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Why ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Killed Off Another Beloved Doctor in a Twist That Had Nothing to Do With COVID

”I didn’t like it and it made me mad and it made me cry even as I imagined it,“ showrunner Krista Vernoff says

(Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Thursday’s episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.”)

“Grey’s Anatomy” has taken the real-life coronavirus pandemic its viewers are living through and put it front and center in its Season 17 plot, to the point where main character Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) has been in a COVID-induced dream for the better part of the season.

But on Thursday’s episode of the ABC medical drama, showrunner Krista Vernoff threw fans a curve ball with the shocking death of Dr. Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti), who was killed not by COVID-19, but by a wound he sustained when he was stabbed after following a sex trafficker out of the hospital.

“There was no decision to kill the character and then discussion of how are we going to kill him. There literally was an entire imagining that came into my head of DeLuca following the sex trafficker out of the hospital, following her through the city, refusing to let up, and being punched in the stomach at a certain point by some colleague of hers who he didn’t see coming and him dropping,” Vernoff told Entertainment Weekly in an interview published after last night’s episode. “You think he was punched and then you realized he was stabbed and that moves into ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and he visits with Meredith on the beach. The whole thing downloaded and I was like, ‘Oh my God, we’re killing DeLuca?’ That’s how it happened. Nobody wanted to kill DeLuca. I didn’t want to kill DeLuca! But when I came in and said, ‘You guys, this is the story,’ everyone went, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the story.’ We wanted to honor the fact that we didn’t feel like we had completed the storytelling of the sex trafficking [plot] and this felt like the story.”

Though Vernoff says her choice was very deliberate, that doesn’t mean she was happy about it.

“I didn’t like it and it made me mad and it made me cry even as I imagined it, and I will admit that multiple times as we were writing the season and even as we were shooting these episodes, I came into the writers’ room shouting and crying like, ‘Really?! This is what we’re doing? I think I’m chickening out! I think we have to save him, you guys!’,” she said, with a laugh. “Me, the fan, wants DeLuca to live but the storyteller, I follow the stories where they want to go.”

Pompeo said in a recent interview that the team “honestly” has “not decided” yet whether Season 17 will be “Grey’s Anatomy’s” final. You can read more about that here.

“Grey’s Anatomy” airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.