Report Card: How ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ season 11 handled Patrick Dempsey’s exit, much more

The future -To a certain extent, it is fairly easy to have sympathy for “Grey’s Anatomy.” This is a show that has been on the air for eleven seasons, and keeping track of continuity while doing 24 episodes a season is a difficult enough job. Now, add to this the fact that this past season had to deal with such issues as character breakups, new additions, and then the departure of Patrick Dempsey, the most delicate balancing act of all.

There is context to consider when discussing the exit of Dempsey, mostly because we do feel like it is important to the overall story to a certain degree. The original plan never was to write him out of the show or kill the character off, and this adjustment was made on-the-fly during the season. Given how far in advance Shonda Rhimes and the writers like to plan things out, this is a huge shock to the system, and trying to work from scratch on the final few episodes of the season had to be stressful.

What worked – “How to Save a Life” was a brilliant episode. While heartbreaking, it was a great way to send off Derek that made us recall so many great scenes and of course his wonderful history with Meredith Grey. Some other particularly strong stories this year included the fall of the Callie / Arizona romance, seeing Richard Webber finally put some of his fears aside with Catherine, and finally seeing Owen had a little bit of happiness again.

What didn’t – We didn’t care for the immediate aftermath of Derek’s death, moving forward so much in a short period of time over the course of that two-hour episode. Also, the whole Meredith-getting-in-the-way-of-Alex’s-personal-life story got old rather quickly, and we wish that there was something even better for Bailey to do this season. The inevitability when you have such an enormous cast is that some storylines are going to be stronger than others.

Our verdict – This was an uneven season, for sure, and the build in the Meredith / Derek story was probably destroyed by the sudden change when it comes to Dempsey’s status. This was not a perfect season (we barely remember some of the early episodes), but when the show was firing on all cylinders, it was fantastic. Grade: B.

Let us know in the comments what you think about season 11! Also, click here to get some other entries in our Report Card series, or sign up now to gather up some further TV updates on all we cover via our CarterMatt Newsletter. (Photo: ABC.)

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