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Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Release Date, Cast And Plot - What We Know So Far

The doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital will operate for another full season.

In May of 2021, after some uncertainty about whether or not "Grey's Anatomy" — the longest-running medical series in television history and one of ABC's most popular shows to this day — would return after its seventeenth season, news broke that the show would, in fact, be back for Season 18.

After contract negotiations and a season filmed during the height of the coronavirus crisis, it was announced that ABC renewed the beloved, long-running series for another season... as well as the news that several of the show's original cast members, including three who have been with the series since the very beginning.

Longtime fans of "Grey's Anatomy" who have stuck with the show for nearly four hundred episodes are definitely thrilled at this news, but it also raises a ton of questions about what surprises showrunner Krista Vernoff has up her sleeve for Season 18. Here's everything we know so far about "Grey's Anatomy" Season 18, including its release date, what might happen, and which stars will return.

When will Season 18 of Grey's Anatomy come out?

Before fans can even speculate about when Season 18 of "Grey's Anatomy" will premiere, Season 17 needs to close out its arc — and with just a few episodes remaining in the season, the finale is currently set to air on Thursday, June 3 on ABC.

While many popular shows have been delayed thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, which first struck the globe in March of 2020 and brought life as we know it to a screeching halt, "Grey's Anatomy" was one of the first series to resume production... mostly due to the fact that, as a medical series, its actors have been wearing protective gear for most of the show's run. Beyond that, Vernoff, in discussion with stars Ellen Pompeo and Debbie Allen, revealed that she and her writers wanted to tackle the pandemic in Season 17's storylines, saying, "This is the biggest medical story of our lifetime, and it is changing medicine permanently."

Since its filming schedule continued throughout COVID-19, it seems reasonable that, as it has for years, the new season of "Grey's Anatomy" will arrive sometime in the fall of 2021 — though no official date has been announced just yet.

Who will appear in Season 18 of Grey's Anatomy?

Obviously, "Grey's Anatomy" wouldn't be able to exist without its leading lady, Ellen Pompeo, who has played the titular Dr. Meredith Grey — an award-winning surgeon whose mother was a medical legend — since the very beginning. As outlets announced in May of 2021, the Season 18 renewal was thanks largely to a new contract negotiation between executives and Pompeo, and her co-stars Chandra Wilson and James Pickens Jr., who have also been with the show since its inception as Dr. Miranda Bailey and Dr. Richard Webber, have also received pay increases.

Long-running characters including Dr. Teddy Altman (Kim Raver), Dr. Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd), and Dr. Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington) will also return for Season 18, with these actors reportedly receiving pay raises as well. However, before Season 17 even ends, one beloved character will depart the series: Dr. Jackson Avery, played by Jesse Williams, following in the footsteps of Dr. Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti), who departed the show earlier in the season.

Season 17 also saw previous cast members including Patrick Dempsey, Eric Dane, Chyler Leigh, and T.R. Knight — whose characters have all died in the show's story — reappear during Meredith's COVID-19 induced hallucinations. However, Sandra Oh, who played cardiothoracic prodigy Dr. Cristina Yang for ten seasons, also addressed potentially returning... and shot those rumors down entirely. Whether or not any previous players will return in Season 18, however, is anybody's guess.

What will happen in Grey's Anatomy Season 18?

"Grey's Anatomy" has had plenty of surprises in store for its fans over the years, from plane crashes to major character deaths to romantic weddings, and as Season 17 draws to a close, it's still too early to tell what might happen going forward. However, one thing seems inevitable: as the COVID-19 crisis, which has been alleviated in many countries by worldwide vaccine distribution, still continues, the show will keep tackling the unique challenge of working in a major hospital during a global pandemic.

So far, "Grey's Anatomy" has shown us the physical and mental toll of the pandemic on doctors working on the front lines, whether Dr. Bailey is watching her mother suffer from (and ultimately succumb to) the virus, Dr. Altman is suffering from a mental breakdown, or Meredith herself is bedridden with the illness for the majority of the season. As the pandemic hopefully continues to abate, particularly in the United States, Season 18 may well focus on the aftermath of this devastating time, showing what the doctors' lives are like as COVID-19 becomes less deadly and prevalent.

For now, "Grey's Anatomy" airs new episodes on Thursday nights on ABC at 9 PM EST, and the first sixteen seasons — a perfect quarantine binge watch — are available to stream on both Netflix and Hulu.