Spoilers ahead for Grey’s Anatomy Season 17. After a rollercoaster of a season, there’s a light at the end of the Grey’s Anatomy tunnel — not the death kind that Meredith’s been grappling with, but a good one. Grey’s Anatomy has officially been renewed for Season 18, and your day-one faves Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson, and James Pickens Jr. will all be back, according to Deadline, reprising their roles as Meredith, Bailey, and Richard. Camilla Luddington, Kevin McKidd, and Kim Raver will also be back as Jo, Owen, and Teddy, respectively. We know Jo will switch to become an OB-GYN soon, but she may not be the only one trading in her surgical scrubs for something new.
Meredith, who is finally awake and OK after her long, precarious experience with COVID, could be due for a major change following her illness — much as we might long to see her sporting her navy scrubs again and going back to business. For starters, Meredith was laid up with COVID for so long that she’ll likely need more time to recover from its physical effects. Plus, there’s the chance of “brain fog,” described by Harvard Health as a “sluggish, fuzzy” feeling that can affect one’s mental performance long after otherwise recovering from COVID. Not ideal for a surgeon.
However, the biggest reason Meredith might pivot from surgery is a little simpler: it’s Grey’s tradition. On a show known for the trauma its characters endure, some of the most memorable moments happen after the tragedies. After the hospital shooting, for example, Derek took up an unhealthy habit of speeding (like, he went to jail multiple times for his violations) and ditched his job as chief. The same event prompted Cristina to leave the hospital altogether, bartending for a brief stint at Joe’s before going on that cathartic fishing trip with Derek.
Stephanie didn’t want to be anywhere near a hospital (particularly the disaster-prone Grey Sloan) after her heroic efforts in Season 13’s fire. And April has made two post-traumatic changes, joining the army as a trauma surgeon after Samuel’s death, and more recently leaving surgery after her near-fatal car accident in Season 14. Of course, sometimes the changes after significant life events are a little less severe — both Lexie and Callie rocked some iconic post-breakup looks. Still, Grey’s has given us a long-running record of characters reeling from tragedy and heartbreak in unpredictable ways. It only makes sense that Meredith might want to get away from the hospital for a while and spend time with her family, perhaps picking up a new passion that surprises her fellow surgeons.
We all know Grey’s loves drawing parallels between seasons. Who could forget the way Derek’s almost-affair in D.C. echoed his early days with Meredith or how Katie returned to illustrate just how much has changed since Season 1? Meredith making a change now would be in keeping with the show’s love of symmetry between stories.
If Season 18 does turn out to be the last for Grey’s, a career detour for its main character could help re-center the heart of the show and provide a smooth transition into Meredith’s next chapter.