Grey’s Anatomy: There’s only one way to write Alex out of the show

GREY'S ANATOMY - ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" stars Justin Chambers as Alex Karev. (ABC/Mike Rosenthal)
GREY'S ANATOMY - ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" stars Justin Chambers as Alex Karev. (ABC/Mike Rosenthal) /

Things aren’t always what they seem. After 16 years, there’s no doubt Alex’s tragic departure will give fans the closure they need.

Of all the Grey’s Anatomy characters that have come and gone over the years, Alex Karev is no doubt the one who has grown the most. Once despised by pretty much everyone — both the other characters on the show and the real-life fans watching it — Alex, over time, became a favorite among all. He didn’t just become Jo’s loving, faithful husband. He also became Meredith Grey’s best friend. Her “Person.”

When the news broke late last year that Justin Chambers (the actor who had portrayed Alex for almost 16 years) had left Grey’s Anatomy effective immediately, fans were devastated. Another original cast member gone. Another lovable character that we would never see again.

People were understandably upset when the show began making casual references to his absent character in the episodes that followed. “Alex is in Iowa” became a weekly reference, and many began to speculate how the writers were planning to end his story for good.

Some figured they might just continue to reference him offscreen in Cristina Yang fashion for the foreseeable future. Others wondered if the show would kill him off,

No one expected the story to imply that Alex had simply left without a good reason to do so. So this week’s episode didn’t go over well in that regard for many viewers.

The show deliberately made it seem as though Alex left Jo, Meredith, and everyone else behind — permanently, by choice, and with no plans to formally say goodbye.

But there’s no way the ending to this week’s episode was anything other than an arguably necessary red herring.

Alex started out as a selfish, self-serving and dishonest surgical intern no one could love. But he grew up. He opened up about his past, he made friends, and he learned how to be a good person to everyone he met.

Of course, he made plenty of mistakes along the way. But on this show especially, who hasn’t?

To close off his story painting him as the same selfish, awful man he used to be wouldn’t just be an insult to his character — it would be an insult to every fan who has spent a decade and a half watching him develop as a character.

Let’s be honest here: The show’s creative team doesn’t always make the best possible storytelling decisions. It happens with a show that’s been running this long. But they have to be smart enough to know not to mess this up.

Which means his farewell episode will most likely involve a tragic death. Not the way most of us would have wanted it, but it would be much better than any alternative at this point.

No one wants Alex Karev to leave. No one wants the show to kill him off, and no one is happy about Justin Chambers’ abrupt exit (even if he did it for health reasons). But if this is the way things have to be, then most would much rather see a “satisfying” finite ending to his story. Satisfying in the sense that we no longer have to wonder what happened to him, anyway.

If that means the episode ends with a funeral, then so be it. At least it would mean we’d all get to say goodbye at once with few to no questions about whether or not he’s “actually” gone. And without all the added drama of him betraying everyone and just disappearing.

His exit is already dramatic enough. Let his character go out with the decent reputation he deserves.

Alex Karev has come too far since the pilot episode to end up in the same exact place.

It’s going to be a hard episode to watch. But maybe that’s what we all need. Maybe that’s what will allow all of us to collectively move on.

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Which Alex flashbacks are you hoping to see in next week’s “goodbye” episode? What are your favorite Alex Karev moments of all time?