I'll be honest — coming into this season of Grey's Anatomy, I wasn't entirely convinced the show could stand on its own without Dr. Derek Shepherd. When he died at the end of Season 11, I (like countless other fans) couldn't really picture a Grey's world without him in it.
Now that we're officially on the other side of Season 12 after this week's action-packed season finale, I'm happy to report that Grey's has exceeded my expectations. In fact, I actually think this might have been one of my favorite seasons in recent history.
Not only can the show survive without Derek Shepherd, it can thrive. Trust me when I say I know just how blasphemous that sounds to hardcore Grey's fans, as I am one.
When the show first aired in 2005, I was in my final semester of college. I was in that in-between place of being on the precipice of the rest of my life but not yet knowing what I wanted to do with that life. During that first season, I moved to Connecticut, where I knew no one outside of my now-husband.
So I watched Grey's in our tiny garage apartment in Connecticut. Back home, my mom and my sister watched Grey's in the living room of our family home, and it felt a little bit like we were watching together. Afterwards, we'd call and have a postmortem convo.
Like so many other fans, our allegiance to the show was built in those early years on the foundation of Meredith and Derek's love. Swoon! Their love story wasn't perfect, by any means, but it was real and oh so passionate. MerDer made Grey's.
After Derek died following that fateful car crash in Season 11, I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to keep watching the show. Not to mention, I definitely wasn't sure I ever wanted to see Meredith with another man on the show. How would that work? What was Grey's without MerDer?
But first there was the time jump, so we knew Meredith had spent a significant amount of time on her own. We knew she had grieved Derek and continued to grieve Derek. Then, when she hooked up with Dr. Thorpe, we also knew she was open to starting her next chapter.
As begrudging as we fans were to see it happen, we had to admit Mer deserved happiness with someone new.
Which brings us to the Season 12 finale.
During the penultimate episode of Grey's this season, Meredith shocked the everlovin' wits out of us when she jumped Dr. Riggs' bones — four times, apparently... yowza — in the parking lot. This was especially surprising in light of the fact that there seemed to be some sort of spark between Maggie and Riggs (at least on Maggie's side).
During the finale, many, many things happened. April went into labor at Meredith's house, and Ben had to perform a crude C-section to save her and the baby. Arizona saw the toll she and Callie's recent custody battle was playing on her loved ones, and she bought Callie plane tickets to go see Penny.
The main thematic event, though, was the wedding of Owen and Amelia. In a series of conversations between Amelia, Meredith and Maggie, the sisters explored the idea of soul mates. In fact, it was the same subject Meredith had discussed with Alex at the start of the episode.
Is it possible to get more than one great love?
At first, Meredith seems to think it isn't possible. Sure, there would be other lovers, but there would never be another great love — not the kind she had with Derek.
And then, at some point, you see the shift. In giving Amelia a pre-wedding pep talk (you know, after running away with her and then returning), Mer has an epiphany: it is possible. Love isn't some finite thing, and some people do find great love more than once in their lifetime.
At the ceremony, Riggs and Meredith make eyes at each other as Amelia walks down the aisle. The entire episode was building up to one revelation, and it wasn't Amelia saying "I do." Rather, it was the implication that Riggs was Meredith's next great love.
That he was her new Derek.
Ack! So many emotions. How do we feel about this, super fans? I thought I would resist the idea more, but you know what? Riggs kind of makes perfect sense for Meredith.
Unlike Derek, who was pretty much perfect and relatively untouched by pain and darkness in his life prior to meeting Mer, Riggs is cut from the same cloth as she is. He has stumbled. He has experienced great loss. He is complicated. So he understands her.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm starting to ship Riggs as Meredith's second soul mate. What is my life, even?
This could all be a moot point seeing as, right as Meredith realized she was open to more with Riggs, Maggie leaned in and said she liked him. Like, really liked him. I guess we should have seen that from a mile away — since when does any relationship in Meredith's life come easy?
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