‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Boss on Alex’s Exit: ‘It Is Nearly Impossible to Say Goodbye’

Justin Chambers Leaves Greys Anatomy Alex Farewell Episode Reaction
ABC/Kelsey McNeal

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 16, Episode 16 of Grey’s Anatomy, “Leave a Light On.”]

Grey’s Anatomy said goodbye to one of the OGs in Thursday’s episode, and following it, showrunner Krista Vernoff explained how hard it was to shape Justin Chambers’ exit.

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Ellen Pompeo on Why Alex's 'Grey's Anatomy' Ending Was 'the Best Send Off'

'For me personally for Karev to go back to the beginning.... was the best possible storyline,' Pompeo says.

“It is nearly impossible to say goodbye to Alex Karev. That is as true for me and for all of the writers at Grey’s Anatomy as it is for the fans,” she wrote in a message she posted to Twitter. “We have loved writing Alex. And we have loved watching Justin Chambers’ nuanced portrayal of him.”

“For 16 years, 16 years, we have grown up alongside Alex Karev. We have been frustrated by his limitations and we have been inspired by his growth and we have come to love him deeply and to think of him as one of our very best friends,” she continued. “We will miss him terribly. And we will always be grateful for his impact, on our show, on our hearts, on our fans, on the world.”

In “Leave a Light On,” Alex sent farewell letters to Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), Jo (Camilla Luddington), Bailey (Chandra Wilson), and Richard (James Pickens, Jr.). The episode was filled with flashbacks to those relationships, as the four learned (and in Richard’s case, discussed at an AA meeting) Alex had reunited with Izzie (Katherine Heigl), and they were raising twins on a farm in Kansas.

Kim Raver shared her own “flashback” moment with a farewell post on Instagram, noting that Vernoff “said it best” alongside a photo of herself as Teddy with Chambers’ Alex from the show and the showrunner’s message.


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@kristavernoff said it best about tonight’s Episode @greysabc #alexkarev #greysanatomy #tbt

A post shared by Kim Raver (@kimraver) on

Grey’s Anatomy fans knew since January that Chambers had left the series, and Alex’s exit storyline slowly unraveled. First, it appeared he was in Iowa taking care of his mother, only for both Meredith and Jo to reveal that was a lie in Episode 15. Vernoff previously explained the goal was to not put Jo through too much pain given everything that happened in Season 15. And we did see Jo ready to get back to work after reading Alex’s letter.

Now, all we can do is wait and see how the rest of the season (and series) plays out as a result of Alex’s exit.

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How This Longtime 'Grey's Anatomy' Fan Learned to Love Alex Karev’s Exit

As with the best plot twists, Alex's decision feels both surprising and inevitable, and for this fan, the show stuck an impressive landing.

Grey’s Anatomy, Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC