Shonda Rhimes, ABC’s patron saint of OMG tweets, solidified her reputation for narrative rug-yanking with last night’s Grey’s Anatomy, which confirmed the permanent departure of original cast member Patrick Dempsey. Rhimes wrote the episode, “How To Save A Life,” which chronicles the death of Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd following an auto collision. In it, McDreamy finds himself at the right place at the right time, barely dodging an auto collision between two vehicles and springing into action to rescue the passengers, as Seattle Grace doctors are so often called to do. After his heroics, McDreamy finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time when a semi barrels out of nowhere and broadsides his SUV. No good deed goes unpunished, amirite?
Rhimes’ massive Twitter following went into a tizzy over the death of McDreamy, and by extension, the relationship between Derek and Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) which has been the show’s anchor since it debuted just over 10 years ago. “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Shonda Rhimes,” and “Derek Shepherd” landed among Twitter’s top 10 trending topics, an impressive feat for a show in its 11th season, one in which character deaths and cast churn have become par for the course. It’s even more impressive that Rhimes managed to keep Derek’s death under wraps in an age where even the most draconian production measures aren’t enough to plug spoiler leaks.
Dempsey’s departure has been a possibility for years, with his involvement becoming a question mark as the original cast members demanded more pay with each subsequent contract renegotiation. (He was pulling in a reported $350,000 per episode.) With Dempsey’s character moving on to his great reward, only four original main cast members remain: Pompeo, Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson, and James Pickens, Jr. Only one of their characters has her name in the title, so for anyone who isn’t Pompeo, best of luck with the straw pull.