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Grey's Anatomy: Ellen Pompeo's Exit Was A Bittersweet Moment For Shonda Rhimes

"Grey's Anatomy" has been on the air for what feels like several lifetimes, and as of this writing, it shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. This is especially surprising when you consider that its leading lady, Ellen Pompeo, whose character Meredith Grey quite literally put the "Grey" in "Grey's Anatomy," left the series in February 2023. Though she still provides the show's ever-present narration, she's no longer a part of the regular show.

Creator Shonda Rhimes, who served as showrunner until the 12th season ended in 2017, did remark on Pompeo's exit, where the character left Seattle to move her family to Boston and pursue an exciting opportunity to participate in Alzheimer's research (which is especially important considering that Meredith's mother suffered from the disease). Speaking to E! News, Rhimes said, "Having Ellen leave was heartbreaking for everybody, but also knowing that she could come back anytime was also important for me."

After saying that Meredith's exit was nebulous for a reason in that she wanted to "make sure everybody understood that the door's always open—for any of our past characters," Rhimes continued. "Ellen's an amazing person and she and I have been having conversations the whole time, discussing when it was time and what it was feeling like," she revealed. "We've always been having those discussions because I've always wanted her to be excited and invested and enjoying herself as much as she was at the beginning."

Shonda Rhimes doesn't think Grey's Anatomy will end any time soon

So does Shonda Rhimes think — now that Ellen Pompeo is out of the regular cast (though she may appear on the series from time to time) — that "Grey's Anatomy" should just end already? One would think that, as the creator, Rhimes has the final say no matter what, but she told E! News that she definitely doesn't think the show is going anywhere — and that she's not going to get in its way.

"I might be a very old lady by the time we reach [its] last season because it doesn't seem to be stopping," she told the outlet, "which is wonderful and I feel the world really belongs to the fans and the fans have been really clear about what they want." Ultimately, Rhimes said that as long as the series holds onto its fans, she's not going to interfere. "I'm going to leave it alone and see where it goes, and we're going to stay a show as long as everybody wants to be there and as long as the fans want to be there," she said.

Rhimes hasn't been the showrunner for several years now, with Meg Marinis taking over in 2023 as Rhimes' colleague Krista Vernoff also leaves the role behind. Now that the series has a new group of interns, it sure seems like it could continue forever ... but should it?

Should Grey's Anatomy keep going, or is Rhimes totally off base?

Is Shonda Rhimes right, and "Grey's Anatomy" should run as long as it possibly can? Or is the showrunner in the wrong, and the series should call time of death already?

There definitely are arguments to be made for both sides here. On the one hand, fans are actually really liking the new interns; meant to subtly mimic the original five interns that included Pompeo's Meredith, their debut in Season 19 was mostly well-received. In that vein, Pompeo leaving shouldn't be a make-or-break situation for the show, since characters come and go on "Grey's Anatomy" more or less constantly, and with a new generation and new showrunner, the show could break new creative ground.

With nearly two decades on the air, though, it does also feel like there's not that much more creative ground to break. A lot of truly insane stuff has happened on "Grey's Anatomy." A lion once roamed through Seattle; a guy showed up in the emergency room with a bomb in his chest; a surgical resident got stabbed by a falling icicle. If the show continues, it might get even weirder, and not in a good way. 

With all of that said, the powers that be at ABC are keeping "Grey's Anatomy" going strong — so you can rewatch the series on both Netflix and Hulu, and watch the new episodes as they air Thursdays at 9 p.m. EST on the network.