McDreamy. I can’t even begin to comprehend what Derek’s death is going to do to me. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the character, you probably know that killing him off (so brutally, too) is a HUGE game-changing (and jump-the-shark?) moment for Grey’s Anatomy. Fans have been voicing their rage online in powerful fashion over the last 48 hours, and it’s easy to see why. I’d be lying if I said this will make me quit watching Grey’s, but I definitely feel disrespected and cheated (in addition to a billion other things I felt after watching this episode).

As a diehard Grey’s fan since the beginning, I feel like Shonda is only doing this to create buzz and increase ratings, and that’s what upsets me most. Derek Shepherd deserved more than an abrupt death —especially since Patrick Dempsey revealed that this episode was only planned A MONTH AGO. That makes me really angry. After the bomb, drowning, bus-crash, shooting, plane-disaster, storm, and that weird earthquake episode, you’d think Rhimes would have a slightly more realistic and easier-to-digest sendoff for one of her most loved characters. I seriously would not be surprised if no one watches next year because I don’t know if Meredith can carry the show all by herself.

Now that I’m done bashing ShondaLand (I’m not really done yet though), I have to admit this was the most heartbreaking hour of television I’ve seen in a long, long time. Since Derek’s death was spoiled for me (again, ugh), I wasn’t shocked when a truck came crashing into his car. But the minute he was sent to a small (albeit terrible) hospital and Derek’s voice started crawling under my skin, the heartbreak began. The pain escalated when it was clear the doctors were amateurs (they didn’t order a CT for a head injury (even I know that’s ridiculous), while Derek narrated that this was a terrible call. Then the little girl he had saved earlier gave him that emotional “you have a pulse so you can’t be dead” speech, and I was close to losing it. When the MerDer flashbacks started pouring in culminating with the first time Meredith said goodbye to Derek before cutting to present-day where she has to say goodbye for the last time? That’s where I lost it for real.

I was hoping this would get dragged out until the season finale, with a proper three-episode arc or so, and I had my hopes up when Meredith was faced with a pull-the-plug decision (gah, my heart). But instead, it was all very rushed and vicious. You know it’s a terribly written episode when a freakin’ doctor stops in the middle of the road to search for his phone (which magically has reception now). In all seriousness though, I would have been totally fine if Derek was kept on life support until the series finale where he’d make a magical and totally cheesy return. I’m a hopeless romantic I guess, when it comes to MerDer. And now Shonda Rhimes, Meredith and Grey’s Anatomy are entering undiscovered territory—and I am not ready for it.

Without even giving it any effort, I can think of 20 other ways the show could have written off Derek Shepard. But to add this much unrealistic pain and tragedy into Meredith’s life is just plain nasty and mean. How about keeping him in D.C.? That would have been good, no? One thing is clear: the show will never be the same again without McDreamy. I guess if it was absolutely necessary to kill him off, at least he went out in one of the most controversial episodes of the year. And he went out doing the thing he does best: saving lives.

Now somebody please give me Shonda’s address.

Bits & Scalpels

– What an effective and intense teaser as Derek witnessed the car accident in front of him and the title sequence appeared.

– Zola and Meredith’s adorable scene in the teaser (“what happens if surgeons are late?” “people die!”) was great foreshadowing for Derek’s neurosurgeon who was an hour and a half late to surgery.

– Seriously though, an HOUR AND A HALF LATE?! And that’s why Derek dies? Seriously? In the words of the great Lily Aldrin: what the damn hell?

– Kudos to Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey for their outstanding performances this week. They made me cry and scream at my TV, and I will never forget them for it.

– Derek’s thoughts in voice-over were seriously bone-chilling, especially as he was being carried to surgery and he realized that he was going to die.

– If Meredith starts to go on dates and has one-night stands in season twelve, I think I will be done with the show for good.

– I hated the fakeout with Meredith and a conscious Derek at the hospital. It wasn’t even original. It was just plain cruel.

– The flashbacks were just terrifyingly gut-wrenching. Even more powerful was the use of a piano version of “Chasing Cars”, which was also used in the season two finale. But you already knew that.

– I should spend more time discussing how angry I am about reading the spoilers before watching, but to be fair I think I would have brought Facebook and Twitter’s servers down myself if I was watching this live too.

– This is the first episode Shonda Rhimes has written since the season-eight finale where Lexie was killed. I see a pattern here.

