Derek isn’t the only major return of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ season 17. There’s (at least) one other person on the beach. HL is investigating theories about the past cast members most likely to return.
Grey’s Anatomy kicked off its 17th season with the unexpected return of Derek Shepherd. The show didn’t turn back time and bring Derek back from the dead. He appeared to Meredith in a beach dream sequence when she fell unconscious after contracting COVID-19.
This beach seems to be a bridge between life and death for Meredith. She’s still fighting for her life, which is why she hasn’t able to physically reach Derek on the beach. Derek is dead, and if Meredith reaches him, she’d be crossing over. Meredith admitted to Derek that she missed him, and he said he’d be there waiting for her when she was ready. Meredith’s not ready to die, and Derek is willing to wait for her.
As Meredith remains unconscious, she’ll be sticking around on the beach. The promo for the Dec. 3 episode revealed that “another person from Meredith’s past” will return. Meredith looks up at a walkway on the beach and says to someone, “Excuse me!” Who is this other person from Meredith’s past on the beach?
Given that this beach features Derek, who is dead, it’s likely that this other returning character is dead as well. This dream-like sequence is similar to when Meredith spoke with Denny, Dylan, and more dead characters when she was fighting off death after nearly drowning in season 3.
One of the most likely characters it could be is George O’Malley. George tragically died at the end of season 5 after being hit by a bus. He was an integral part of Meredith’s life in the early years of her medical career, and he loved her dearly. T.R. Knight and Ellen Pompeo have remained close over the years. They even gathered for a peaceful protest after George Floyd’s death in Los Angeles back in June 2020.
Another prime candidate for a possible return is Lexie Grey, Meredith’s beloved sister. Lexie succumbed to injuries she sustained in the plane crash at the end of season 8. When Lexie knew she was dying, she told Mark, “Tell Meredith that I love her and that she was a good sister.” Given that Mark died shortly after, we never knew whether or not Mark told Meredith what Lexie said about her. This could be Lexie’s chance to tell Meredith how much she loves her and to keep fighting. Chyler Leigh is currently a series regular on Supergirl, so logistically it could have been complicated for her to come back but not impossible!
One of the most popular characters floating out there as a possible return is, of course, Ellis Grey. Meredith had a complicated relationship with her mother, but Ellis’ influence is crucial to why Meredith is who she is today. When Meredith was in the after-life dimension in season 3 and saw Ellis crossing over, Ellis told Meredith that she shouldn’t be there. Ellis urged Meredith to “just keep going” and run back to her life. It would make sense for Meredith and Ellis to have a similar conversation on the beach.
All of these characters mean so much to Meredith. It’s going to be an emotional, tear-inducing moment no matter who it is. Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.