SPOILER ALERT: If you have yet to watch last night’s Grey’s Anatomy finale, stop reading now. I repeat, if you have yet to watch last night’s Grey’s Anatomy finale, stop reading now. For the last time, if you have yet to watch last night’s Grey’s Anatomy, stop reading now. Everyone else, onward and downward…
Say what you will about Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes (Baby killer! McDreamy shooter! Nightmare inflictor!), but the woman knows how to write a finale. Last night’s season 6 climax — in which a crazed gunman terrorized Seattle Grace for the better part of two hours — had 15 million viewers (yours truly among them) biting their nails down to nubs while convulsing on the edge of their seats. When the dust settled, there were two significant deaths, one tragic miscarriage, and roughly 100 nagging questions. In this exclusive interview, Rhimes tackles the 20 most popular.
So what have the last 18 hours been like for you? I know you were nervous about this episode.
SHONDA RHIMES: I was. I was very nervous because I felt like what was coming wasn’t territory that we’d ever covered before, and I didn’t know how the audience was going to take it. I feel like I got a lot of really good responses from it, and I feel like it was an emotional ride for everybody. I wanted it to feel a little bit like a stand-alone movie, and I think it did.
One of the most controversial aspects of the finale was Meredith’s miscarriage. Did you ever consider a different outcome?
RHIMES: If she didn’t have the miscarriage, she wouldn’t have been pregnant at the beginning of the episode.
So the pregnancy was all about the miscarriage?
RHIMES: It wasn’t necessarily all about the [miscarriage], but it was about Meredith Grey being truly happy. And for me, when you’re watching that storyline, when Meredith is having a miscarriage and she basically says, “I’m having a miscarriage. I need Lidocaine. Are you going to help me or not?,” you realize how incredibly strong she is and how badass she’s being in that moment. To me, that’s the hero moment. If you don’t have that moment you don’t really have the story of Meredith Grey.
At the end of the episode, she throws her positive pregnancy test in the trash. What did that symbolize?
RHIMES: The death of the exciting dream that she had been holding on to all day… I feel like you don’t ever know how much you want something until its been taken away from you. Meredith figured out in this episode how much she wanted to be with Derek, how much she wanted to be his wife, and how much she wanted to have his children.
You once said Mer and Der would never have children. Have you changed your mind about that?
RHIMES: [Long pause] Yes. I’ve written my way out of that I think.
So there may still be a baby in their future?
RHIMES: Definitely. For me, this is the beginning of the baby story.
I’m curious about the decision to end the episode with just Meredith, as opposed to Meredith at Derek’s bedside.
RHIMES: The [episode] was not about aftermath. And to me, to see Meredith and Derek happy with everything and fine was a scene of aftermath.
Will the season premiere be about the immediate aftermath?
RHIMES: I don’t know.
So you haven’t decided whether there will be a time jump?
RHIMES: We’ve talked about it. We’ve talked about it endlessly. We’ve come up with 40 thousand different scenarios. The truth is, I’m exhausted. We just finished season 6. I don’t even want to think about season 7.
How does Meredith not revert back to dark and twisty Meredith after all of this?
RHIMES: I don’t know how she doesn’t, but she doesn’t. I think in a lot of ways Meredith has become the mother of the group. I don’t think there’s a lot of room for dark and twisty when everybody’s been affected. We joke a lot in the writers’ room that because Meredith’s childhood was so damaging, in a way, she’s better equipped to handle this stuff than anybody else.
How did you arrive at the decision to kill off Reed and Charles?
RHIMES: It was both really easy and really hard. We’ve been layering in these people all season, and I wanted you to feel comfortable with them and their personalities. I also really wanted [to lose] people who we barely knew. It’s sort of like what Charles says to Bailey: “I know you really didn’t like me.” And Bailey says, “Oh, I liked you.” And then he’s gone. By the time we fell in love with him, he was gone.
Did you ever think, In order to do this story justice, I need to kill off a major character?
RHIMES: No, because — and I said this before the episode ever aired — this was not about who lived and who died. To me, it was about what was gained and what was lost. The real death of the episode is the miscarriage.
Had Katherine Heigl not left the show, what role would Izzie have played in the finale? Would she have been killed?
RHIMES: I have no idea.
Talk to me about the decision to have Alex call out for Izzie after he was shot.
RHIMES: I really wanted to find a way to deal with how much Alex is missing Izzie. And it felt really poignant to me that if he was lying on a table dying he’d be calling for her.
Lexie confessed her love for Alex, but some fans aren’t buying it. She didn’t really make a decision between Alex and Mark in that moment, did she?