– Twitter is exploding with hashtags like #TearsofGrey and #RIPMcDreamy. My favorite so far is “To every OneDirection fan I made fun of for crying like an idiot when Zayn left, I’m sorry. I get it now.”

– I love “How to Save a Life” as a title for this episode because the song is iconic to the show’s history and particularly McDreamy’s.

– In very surprising news, ABC stated that next week’s episode is a special two-hour event (thus taking over Scandal). Even more evidence that this whole death storyline was rushed and unplanned.

– Feel free to use the comments section below as a group therapy session to deal with your loss.

Grey Banter

Derek: It’s a beautiful day to save lives.
Winnie: What does that mean?
Derek: Oh, it’s just a thing I say.

Derek (voice-over): You’re not dead. Just breathe. Scalp lac, probably multiple fractures. Try and hold still.
Edie: I’m ordering a head CT. We don’t know the extent of his head injury.
Derek (v.o.): She’s right. You don’t.
Paul: Look at the ultrasound. He’s bleeding into his belly. We don’t have time for a CT.
Derek (v.o.): Arrogant…because she’s younger than you and probably because she’s a woman.

Derek (v.o.): I’m going to die because these people aren’t properly trained.

Meredith: I’m a doctor. Dr. Grey. I’m a surgeon, just like my husband was. I know how this works. You’ve waited the requisite number of hours and now you can officially declare him dead. Normally, you’d talk to me about organ donation. But by the looks of his chart, there’s not much left that works to donate. So the ICU needs a bed. Those must be the papers…the papers you want me to sign to decide what to do with my husband…now that he’s dead, but not really dead. So do we ship him off to a long-term-care facility and cross our fingers and hope for fairy tales and magic? Or do I pull the plug? And stop all curative intervention? Discontinue all routine monitoring, remove all the catheters, drains and tubes, end any and all treatments that might provide comfort to the patient. Terminate all…life-sustaining measures…and behave as any sane doctor would behave. Does that about cover it, doctor? Is that what you want to talk to me about…while I sit here with my sleeping children? You want to talk about killing my husband?

Meredith: Every patient you treat, you’re going to see my husband’s face and remember that he was the one that died on your watch. He will haunt you. The hard ones always do. And it only takes that one. But that one will make you work harder, and they make you better. Or they make you quit, and you don’t get to waste what would have been the rest of my husband’s life being a quitter.

Nurse: Are you ready?
Meredith: No. But go ahead.

Must-Download Tunes
Today Has Been OK by Sleeping at Last
Sedona by Houndmouth
Gulls by David Gray
Into the Fire by Erin McCarley
Chasing Cars by Sleeping at Last (original by Snow Patrol)

A tear-jerking hour of television that I will never forget. Too rushed, too sudden, too cruel…even for you, Shonda.

Chris Rating


  1. Loved the Arrow nod. So true.

    As for this episode, I never want to watch it again. Far too harrowing, and how can we ever get a happy ending for Meredith after the father of her two kids and the love of her life is killed so mercilessly? I feel like this is a MAJOR MISTEP from Shonda, but I'll try to have faith because she's proven so effective in the past.

    Also, this reminds me of Mike and Susan in the final season of Desperate Housewives (Although this isn't the final season). I also think that was a major misstep the robbed the audience of something they deserved after so many seasons.

    Finally, what's up with Revenge and Grey's being so trigger happy this week? At least Arrow didn't go through with it!

  2. I just can't believe they did it. I would much prefer if Derek was sent off to Washington than this. I mean, isn't it enough that Meredith has lost her mother, George, Izzy, Lexie, Mark, and Cristina? She has to lose her husband too. They didn't have to kill him off. There's more than one way of having the character depart from the show. I agree with you, Chris. I think they killed Derek off the way they did to raise ratings.

  3. Ugh yes the Mike and Susan thing! Ufff. I stopped watching DH in its final season but I heard about what happened and it was a major disappointment. I don't think we're asking too much when we say we want happy fairy-tale endings for our characters…are we?

    Haha yes even Revenge followed through, damn!

  4. Shonda only knows how to brutally kill characters off, I guess. I have a really good feeling that this won't even raise ratings for her this time…on the contrary, I really believe some fans will quit altogether.

  5. Shonda Rhimes don't give a flying wallenda what the fans think. If Dempsey wanted off the series, then she is merciless about her characters. Even I know that, despite the fact that I haven't watched Grey's Anatomy regularly in eight seasons (just now restarting the third season on Netflix). I'd only have an issue about the way Derek was dispatched. The truck literally comes out of nowhere! One second, clear road, the next, truck with horn at the last possible second! And who stops perpendicular to the road? Then, Derek goes to a hospital that ISN'T Grey Sloan Memorial? WTH? Rhimes is just screwing with folks at this point.

