Krista Vernoff says she and her writing team never considered killing off Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), a beloved Grey’s Anatomy character.
During Season 16 of the medical drama, fans of Grey’s watched as Dr. Karev said goodbye to Seattle and Grey Sloan Memorial. Because of Chambers’ shocking exit from the series back in January, viewers wondered how the pediatric surgeon’s story would end after 16 seasons.
Due to Chambers deciding to shoot his final episode with the series back in 2019, Vernoff explained to TVLine that she and her team had to creatively decide how to shoot his farewell. One of the options the showrunner said was never on the table was to give Alex the same fate of so many of the show’s characters: Death.
In addition to Chambers opting not to shoot a farewell episode, Vernoff said she didn’t think the characters he was close with, including Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), would be able to deal with Alex being killed without the viewers seeing what happened.
“There was no way to not put those characters through gut-wrenching, ongoing grief if we had killed Alex off-camera,” Vernoff explained in regards to the writers’ decision.
Alex’s farewell took place during the 16th episode of the season. He wrote “Dear John” letters to Meredith, Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.), Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), and his wife, Dr. Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington) that he was quitting his job and getting back with his ex-wife, Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), who left him in Season 6.
Vernoff said, while she is aware many fans were upset by the ending, as it broke up one of the show’s popular couples, “Jolex,” she felt it was the only proper sendoff for the character. She said she thought the fans would have more difficulty with the death of the character than to have him abandon his home, job, and marriage.
“I understand why,” Vernoff said while discussing how the episode affected some of the show’s diehard fans. “But I would fight real hard anyone who tried to tell me that fans would not have been equally or more upset if I had killed Alex Karev off-camera.”
While she says the decision for the episode was unanimous across her writers’ room, Vernoff said there was another option on the table. Instead of sending Alex away, Vernoff says the writers could’ve found a way for he and Jo to remain married without the viewers ever seeing the character. For Vernoff, she thought the possible story wasn’t fair for Luddington, who would have had to act as a happily married woman for the remainder of the series.
Although the ultimate decision upset a lot of people on social media, many of the show’s longtime fans enjoyed the fact that Alex and Izzie reunited. Pompeo has even shared she felt the episode was the best way to say goodbye to the character as well.