If you’ve been with my blog for a while now, you’ll know that I’m a fan of Grey’s Anatomy. It was a show that I didn’t get into until a good 10 years after the first season aired, but ever since, it’s been a show that I’ve loved. It’s become an obsession and a show that I’ve gotten emotionally attached to in ways that are probably rather unhealthy. But I love it. I love the cast, I love the storylines, and I love the music. If you don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy, I can’t help you. It’s too much of an emotional minefield to give you a full breakdown, however, here’s a very brief synopsis of the early seasons:
Grey’s Anatomy is a US drama series created by Shonda Rhimes that follows the titular character, Dr Meredith Grey, and her colleagues as they embark on their career as surgeons at Seattle Grace Hospital. There’s her best friend Dr Cristina Yang, along with fellow surgical interns George O’Malley, Izzie Stevens and Alex Karev. The series follows the doctors’ experiences with the patients they encounter and the development of each character’s medical career, along with the relationships they have with each other, including Meredith’s on-off romance with neurosurgeon Dr Derek Shepherd.
Of course, that’s the tip of the iceberg, and if I were to tell you a full on synopsis of the show, you’d be here for days, but at least this gives you a bit of a taste.
Earlier this year, to ease me out of my Normal People obsession, I started to re-watch Grey’s from the very beginning, and I wasn’t disappointed. Whether it was the emotional side of lockdown getting to me or the fact I’d developed more of an attachment to the characters, each storyline hit me that little bit harder compared to the first time I watched them.
So, I was inspired to put together a post. Obvs.
One of the main things Grey’s is known for is the episodes and scenes that just completely destroy the viewer – it’s almost famous for it. So, I decided to put together my list of scenes and episodes that have particularly descended me into a snivelling mess. Now, at present, there are currently 17 seasons (18 at the time of editing) of Grey’s Anatomy, so it’s virtually impossible to come up with one post that covers everything. So, I’ve decided to go bit by bit – this post in particular covers Seasons 1 to 6, and I’m banking anything else beyond that for a future post.
So, if you’re not familiar with Grey’s Anatomy, I suggest you give it a watch. One thing I will say though, is that this post has quite a few spoilers, so if you’re new to the show, I’d suggest catching up with Seasons 1-6 at the very least before you read this post.
Again, for those who don’t read the intro to my posts – THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
Into You Like a Train (Season 2, Episode 6)
This is the very first episode that I remember breaking me emotionally, and even after multiple watches, it still has me fucking sobbing. All of the Seattle Grace doctors work to save the lives of victims from a train crash, but the most challenging of cases involves two patients – Bonnie and Tom – who despite having never met before, have been impaled on a pole together. One of them must be moved from the pole via a risky surgery, but it will more than likely cause them to die, leaving the doctors faced with a heartbreaking decision. Meanwhile, alongside this, Meredith waits for Derek to make his choice between her and Addison, with everything coming to a head when the doctors begin the surgery to separate Bonnie and Tom.
Grey’s Anatomy is one of those shows that often presents us with heartbreaking dilemmas, and this is one of the most memorable – who lives and who dies? As Tom cries out that it’s not fair, a tearful Bonnie tells him “it’s not fair either way” – causing us all to collapse in our own goddamn tears.
This particular episode has been cited as a fan favourite, and it’s easy to see why. It’s painfully difficult to watch at times, and what’s even more upsetting is seeing the doctors so heartbroken by the situation – in particular the scene where Bailey stops the elevator while Derek composes himself.
Break on Through (Season 2, Episode 15)
Okay, many of the most emotional Grey’s Anatomy episodes involve some sort of huge disaster event, so it may be surprising that I’ve included this one in my list, as nothing major (compared to other episodes at least) happens. However, for me, there’s one scene in particular that just causes me to cry my eyes out.
To give a bit more context, Meredith’s storyline is that she accidentally intubates a patient who turns out to be DNR (do not resuscitate). After bearing the brunt of the patient’s friends and family, Meredith must then let the patient die. Alongside this, Meredith is also struggling with the fact that Richard is paying regular visits to her mother, Ellis, in her nursing home.
Meredith is then given the task of un-intubating her patient and letting her die. What follows is a heartbreaking scene where Meredith calls time of death and leaves the room, running into a closet where she has a panic attack. She’s then found by Derek, who comforts her while she sobs “I don’t want my mother to die alone.” The fact that she completely breaks down over the situation with her mother is one thing that breaks you all on it’s own, because up until this point, we don’t really see too much of an emotional reaction from her. However, you get even more of an emotional gut-punch when Derek (after recently dumping Meredith going back to his wife) comforts her, showing just how much he still cares about her. Combined with the soundtrack of Scratch by Kendall Payne, the scene just gets me every single time.
