As soon as she was diagnosed with COVID-19, fans worried Meredith might die in Grey's Anatomy Season 17. The virus can be deadly even for seemingly healthy people, and Meredith has been on a steep decline. The promo for the Dec. 3 episode shows she's not getting any better, with a voiceover hinting that "Meredith's life hangs in the balance," while Amelia tells Link, "Meredith's not improving. They can't wake her."
In the past, Meredith has survived a drowning, a bombing, a plane crash, and an active shooter. But is it possible her time is really up? Let's weigh the evidence.
Signs Meredith Will Die
Nothing would hammer home the severity of coronavirus like losing one of TV's most iconic characters because of it. Showrunner Krista Vernoff told The Hollywood Reporter that they chose Meredith to get COVID because she is such a "well-loved and well-known" character. "Over 1,700 health care workers in the U.S. have died of COVID to date," Vernoff said in mid-November. "Many thousands more have been infected ... Doctors and nurses are fighting for us and falling for us ... Meredith has a real fight ahead of her."
Ellen Pompeo, who plays Meredith, has also hinted in recent months that her time on the show may be drawing to an end. In August, she told Dax Shepard on his Armchair Expert podcast that she wants to "dip out sooner rather than later at this point … [and] leave while the show is still on top." She added to Variety that her contract is up after Season 17, and it "very well could be" the show's last season.
Killing Meredith off at the end of the long-running series would certainly be one way to go out.
Signs Meredith Will Survive
Pompeo underscored her uncertainty about the future of the show in an interview with Deadline, saying, "At this point, I think, we don't know what we're going to do." But she added that as long as they're able to stay creative and raise the bar in their storytelling, they can probably figure out a way to keep going. Pompeo's priority seems to be leaving the show before it gets stale, but it's nowhere near there yet — especially as it explores this new, deadly virus.
On the series itself, Meredith is fighting hard to live. Her COVID-fueled dream of Derek standing on the beach seems to be her version of "the light." If she reaches Derek, she may die and end up in whatever afterlife there is with him. But even though Meredith has taken steps towards him, Derek remains far away. In the previous episode, she complained, "Why can't I get anywhere?" to which Derek replied, "You're worried about the kids." If Meredith loves anything more than Derek, it's her children. She won't leave them if she can help it, and that's what seems to be keeping her rooted to the spot on that beach, unable to join Derek.
Meredith has survived so much on Grey's Anatomy, she could conceivably survive this too, while still telling a powerful story about how deadly and dangerous the virus is. Ultimately, Vernoff told THR that they wanted the takeaway from her struggle to be "wear a mask, socially distance and stay home whenever possible."