Grey’S Anatomy Confirms A Fatal Flaw In Meredith’S Story After 20 Seasons


Grey’s Anatomy season 20, episode 5 confirms a fatal flaw in Meredith Grey’s (Ellen Pompeo) story — and it has nothing to do with the surgeon’s groundbreaking Alzheimer’s research. In fact, the problem at hand has been apparent for the series’ last decade, but it seems like Pompeo’s decreased screentime has emphasized the long-standing Meredith Grey problem. When the Shonda Rhimes-created show premiered in 2005, it opened with then-surgical intern Meredith Grey and her supposed one-night stand. A few scenes later, Meredith realizes her fling is none other than neurosurgeon Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), her superior.

For a few seasons, Meredith and Derek were Grey’s Anatomy ‘s most stable pair…

For several seasons, Meredith and Derek’s fraught romance defined the show’s narrative. Derek, who Meredith and her best friend Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) dub “McDreamy,” is initially getting out of an on-the-rocks marriage. Meredith tells Derek to choose her and, eventually, he does, but it certainly takes awhile for the two surgeons to get on the same page, as evidenced by Meredith and Derek’s wild relationship timeline. For a few seasons, Meredith and Derek were Grey’s Anatomy’s most stable pair, but things took a turn in season 10, and that fallout is still defining Meredith Grey’s love life.

Meredith & Nick’s Relationship Feels Forced In Grey’s Anatomy Season 20
Grey’s Anatomy Thinks Meredith Needs A Partner To Be Happy (But She Doesn’t)

Grey’s Anatomy season 20 continues Meredith’s relationship with Nick Marsh (Scott Speedman), a world-class transplant surgeon who previously worked with Meredith during her brief stint at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic. After receiving a kidney transplant himself, Nick flies out to Grey Sloan to retrieve donor organs. After Nick collapses, his medical mishap creates something of a bonding experience for him and Meredith. Later, the pair reconnect, which leads to a long-distance romance of sorts as Meredith shuffles between Mayo and Grey Sloan. Slowly but surely, Meredith realizes her relationship with Nick is serious, so he relocates to Seattle.

Nick takes [Meredith’s harsh words] as a sign of her distrust in his abilities — as a doctor, caretaker, and partner.

As Nick takes on Grey Sloan’s intern program in season 19, Meredith seems ready to move across the country to pursue Alzheimer’s research for the Catherine Fox Foundation. Understandably, Nick is frustrated: He uprooted his life for Meredith and her family. In Grey’s Anatomy season 19’s ending, Nick and Meredith reconnect, though Meredith still makes choices that disappoint Nick. In season 20, Meredith travels between Seattle and Boston on the regular, leaving Nick in Boston with her children — Zola, Bailey, and Ellis. By episode 5, their fraught relationship dynamic comes to a head when Bailey needs an appendectomy.

Instead of calling Meredith immediately, Nick takes Bailey to the hospital, leaving Zola in charge of Ellis. While on the phone with her eldest daughter, Meredith learns that Nick rushed Bailey to surgery. After flying to Boston, Meredith cuts Nick off at every turn. She can’t believe he’d make decisions about her kids without calling her first, which Nick takes as a sign of her distrust in his abilities — as a doctor, caretaker, and partner. By the end of Grey’s Anatomy season 20, episode 5, Meredith apologizes for her harsh words, but it’s clear the couple’s relationship is strained.


Meredith Grey’s Long-Term Relationships Haven’t Worked After Derek’s Death
Meredith’s Love Life Has Had Its Ups & Downs

Meredith’s troubled relationship with Nick is symptomatic of a larger problem in the surgeon’s love life. Since Derek was killed in Grey’s Anatomy season 11, Meredith has struggled to find a functional long-term relationship. From casual flirtations with Atticus “Link” Lincoln (Chris Carmack) and Cormac Hayes (Richard Flood) to her passionate-yet-tragic romance with Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti), none of Meredith’s post-Derek relationships have stuck. Before Nick, cardio surgeon Nathan Riggs (Martin Henderson) seemed like a good fit, but the pair’s relationship ended suddenly when Riggs’ presumed-dead partner Megan Hunt (Abigail Spencer), returned.

Meredith & Derek’s Season 11 Problems Are Still Present
Meredith Is Still The Sun & She Won’t Compromise Her Career

When Cristina Yang leaves Grey’s Anatomy in season 10, she reminds Meredith that Derek isn’t “the sun.” Meredith’s life doesn’t have to revolve around Derek’s ambitions, and hers should be equally important. It’s a conversation that plagued Meredith and Derek’s marriage for the bulk of season 10, with Meredith admitting that they’ll always fall into the intern-attending dynamic of when they first met. Cristina’s parting words strengthen Meredith’s resolve; when Derek is offered a high-powered, cutting-edge neuro job in Washington D.C., Meredith tells him to take it, though she’ll stay behind in Seattle with the kids.

Meredith’s issues with Derek are a continual deal-breaker.

Meredith doesn’t want to hold Derek back, but she also can’t sacrifice her own wants, needs, and career. She can’t live with him denying his own ambitions and then quietly resenting her for it. Clearly, Meredith’s issues with Derek are a continual deal-breaker. The surgeon is proud of her work and her research; if prioritizing her partner’s goals means taking away from her own, Meredith won’t compromise. While Meredith and Nick might have worked when things were less serious — when things were easy and fun — season 20 proves they aren’t a solid endgame.

Grey’s Anatomy Should Embrace Meredith Being Single
Meredith Doesn’t Need A Partner (& Might Be Happier Without One)

With Ellen Pompeo’s role on Grey’s Anatomy significantly reduced, it feels unnecessary to prioritize Meredith’s love life, especially when her groundbreaking (and very personal) Alzheimer’s research is the more significant thread. In season 20, Meredith pulls Derek’s sister, neuro surgeon Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone), into her research, setting up a clear-cut reason for Pompeo’s guest appearances. If anything, Meredith’s romantic tribulations cement the fact that romance will never eclipse her work. Clearly, the series wants to give Meredith a “happy ending,” so it should embrace her success as a single person, mother, and surgeon in Grey’s Anatomy season 21.