Ellen Pompeo

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star Ellen Pompeo The Sendoff Episode Allows Room for Her Return

“I’ll Follow the Sun” saw Meredith Grey, played by Pompeo, bid farewell to Seattle, but her visit won’t be the show’s last.

Grey’s Anatomy is undergoing a transformation.

In the season 19 winter premiere, “I’ll Follow the Sun,” actress Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey said goodbye to Grey Sloan Memorial after nearly two decades and more than 400 episodes of leading the ABC medical drama. Pompeo made her second-to-last appearance on the show this season on Feb. 23, with her next appearance not until the season finale in May.

Meredith Grey, Grey’s resident doctor, who has been played by Pompeo since the renowned Shonda Rhimes-created series initially aired in 2005, will be leaving the show as a series regular. Now it starts to see if Grey’s can survive without its star.

It was announced ahead of the midseason finale that Pompeo would be reducing her involvement in the long-running ABC series for season 19. Pompeo and the Grey’s crew stated that Meredith would only appear onscreen for eight episodes this season after signing on to star in and executive produce a limited series for Hulu (also owned by Disney).

After the winter finale, viewers will not see Meredith again until the season 19 finale on May 26. Pompeo, on the other hand, remains an executive producer on Grey’s Anatomy and a voice star, as Meredith will continue to narrate the show in her characteristic voiceovers.

Grey’s Anatomy is still a Disney hit in its 19th season, and it is the longest-running primetime medical drama in television history. Although Pompeo’s decision to scale back and showrunner Krista Vernoff’s departure come as the series waits for a season 20 renewal, Pompeo has been outspoken about her want to do more Grey’s, and Rhimes has always stated that there would be no Grey’s Anatomy without Meredith Grey.

“You’re not riding the rollercoaster for the first time… “You know the show has to go on, and I’ll surely come back to visit,” she stated in an Instagram post announcing the decision, alongside a thank-you note to fans.

And Meredith’s departure episode left the door open for the character’s plot to continue, indicating that she will tower over the rest of the season, as well as opportunities for her to return to Seattle for a hypothetical 20th season if the Boston plan goes through.

Meredith’s friends and coworkers threw her a farewell party in “I’ll Follow the Sun,” written by Vernoff and directed by co-star Debbie Allen after Meredith announced her decision to relocate her family to Boston, where she will continue her revolutionary work on a treatment for Alzheimer’s. As viewers watched the jet depart with Meredith and her three children, including Zola (Aniela Gumbs), whose early genius reinforced the family move, the program committed Meredith to her decision.

During the farewell party, Meredith made it known to her colleagues that she intends to return for visits. “I’m just traveling to Boston, and you know I’ll be back here next week,” she explained.

The romance narrative involving her and Scott Speedman’s Dr. Nick Marsh was likewise left unresolved. Meredith and Nick evidently had a rift after she told him she loved him in the midseason finale, and her sentiments went unreciprocated. Nick was unable to see Meredith before her plane took off, but he contacted her to tell her how much he loves her and has loved her since they met. His words were received with a smile, but Meredith said she couldn’t hear him properly because they were leaving and hung up the phone, leaving their relationship on a cliffhanger.

The title of the episode provided a solution to that ending, plainly a tribute to Cristina Yang’s (Sandra Oh) past advice to Meredith concerning Derek (Patrick Dempsey): “Don’t allow what he wants to overshadow what you require. He’s romantic, but he’s not the sun. You certainly are!”

The episode closed with three young doctors from the show’s new crop of interns (Alexis Floyd, Niko Terho, and Midori Francis) moving into Meredith’s now-vacant home, in a full-circle nod for viewers.

Whatever happens in the future, the Grey’s Anatomy ensemble handled the episode as a farewell, paying tribute to Pompeo and Meredith Grey on social media. (See below for tributes.)

“What a trip these 19 seasons have been!” Rhimes wrote in a post. I wouldn’t exchange them (or you) for anything. I’m really looking forward to your next chapter. Dr. Grey, I’ll see you later.”

Pompeo responded, “Same Queen, Same… We have certainly done the deed!!!”