The Curious Case of Dr. Derek Shepherd
I’ve always believed the British have done television better, not because British Broadcasting Corporation sounds better than American Broadcasting Company; although it does, but because television series tend to be six episodes with a possible Christmas special and then à tout à l’heure until next autumn. British viewers don’t seem to develop the same commitment to television characters as their US counterparts. American television shows are weekly with 25 episodes, now add ten years and we have viewers completely attached to characters, which leads me to Dr. Derek Shepherd. Obligatory spoiler do not continue if you haven’t viewed Grey’s Anatomy (Season 11 episode 21).
Meredith Grey met the attractive Dr. Derek Shepherd in a bar, it was a one night stand that ultimately led to a beautiful marriage. Theirs is a modern day fairy-tale, although I’m not sure how many women have met their future husband in a bar. Perhaps it was too perfect. From the very first episode, viewers fell in love Patrick Dempsey’s character. His adorable acts of love were enough to make the female viewers fall head over heels for him each week. So for eleven years viewers grew to love him. Derek Shepherd became the ideal man as did Dempsey, the charming Maine native. It’s hard for viewers to separate the man from the television character. He was their McDreamy…and now he’s gone.
Eleven seasons…part of me can’t believe I watched the same programme for eleven years, I realised the storylines weren’t realistic and they grew more tragic as seasons went on; over the last ten seasons there were a plane crash, a mass shooting, a miscarriage, a ferry boat crash (where Meredith drowns and Derek saves her life), and multiple deaths. So why was I watching a show with such depressing storylines? The creator promised viewers a happy ending, but ultimately I watched for the prospect of happiness. Maybe one day all of this madness would end and there would be something else. There were glimpses of a happy Meredith and Derek, only the sadness overshadowed their joy. Perhaps those moments initially satisfied viewers, but sadness outweighs the happiness. Lately I’ve begun to wonder what the show says about society, we turn on the television to forget the devastating news that we read or witness every day; why are we still watching a show that makes us so unhappy? A television programme with weekly catastrophic events can’t ever be anything more.
Right now there is a petition with nearly 80,000 signatures to bring back Dr. Derek Shepherd. I admire their efforts, I absolutely share their love for the character but the idea that Shonda Rhimes will bring back this beloved character is unrealistic. The episode was sloppily done, there were inconsistencies throughout, but what shocked most viewers was the cold, emotionless death. Clearly Rhimes was eager to fire Patrick Dempsey; in the days leading up to that fateful episode her team planted stories indicating Dempsey’s “diva behavior” led to a long suspension. Anonymous sources said Dempsey was fired. This attempt to destroy Patrick Dempsey’s reputation has backfired and fans continue to rally around his character. There are so many reasons for this. Patrick Dempsey is the boy next door from Can’t Buy Me Love, fans grew up watching him in 80’s and 90’s movies. He was popular before appearing on Grey’s Anatomy so Dempsey had a built in fan base and that only grew after he joined the weekly medical drama. His good looks have certainly helped the cause, I’m not sure this petition would have garnered close to 80,000 signatures if Dempsey were an average looking man. The petitioner even suggests Rhimes intentionally emphasized how attractive Shepherd was moments before his death. I find that argument compelling, it’s possible Rhimes wanted to shock viewers and force them to feel Shepherd’s death by featuring his looks.
Was Dempsey fired, it’s certainly possible; was Dempsey so terrible that killing his character became necessary? That’s doubtful. Rhimes made the decision to fire Dempsey but at what cost? She will certainly lose viewers. There’s nothing left to root for, the very idea that any viewer can expect a happy ending for Meredith is gone.
It’s lovely knowing a story can be rewritten, but viewers don’t have that level of control and we can’t change the ending that Rhimes recklessly conceived. She has been merciless in killing her characters and I doubt any number of signatures will change Derek Shepherd’s fate. The story was never ours, it belongs to Rhimes, but we don’t have to watch anymore. For me it’s time to say goodbye to Grey’s Anatomy. Now I’m just wondering what petitioners will do when they realise their Dr. McDreamy is gone forever.
You can check out the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/shonda-rhimes-bring-dr-derek-mcdreamy-shepard-back/u/10652865