Since being diagnosed with COVID at the outset of Grey’s Anatomy Season 17, Meredith’s fate has been hanging in the balance. The last time we saw her, she’d had a spurt of energy and seemed to be on the mend. But after pushing herself a little too much, she was placed on a ventilator, and things may be about to take an even worse turn. “Bailey, something’s happened,” Richard says in the promo for the show’s spring premiere.
That’s led to a lot of speculation about what might happen to Meredith this season, and even star Ellen Pompeo isn’t sure where things will go. “We honestly have not decided. We're really trying to figure it out right now,” she told CBS Sunday Morning in February. “We don’t know [if Meredith is alive or dead]. I'm in that we.”
Grey’s Anatomy hasn’t yet been renewed for Season 18, and showrunner Krista Vernoff recently confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that she’s writing the Season 17 finale as if it might be the show’s last. So there’s still a high chance that Meredith won’t survive in the end.
In any case, Grey’s fans have a few theories about how things might play out.
Meredith’s Death Could Mirror Mark’s
Some fans noticed a parallel between Meredith’s story and Mark’s behavior just before he died. After getting injured in a plane crash, he was transported to the hospital, where he seemed to be fine. But by the time the next season premiered, he had died. He just had one last burst of energy before his death — just like Meredith did before succumbing to her symptoms again and falling back into a coma.
Mark’s death transpired because Eric Dane’s contract wasn’t renewed between seasons, and Pompeo has suggested hers might not be either. “I mean, this is the last year of my contract right now. I don’t know that this is the last year? But it could very well could be,” she told Variety in 2020.
Meredith’s Death Will Inspire Zola to Become a Doctor
There’s a long-running theory that Meredith’s voiceovers in each episode are actually entries from a journal, like the one her mother kept. One fan added on to this theory on Twitter, suggesting that after Meredith dies, her daughter Zola finds the journals and becomes inspired to join the medical field. A similar fan theory suggests that Meredith has actually been dead this whole time (after succumbing to COVID) and the episodes are just entries from her journal that her grown-up children are reading.
Meredith Will Die, But We Won’t Find Out Right Away
Two other Twitter users suggested that we might not find out Meredith’s fate until the show ends, via a flashback or flash-forward. One theory is that Meredith survives COVID but dies in the series finale from some other ailment, and that the final scene will be her returning to the beach with Derek — only for real this time. The other theory is that Meredith codes but “survives,” and a whole season of stuff happens...just for a flashback to reveal that she did actually die during the code, and everything afterward was some kind of fantasy/hallucination.
Cristina Yang Will Return To Save Meredith
Fans have been hoping for a Cristina return ever since she left the show in Season 10. With so many other major characters already coming back in Season 17, this seems like the perfect time for Cristina to return and help heal Meredith through some experimental treatments or something.
Meredith Was Misdiagnosed
Another theory is that something else is wrong with Meredith, and she was either misdiagnosed with COVID or that diagnosis is masking her true ailment. COVID could also potentially trigger Alzheimer’s, so it’s possible she’ll survive but with lingering effects. The virus is thought to affect the brain in myriad ways.
Meredith Recovers and Retires
Reddit user MoyamoyaWarrior speculated that Meredith will survive COVID but may decide to reprioritize her life and retire from the hospital in order to spend more time with her children.
Meredith Will Survive but Have Lasting Symptoms
Long-lasting symptoms have emerged in many COVID cases, and one Reddit user suggested that this will be the case for Meredith. She’ll survive but be plagued with a lack of energy, aches, brain fog, or more as her body struggles to recover.
Meredith Will Survive, Full Stop
The world looks very different now than it did when Season 17 premiered in November 2020. With the invention of several vaccines, cases are rapidly declining and hope is abound. Viewers have already struggled through a year of the pandemic, so the Grey’s team might decide to keep things optimistic and have Meredith make a full recovery.