How ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Made That Major, Shocking Reunion Happen

Ellen Pompeo Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 2 Meredith Dream Sees Derek
Spoiler Alert

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 17, Episode 2 of Grey’s Anatomy, “The Center Won’t Hold.”]

Grey’s Anatomy‘s premiere was bookended with Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) dreaming she was on a beach, but it wasn’t until the final moments that she was joined by someone else.

In the real world, Dr. Cormac Hayes (Richard Flood) discovered that Meredith had collapsed in the parking lot after we watched her working the COVID floor in the hospital for two hours. Why exactly? We’ll have to wait to find out. But that’s what led to her, in that dream on the beach, seeing her late husband, Derek Shepherd (yes, Patrick Dempsey returned!).

“From a writer’s perspective, it happened because it was my job to find a way — once we determined that we were doing the pandemic — to also bring joy, and escape, and fan candy, and all the things that at Grey’s Anatomy we give people,” showrunner Krista Vernoff told Deadline.

But it was Pompeo who suggested bringing in Dempsey as Derek for the dead character in Meredith’s dream and approached him about returning, and for them, it was about bringing happiness to people in these rough times.

“I know that Patrick has his foundation in Maine where he helps cancer patients and cancer survivors, and that’s a huge effort of his, and I know that it’s important to him, also, to give people hope, and give people joy, and we wanted to bring something to this moment,” Pompeo said. “There’s just so much darkness, and we knew that coming together would be a little ray of light.”

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'The truth is, this year could be it,' the star said.

Dempsey agreed, adding it was a way for them to do something for those on the frontline. “I’ve been tracking what Grey’s had been doing with giving masks, and making sure that people had the right equipment,” he shared. “It came from that place — OK, what can we do to make people feel better, to give some comfort in this time of uncertainty?”

Fans weren’t the only ones who were shocked by the return of McDreamy. As Vernoff revealed on Twitter following November 12’s premiere, the reason why no one had any idea it was coming was because “most of the actors didn’t know. Some of the writers didn’t know. Most of the good folks at the studio & network didn’t know.”


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And this is just the beginning. As the promo for Episode 3 (titled “My Happy Ending”) reveals, we will see more of Meredith in that beach dream with Derek. “I miss you,” she tells him at the end of it. “I know,” he replies and begins walking toward her.

But that preview also gives us cause to be worried about her health. Is she the “familiar and stubborn patient” the doctors will be treating, as teased in the logline?

Grey’s Anatomy, Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC