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With Ellen Pompeo preparing to say goodbye to Grey's Anatomy, what better time than to look back on Meredith Grey's biggest moments over the last 19 seasons!
Pompeo, who has led the ABC medical drama since its launch in 2005, will have her farewell episode as a series regular Thursday, Feb. 23 when Grey's returns to kick off the second half of the season. While the actress and producer will no longer be roaming the halls of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, especially after the devastating fall finale during which her beloved home went up in flames amid a lightning storm, Pompeo -- who will continue to narrate future episodes -- promises Meredith's presence will always be felt.
"It's still Grey's, she's still there in spirit and that's the house that Grey built, so she's always there," Pompeo told ET in September after news of her limited eight-episode season 19 stint was announced.
Two months later, the 53-year-old expressed her gratitude to longtime fans who have stuck by her all these years and promised this isn't a permanent goodbye. "I am eternally grateful and humbled by the love and support you have all shown me, Meredith GREY and the show for 19 seasons!" Pompeo wrote on Instagram in November. "This isn’t your first time on the rollercoaster… you know the show must go on and I’ll definitely be back to visit."
Of course, Pompeo's titular heroine has seen it and been through it all, even cheating death multiple times. "Hey, listen, it's drama," Pompeo told ET during an exclusive visit to the Grey's set in 2016. "We need drama."
As the countdown continues to Pompeo's send-off, ET had the tall task of compiling a few of Meredith's biggest moments on Grey's -- and it was quite a challenge! Below are eight of Meredith's most memorable scenes and storylines.
Season 1, Episode 1: What Started It All
If there's one word to describe the very first episode, it's magic. Arguably one of the best episodes of the series, the pilot introduced viewers to a young and hungry Meredith Grey as she entered the grueling world of Seattle Grace as a surgical intern. It also introduced her fellow intern class -- Alex, Izzie, George and Cristina -- who would become pivotal members of her found family as they fought to survive under Bailey's thumb. That iconic speech Richard Webber gave to the interns on Day 1 of their first shift? That's the same speech Meredith would give to the latest class of interns to kick off season 19.
Plus, who can forget the one-night stand between Meredith and Derek Shepherd, who she'd discover later in the episode was an attending at the same hospital, that started one of TV's greatest (and roller-coaster) love stories? We certainly can't.
Season 2, Episode 5: "Pick Me, Choose Me, Love Me"
In one of the most quoted lines from Grey's, Meredith said these iconic words to Derek -- whom she learned was still married by this point -- imploring him to choose her and not his then-wife, fellow doctor Addison Montgomery. Meredith's emotional plea was one of the character's most memorable moments of the series as it further fueled the growing love triangle between her, Derek and Addison.
While the scene itself set the bar for all the obstacles MerDer would face early on in Grey's, Pompeo admitted on her podcast, Tell Me With Ellen Pompeo, in 2021 she was "horrified." "'I'm going to beg a man?' And then on top of it, Meredith's sobbing. I don't know if it was in the script or not, or if our set producers wanted me to cry when I was doing that scene," the actress explained. "And what's funny about that scene is that I'm bawling my eyes out, but I'm bawling not for the reasons in the scene. I'm bawling because I can't believe I'm on TV begging a man to love me." Even still, it's a crucial moment for Meredith's journey on Grey's.
Season 3, Episode 17: On the Brink of Death
Meredith has had her fair share of near-death experiences, but in this season 3 episode, which was a two-part event, she did die. After reporting to the scene of a massive ferry disaster, Meredith tripped over the edge of the dock after being pushed by a man she was trying to save -- with no adult witnesses nearby aware she was deep in the icy Seattle waters. During the time she was under, Meredith was transported to a dream-like alternate state where she was reunited with key characters who recently died, including Denny Duquette, bomb squad guy Dylan and her mother, Ellis Grey.
After Derek rescues Meredith, she's brought back to life after flatlining for what seemed like an eternity -- the monitor capturing her revived pulse after Ellis told her in the dream, "You are anything but ordinary Meredith," and urged her daughter to "run" as it wasn't her time yet. Meredith's near-fatal drowning also put the spotlight on Meredith and Derek's relationship as he proved he was more than ready to commit to the relationship for the long term.