  6. Chris, I am going to use the comments section as a therapy session like you said so bear with me this is going to be a LONG comment.

    I have been watching this show religiously for the past 10 years expecting that at the end of the line MerDer will get their happy ending which they deserve. The show has had its ups and downs, let's face it, but whenever it felt like I might be watching it out of habit only, the writers managed to pull off some incredible writing that made me believe in the show again and understand how it made it so far with 11 seasons.

    The dramatic episodes on Grey's have always been cruel and we, as fans, have endured a lot and yet we keep coming back for more. We witnessed so many heartbreaking scenes over the past years: Denny's death (which was, for me, until 2 days ago the most heartbreaking moment ever in Grey's), the moment Meredith found out that John Doe was George, Derek and Alex getting shot in Season 6 Finale (I still hate April for getting Derek shot!), the death of George's father, the death of Henry, the death of Lexie & Mark, the death of Adele … and so many more, but NOTHING prepared me for this episode's drama.

    Those who know me know that I have a major crush on Derek (both the character and the actor himself) so season 11 made me miss him since Patrick Dempsey was not in every episode contrary to previous seasons. But it also made me panic a bit. I thought Shonda must have something lined up for him but she better not be thinking of killing him! I remembered reading that Patrick Dempsey had signed 2 more seasons with the show so I googled this fact again just to be sure and I was relieved to know that this was the truth. So McDreamy shall survive whatever Shonda has in stores for him. Then came this episode. One day prior to watching it I was going through my facebook timeline at work when I stumbled upon EW's post about the episode that clearly gave away the plot in the title (I guess we read the same title Chris). I closed facebook immediately and didn't open it for the rest of the day. I kept thinking no this can't be! They can't kill Derek! I couldn't wait to get home to watch the episode. An hour after watching it, I was still a mess. Thank God no one was home to witness all the ugly crying. I mean I was sobbing. This was worse that all other deaths' combined.

    So now to the real question: WHY?! I would have accepted Shonda making Derek a cheater, let him go live in DC and do whatever the hell he wants (I wouldn't have liked it much but seeing the alternative it would have been a much better story). Did you have to kill him? And let's say that was the only logical exit in your opinion, well at least give the man a proper exit! Are we supposed to believe that he would actually stop in the middle of the road to look for his phone, which suddenly have a signal now, only to be hit by a truck on a road that has been empty for hours!! And seriously why did we have that fakeout scene with a conscious Derek. That was totally unnecessary and just mean.

    I watch early episodes from Grey's Anatomy from time to time (that's how I much I love this show). The first episode ever, that scene when Meredith finds out that Derek is her boss and they argue on the stairs with Derek looking at her through his dreamy eyes is one my favorite scenes. Now I can't even watch that scene again. It is just too painful.

    I can't say I would stop watching the show altogether but Grey's Anatomy without McDreamy feels wrong. How am I supposed to get over this, more importantly how will the show survive this? Meredith is not supposed to have her happy ending without Derek, this is not what we signed up for when we started watching this show!

    Finally thank you Grey's Anatomy for ruining “Chasing Cars” for me, AGAIN. It took me a while to be able to listen to that song without feeling sad about Denny's death now how the hell am I supposed to listen to it again?

    P.S. Chris, Loving your Grey's Reviews!!!

  7. Tag. Perfectly stated. Took all the words out of my mouth. It truly was disservice to fans after so many seasons no matter how the hell Shonda spins it. I'm eagerly waiting for an in-depth interview with Shonda to see how she defends this. And of course, the real reason why she killed him. I AM SURE there was some behind the scenes drama like Heigel. Why also would the exit be so brutal?

  8. Agree on every word! It's been a couple of days and I'm still coping with this death :/ this feels like another How I Met Your Mother twist which was also a disservice to the fans who have been watching this show for sooo many years. People start getting attached to fictional characters and Rhimes just doesn't give a crap about that.

    I don't know if the whole behind-the-scenes “diva” fight from back in November had anything to do with this hideous sendoff but if it is, it really makes me see Shonda as a monster who is just difficult to work with. There better be a HUGE satisfying ending to this season or else, I'll be joining the thousand other fans who won't watch season twelve.

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