There’s only one reason to celebrate Alex Karev’s wild Grey’s Anatomy exit

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) /

While many fans hoped for a satisfying death as an end to his story on Grey’s Anatomy, Alex Karev lives — and his exit has left many fans disappointed.

It’s not often that fans collectively cross their fingers hoping a beloved fictional character will die. But for many, it seemed the most respectful way to end Alex Karev’s (Justin Chambers) 16-year run on Grey’s Anatomy.

No one wanted him to die. It’s only been a few months since we even learned he was leaving the show. But if he had to go, many agreed killing him off would be the best way to do it.

So many TV remotes were on the verge of taking flight Thursday night when, within the first few minutes of Alex’s farewell episode, it was revealed he was not only alive, but in Kansas. With Izzie Stevens. And their five-year-old twins.

There are two ways to analyze this ending, and it seems like most fans at this point stand on one side or the other. You tend to either see it as a beautiful sendoff — he and Izzie were always meant to be; he never stopped loving her; he finally gets to be the loving father he never had — or a disappointing drop-off. He claimed to love Jo, then left her. He promised to always be there for Meredith and left her, too. All without warning. All without a proper goodbye.

Before we dive into how all this played out, let’s take a moment to give some much-deserved props to the creative team behind this show who took a bad situation and made the most of it.

Chambers’ exit wasn’t planned. They had no new footage of him to use as part of a sendoff, and it doesn’t seem like they had much time to shift things around to make his exit work. They had no choice but to take what little they had and write an ending that was guaranteed to please many and infuriate many more.

All things considered, storytelling-wise, it worked. It flowed. It could have been much worse. And for the record, his letters were beautifully written regardless of their implications. The actors also did a great job giving their all in their performances this episode.

And I can’t go on without admitting the “you’re your own person now” line got me, and will stick with me for a long time. I’ll give them that, too.

The one (yes, there’s only one) good thing to come out of all this is that Alex doesn’t have to be excluded from the eventual Grey’s Anatomy series finale. Even better, he and Izzie can both show up. There’s no guarantee Katherine Heigl and Justin Chambers will oblige, but it’s not off the table.

Killing him would have eliminated that chance, the way it did for Patrick Dempsey and T.R. Knight. So there’s that.

While Alex’s story does come full circle in the end in many ways, there’s still a storytelling flaw here big enough to pretty much undo everything good that can be said about how his character’s exit was handled.

It’s this thing called character development. And the way Alex leaves completely unravels every single inch of it.

Alex Karev was very intentionally introduced as the male co-worker every woman (and even the men) dread having. He’s unreliable, a liar, and flaky. He’s also rude and self-serving. He treats women like objects and uses his “status” as a doctor to step on and over everyone in his way.

Who did we know and love by the time his final episode aired? A man who not only respects women but has formed both romantic and platonic relationships with many (RIP Merlex). One who has committed to standing by the love of his life while also using his career to make the world a better place. He’s a good friend. A loving, caring husband. The kind of doctor you’d be lucky to have or even work alongside.

And after all that, he abruptly leaves everything behind for Izzie — who left him, and apparently after doing so, decided to have his kids and not even consider mentioning it to him?

Was he really so desperate to be a father at this point that couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be one even if it meant treating Jo like he never even loved her?

Nostalgia is powerful. There are a lot of fans out there who have always hoped Alex and Izzie would find each other again, and now all their dreams have finally come true.

But it’s hard not to see how random this all feels. All that effort they put into showing how “in love” Jolex was … just to throw it all away? Why? So Jo and Link can get together? So Meredith can appear a stronger person (isn’t she one already?). So they don’t have to deal with the backlash of killing off an OG character “unnecessarily”?

We’re not the writers or showrunners of this series. There’s no point in saying it “should have” ended a certain way or that “we could have done better.” For the sake of further developing other characters, sure, his death could have brought Jo and Meredith closer, maybe it would have made fewer fans furious.

But they still should have tried harder. This ending makes him look like a terrible person even if you support the Alex and Izzie love story. It’s disrespectful and, honestly, feels like lazy writing. But maybe we’re just setting our expectations too high in this regard.

At least we can still hold onto the hope that at the end of all this, Meredith can reunite with Cristina, Alex, and Izzie all in one place. Sorry, George. You’ll still have to sit this final reunion out. Unless …

Related Story. Grey’s Anatomy season 16 episode 16 review: The end of Alex Karev. light

What was your immediate reaction to the big reveal about Alex? Are you glad? Mad? Something else?