Losing My Religion (Season 2, Episode 27)
Any Grey’s Anatomy fan will tell you that this episode goes down in history. It’s difficult to explain the whole Izzie and Denny story-arc to someone who hasn’t seen the show, but if you’re diving into this post I’m assuming you know about one of its most famous storylines. For those who don’t have a bloody clue, here’s a quick breakdown –
Denny Duquette was a patient in need of a heart transplant. He and Izzie ended up falling in love and it came to the point where Izzie went to illegal and extraordinary measures to ensure Denny received his transplant, putting her medical career and the hospital itself at risk.
Anyway, more on that later. There’s quite a few emotional moments in this episode, so it just keeps on bringing the tears throughout. For starters, you’ve got Meredith saying goodbye to her dog, Doc, when he gets put to sleep (any dog dying just breaks me), and the scene with her and Derek in the exam room (“I CAN’T BREATHE WITH YOU LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT”) resulting in a pretty steamy banging sesh.
Meanwhile, things seem quite happy and fluffy on the Izzie and Denny front – until you find out in a last minute plot twist that Denny has died. What follows is one of the most iconic scenes in Grey’s history, where Alex has to lift a sobbing Izzie off of Denny’s bed and carries her out of the room. Oh yeah, and this episode is the reason that Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars is a song that genuinely gets me more emotional than it should, as it’s the soundtrack to the entire scene.
6 Days, Part 2 (Season 3, Episode 6)
The story arc of George’s father, Harold, coming to the hospital for surgery is quite the rollercoaster overall, but for me, the most emotional part of the episode is towards the end. After it becomes clear that Harold’s organs are shutting down, George’s family make the decision to let him go. Bailey then takes Harold off of life support, and the family stay with him while he dies. As George leaves the room, he’s followed by Cristina, and there’s the most heartbreaking moment of friendship between the two, where she tells him about the “Dead Dads Club.”
Some Kind of Miracle (Season 3, Episode 17)
The ferry boat crash which initially happened two episodes before this one is another Grey’s storyline that goes down in history, but it’s taken to another level when Meredith is knocked off the pier into the water and drowns. She’s thankfully rescued by Derek, but it’s then down to the Seattle Grace doctors to save her. In this episode, while Bailey, Burke and Richard attempt to revive her, Meredith is in a limbo-like situation where she’s met by the ghosts of Denny, Bonnie (from the train crash) and Dylan (from Season 2’s bomb episode), and her dog, Doc.
The episode switches back and forth from Meredith in the afterlife to the real world, where Ellis Grey is a patient at Seattle Grace and Cristina has left the hospital in shock after what happened. It keeps you on edge pretty much the entire time, but the emotion hits hardest during the final scenes. As Meredith decides to leave the afterlife, she’s greeted by Ellis, indicating that she’s died – we then get what we’ve been waiting for for the last three seasons:
In the real world, just as the doctors are about to call time of death on Meredith, Cristina enters the room and urges them to try again. Against the odds, Meredith starts to come round, and Cristina blurts out the news that she and Burke are engaged, telling her: “I’m getting married to Burke! Not that that should be anywhere on your list of thoughts right now, but just in case you slip in the hall later… you are the one person I wanted to tell.”
Full on tears and ultimate friendship goals. There are so many moments throughout the show’s run that highlight Meredith and Cristina’s friendship, but for me, this is one of my favourite moments. While Cristina is known for being quite a cold person who doesn’t often show her emotions, in this moment you see just how scared she is at the possibility of losing her best friend.
Didn’t We Almost Have It All? (Season 3, Episode 25)
The run up to Cristina and Burke’s wedding actually has quite a few laughs in it – such as Burke’s mother removing Cristina’s eyebrows and Cristina’s desperation to take on a surgery to take her mind off her nerves. However, in true Grey’s Anatomy fashion, things all kick off towards the end of the episode. Cristina has a brief meltdown before the ceremony, but just as she calms down, Burke appears and tells her that he knows she doesn’t really want to do this and that he’s letting her go. It’s quite the shocker, but the ugly crying doesn’t actually come until a couple of scenes later, when Cristina is standing in Burke’s empty apartment in her wedding dress. The realisation that he’s gone finally hits her, and Meredith has to cut her out of her dress while she sobs – combined with the soundtrack of Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson, it’s incredibly painful to watch, but at the same time, it’s another moment indicating just how close Meredith and Cristina are as friends.
