Ranking the 6 Best ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Characters’ Post-Death Returns

'Grey's Anatomy' Stars Patrick Dempsey, Chyler Leigh and Jeffrey Dean Morgan
ABC (2); Ron Tom / © ABC / Courtesy Everett Collection

While it’s hard when favorite characters die, sometimes it doesn’t mean that’s the last time you’ll see them — even in grounded shows. (With supernatural, sci-fi, and fantasy ones, it’s even easier to bring someone back.) Such is the case with Grey’s Anatomy, and we’re not just talking about those beach visitors while Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) battled COVID in Season 17.

In fact, in the upcoming 18th season, Kate Burton is returning for the ninth time — one was just her voice — since her character, Meredith’s mom Ellis, died in Season 3. She’ll first show up in the premiere and will be around for multiple episodes. No details have been revealed just yet as to how we’ll see Ellis again, but we think it probably won’t be due to another life-or-death situation for her daughter given that was pretty much Meredith’s entire Season 17.

Keep reading to find out which dead characters’ returns we loved the least to the most. (Remember: We loved all of these, just some more than others.)

Ellis Grey (Kate Burton)

We have to admit, we have a soft spot for “What if?” episodes, so we loved Season 8’s “If/Then” and seeing Ellis as Chief of Staff — and her interactions with Meredith and the rest of the doctors. And among her other returns, this one stands out simply because, unlike the others on this list, she’s technically not still dead.

Dylan Young (Kyle Chandler)

Is Dylan on this list simply because we’ll never forget his initial appearance in which he was killed by a bomb? Not entirely, but it’s a factor because if anything said “this guy’s not coming back,” it’s how he died. So seeing him again in Season 3’s “Some Kind of Miracle” was a pleasant surprise — and what Meredith needed after she drowned.

George O’Malley (T.R. Knight)

Considering it was Meredith who realized George was their patient when he wrote “007” on her hand, it was especially touching to see them together again on that beach in Season 17’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” We absolutely loved every bit of their time together (though it definitely made us wish we could’ve seen him be Uncle George to her kids).

Denny Duquette (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)

It was quite easy to choose which of Denny’s post-death appearances to put on this list: Season 3’s “Some Kind of Miracle.” Having Denny be the one to push Meredith about what happened in the water and “staying” with him and the other dead characters was great. And that final moment, as he stood in the hospital and Izzie (Katherine Heigl) walked by him — and stopped — was perfect.

Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh)

Lexie’s death, as a result of the injuries she sustained in the plane crash, is still one of the most heartbreaking scenes of the entire series. And as soon as Meredith began to see those she lost on that beach in Season 17, we knew we had to see her sister again. We did, in the aptly-titled “Breathe” (the song she sang in the musical episode). We loved seeing the sisters together again. And having Mark (Eric Dane) there, too, was the cherry on top of the episode.

6 Burning Questions for 'Grey's Anatomy' Season 18See Also

6 Burning Questions for 'Grey's Anatomy' Season 18

We count at least two possible new couples for next season.

Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey)

Did we ever expect to see Derek again? No, so imagine our surprise when Dempsey appeared in four episodes in Season 17, with his last appearance in “Good as Hell.” Not only did Meredith and Derek talk about their kids, they finally got their beach wedding.

Grey’s Anatomy, Season 18 Premiere, Thursday, September 30, 9/8c, ABC