RHIMES: I don’t think she could have possibly made a decision in that moment. The thing I think is interesting is that Alex definitely made his decision. So I don’t necessarily know that there’s a triangle there. When Alex called for Izzie — when in your hour of need you’re calling for another woman — I think he made his decision. So I don’t think there’s a triangle.
In other words, hope is very much alive for Mark and Lexie?
RHIMES: Yes, there’s definitely hope.
Let’s shift gears to the actual crisis itself. I get that there’s a certain suspension of disbelief that comes with stories like this. But I don’t get why the SWAT team didn’t take the gunman out after they shot him the first time. It looked like they easily could have gotten a second shot in there.
RHIMES: They didn’t have a clear shot of him again.
But he was just laying there on the floor.
RHIMES: But Lexie was in between them. And then she got up and was still in between them. And she’s running away and he’s running away at the same time. So I don’t see that they could have gotten a clear shot.
Fans are joking that Seattle has the worst SWAT team in the country.
RHIMES: That’s a shame because we have these super awesome SWAT guys who talked us through everything. And we had a meeting in which I said, “Seriously, it would be five guys in a group searching [the entire] hospital? That sounds crazy to me.” And they said that’s how it works. And for me, it made it so much more horrible because that hospital is enormous. And the idea that just five guys are going to save them is ridiculous on so many levels, and yet, that’s how it works. When you’re looking for a shooter, you don’t have a bunch of people all spread out apparently.
Jessica Capshaw is pregnant in real life. Arizona decides at the end of the episode that she wants to have kids with Callie. Is there a connection there?
RHIMES: No — although I love that Jessica is pregnant. I feel like every year we have to have somebody on the show who’s pregnant and we have to hide the pregnancy. It’s what we do now.
So the pregnancy won’t be written into the storyline?
Where was Bailey’s beau Ben in this episode?
RHIMES: Ben was not working that day. There was a great debate in the writers’ room that we should have Bailey say something about Ben not working. And I felt like, no, we only see Ben sporadically as it is. He’s not at work that day. And I didn’t want to spend time — because we have so little of it and I had to leave 18 minutes on the cutting room floor — chatting about where Ben was. I felt like you knew Ben wasn’t there because you didn’t see him there. [But] I think there’s going to [fallout] about that later.
So we’ll see some resolution there — even though Jason George (Ben) is on your new show, Off the Map?
RHIMES: I hope so.
You mentioned in your blog post about the finale that April and Jackson are “part of the tribe now.” What did you mean exactly?
RHIMES: For the purpose of story — because I don’t write things thinking, What are the business decisions going on in the background — April and Jackson have really been folded into the group.
I understand no official decision has been made about Sarah Drew and Jesse Williams becoming series regulars next season, but, at this point, can any argument be made against it happening?
RHIMES: I don’t have one. Do you?
RHIMES: I don’t have one either.
Creatively, do you want them to stick around?
RHIMES: I do. It’ll depend on what the studio and the network decide to do with those actors, but I fully advocate to have them.
Kim Raver has already been upgraded to a series regular, but some are questioning Teddy’s future now that Owen has chosen Cristina.
RHIMES: This whole idea that Teddy only exists [as part of a triangle is ludicrous]. Teddy is Cristina’s teacher. Derek would be dead if Cristina had not had Teddy around. That’s how I look at it. I will say it again, the studio and network have to renew everyone’s options, and they have not done so yet. But it is my intention that we will see Teddy next year.
When Owen chose Cristina, he really chose her, right?
RHIMES: Yes. He definitely chose her.
So that triangle is, for all intents and purposes, over.
RHIMES: That triangle is done.
But Cristina broke up with Owen in that episode.
RHIMES: That is true.
So they’re not technically together.
RHIMES: I tried really hard to get in an Owen-Cristina scene where he holds her after Derek survived. But all my [medical advisers] kept saying, “If Owen holds Cristina, she can no longer operate on Derek. She’s become unsterile.” There was a big fight about it and finally I had to go with “the look.” And I felt like Sandra [Oh] and Kevin [McKidd] adequately and brilliantly portrayed in “the look” that there was still something there.
You previously teased this episode as a game-changer. How has the game been changed?
RHIMES: Here’s why I said that: When you face a situation like this — when the entire hospital has turned into a crime scene — everyone you know has faced life or death. It’s an incredibly traumatic event. Everything you knew, believed, felt, and required of the characters in terms of what their stories have been or what you believed about them no longer exists. Part of what’s interesting about next season is that we can start anywhere — in any emotional state — and almost anything can happen because we just came out of this. It’s not like tomorrow they come back being the exact same characters. They’re all sort of fundamentally changed.
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