Stairway to Heaven (Season 5, Episode 13)
Okay, I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, this episode just destroys me every single time I watch it. Again, the set up takes place over the last couple of episodes, after William, a prisoner on Death Row, arrives at the hospital. Meredith wants to show him compassion, but Derek has nothing but contempt for him. The whole story revolves around how William wants to succumb to his injuries as he’s due to be executed in a few days, but Derek is determined to treat him so that he can go back to prison to carry out his sentence. Things are complicated even further when Bailey is treating a little boy in need of a heart transplant, and William is willing to be the donor.
Yes, the whole episode is emotionally charged, but without a doubt, the final 10 minutes are what send me into a snivelling mess. After William tells Meredith “it’d be nice to see a friendly face when they kill me,” she attends his execution. It’s an incredibly raw scene to watch and it’s intertwined with scenes of Bailey’s patient waking up after his heart transplant, and it’s all set to Drifting Further Away by Powderfinger, a song that is a regular feature on my “Crying” playlist. After William’s execution, Meredith is met by Derek:
Just when you think you can’t cry any more, Derek knocks on Cristina’s door and tells her that Meredith is “in the car and she won’t stop crying,” and the episode ends with Cristina sitting in Derek’s car with Meredith while they talk. Again – friendship goals.
Sweet Surrender (Season 5, Episode 20)
One of the main themes in Season 5 is Bailey trying to decide whether to move into paediatrics, and this episode is one that shows just how amazing a peds surgeon she would be. After working a 90 hour week, on her day off, she sits and comforts a little girl, Jessica, who is in the final hours of her life. Combined with Izzie’s storyline, where she begins to struggle with her first round of chemotherapy, the episode is pretty emotional overall, but the most painful scene has to be when Bailey confronts Jessica’s father and tells him “She needs her Daddy for this part.” No. Words.
What a Difference a Day Makes (Season 5, Episode 22)
The early Grey’s Anatomy seasons were full of complete heartbreak, and Season 5 definitely kept it coming with every episode. What a Difference a Day Makes was the 100th episode, and it did not disappoint. In this episode, Meredith and Derek’s wedding day approaches, but as Izzie’s cancer progresses and she starts to deteriorate, they make a last minute change of plan. Rather than getting married themselves, Meredith and Derek give their wedding to Izzie and Alex, and it genuinely has me crying my eyes out each time I watch it. I’m already a mess when Izzie tells Cristina why she wants her to be maid of honour, but I’m severely not okay when Izzie starts struggling as she walks down the aisle so George steps in and walks her the rest of the way. It’s just too damn much.
Death and All His Friends (Season 6, Episode 24)
Finally, we’ve got the intense AF emotional rollercoaster that is the Season 6 finale. Originally the second part of the two-hour season finale, it follows on immediately after Gary Clark (the husband of a deceased patient) embarks on a shooting spree as he seeks revenge against the doctors involved in his wife’s care. The episode has you on edge for pretty much the entire duration, but it’s made even more intense as Bailey and her patient, Mary, fight to save Charles Percy after he’s been shot. After coming to the realisation they can’t save him, Bailey and Mary comfort him in his final moments. It’s gut-wrenching.
But it doesn’t stop there – after Gary Clark shoots Derek, Cristina and Jackson are forced to operate on him. However, when Gary enters the OR demanding that Cristina let Derek die, Meredith (after only recently discovering that she’s pregnant) steps in with what has to be one of the most emotionally charged speeches in Grey’s history:
It’s intense AF and you’re on edge right until the very end of the episode, particularly when we’re led to believe that Derek has died (we find out it was Jackson who removed the electrodes from him to make him flatline so that Gary would leave). Before Gary leaves the OR, Owen ends up getting shot, and there’s the following exchange between Meredith and Cristina:
Cristina: Mer, is Owen dead? Dr Grey, is Owen dead?
Meredith: He’s alive…he’s unconscious, but he’s alive.
Cristina: Take Owen to the OR across the way and take that bullet out and get April to help you.
Cristina: I can’t talk right now, I’m trying to save your guy, now please go try and save mine.
Brb. Crying into my pillow. Hats off to the cast for this episode as well – it couldn’t have been an easy one to film.
So, I think we should leave it there before we all start crying our faces off. If you’re a Grey’s fan, I’d be interested to see what your thoughts are on my choices and if you have any personal selections of your own. If you’re not a Grey’s fan, then I hope you’ve been inspired to find your latest binge-worthy TV show. Like I said at the beginning, there’s 17 seasons currently, so there’s plenty to keep you going! At present, I’m on Season 9, so I’ll be putting together Part 2 of this series very soon!
If you’re based in the UK, you can currently watch Grey’s Anatomy on Amazon Prime, Now TV, or through Star on Disney Plus. For those outside of the UK, check out the streaming providers available in your area (information correct at the time of writing).