Season 5, Episode 24: The Post-It Vows
Meredith and Derek were anything but a normal couple, and it was quite fitting for the couple to say "I do" in the hospital breakroom via a Post-it note after struggling to fit in a more formal City Hall wedding between medical emergencies. The Post-It vows, which was the only item that would survive the house fire in season 19, became symbolic of their enduring romance.
"I want to be with you forever and you want to be with me forever. In order to do that, we need to make vows. A commitment. A contract," Derek told Meredith in the iconic scene. Naturally, the only thing in her doctor's coat was a stack of bright blue Post-Its. Their list of promises? "That you'll love me, even when you hate me," she said. "No running... ever. Nobody walks out, no matter what happens," Derek chimed in. "That we'll take care of each other, even when we're old and smelly and senile. And if I get Alzheimer's and if I forget you...," Meredith trailed off. "I'll remind you who I am every day," Derek promised.
Season 7, Episode 20: Adopting Zola
Meredith was introduced to 6-month baby Zola, an orphan from Zimbabwe, at the end of season 7, but she wouldn't officially be granted her legal guardian (along with Derek) until the eighth season. Though it was Derek who initially fell in love with Zola, whom he was treating for spina bifida, Meredith soon agreed to start the adoption process and immediately filed papers. Still unmarried at the time, though they had gone through their impromptu Post-It wedding a few seasons prior, the couple formally legalized their marriage at city hall in order to smooth out the process.
But the process of welcoming Zola into the family was anything but smooth sailing, as Meredith and Derek's relationship faced many obstacles -- including time apart after Meredith put his Alzheimer's drug trial in serious jeopardy, prompting the couple to spend time apart for a brief period. Even so, they weathered the storm and were granted custody of Zola, officially becoming Zola Grey Shepherd in season 8. As Meredith's first child, Zola would play a significant role in her life in years to come and eventually, in season 19, serve as a catalyst for Meredith's decision to leave Seattle for the East Coast.
Season 11, Episode 21: Letting Derek Go
Meredith suffered her most devastating loss when Derek died following complications from a car accident and doctor ineptitude midway through season 11. The stunning death turned Meredith's world upside down as she was forced to navigate life without her one and only love. In this episode, Meredith displayed the strength and will viewers have known her to exude as she said goodbye to her husband.
Set to Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars," a song that was once synonymous with Grey's, the scene is harrowing yet tragic in its simplicity. As the doctors turned off the monitors helping Derek stay alive, Meredith could only sit by her husband's hospital bed. "Derek, it's OK," Meredith -- tears in her eyes -- comforted her husband. "You go. We'll be fine." They'd later reunite on the beach in season 17 after Meredith fell into a coma when she got sick from COVID-19.
Season 14, Episode 7: Winning the Harper Avery
Over the course of the series, every doctor's dream is to win the prestigious (and very difficult to earn) Harper Avery. And in season 14, Meredith accomplished that goal, catapulting her professional career in the surgical field. Even sweeter was Meredith's closest friends and colleagues celebrating her award with her, with Jackson Avery praising Meredith in his speech for withstanding tremendous loss and pain in her life to earn the Harper Avery. What made the moment even better was Meredith seeing her late mother in the crowd, applauding her accomplishment. As a cherry on top, Meredith's "person," Cristina, called to congratulate her as they, along with Alex, celebrated the professional high point in their favorite hospital corner as interns.
Season 17, Episode 13: Meredith and Derek's Dream Wedding
This may not be an obvious Meredith highlight, and sure, there are 19 seasons worth of scenes that could have replaced this one. But we chose to include this sweet beachside moment from season 17, even though it was amid Meredith's COVID dream, because of what it represented. That Meredith was able to endure following Derek's death and they were able to, under dire circumstances to be sure, come back together just for a brief blip. Though it was all in Meredith's head, it was nice to see Meredith and Derek have the wedding they never had and to be reminded that much of Meredith's journey on Grey's was fueled by this unconventional partnership.
Grey's Anatomy returns Thursday, Feb. 23 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
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