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‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Meredith’s 15 Best Episodes

A common question asked among pop culture enthusiasts, and certainly those who have followed primetime network television for at least the last two decades is why exactly Grey’s Anatomy has run as long as it has. Sure, there is emotional storytelling that resonates with viewers regardless of whether they might find themselves actually invested in the medical profession. There’s also its distinct writing style, one that made it a staple of early-aughts network TV, in which regular voiceovers by lead actress Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey manage to compare whatever medical tragedy or irregularity that will occur that week to how all human lives are difficult and fragile.


But one of the central reasons that Grey’s continues its borderline excessive network run to the present day is the audience’s commitment to the journey they began with Dr. Grey and her friends, but mostly Meredith, back in 2005. And that commitment is in itself a testament to the dedication with which Pompeo has portrayed the character. If you’ve made it this far into Grey’s Anatomy’s run, and depending on which stage of life you were at when you began, you’ve likely grown up with Meredith Grey. You might not necessarily have experienced exactly everything that she has (god willing), but you’ve likely experienced different kinds of loss and difficulty in your own life that has bonded you to her. At least that’s what I see when I continue to see her triumph.

In light of Pompeo’s official announcement that Season 19 of the series will be her last as part of the main cast, I’ve assembled this list of Meredith’s best and most memorable episodes that you can rewatch in preparation for her departure when Grey’s returns from hiatus next February.

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15/15 “As We Know It” (Season 2, Episode 17)

Image via ABC

One of the most beloved episodes of Grey’s Anatomy was its post-Super Bowl episode in 2006, in which the surgical team of Seattle Grace learn that there is a homemade bomb lodged inside an injured patient. Christina Ricci gives an A+ performance as the young paramedic with her hand holding the bomb inside the man, but its Pompeo and Meredith who step into the spotlight when Dr. Grey bravely, and perhaps foolishly, inserts her own hand when Ricci’s character panics and aborts. We remember “As We Know It” most for being some of the best dramatic television ever produced (seriously, what kind of witchcraft did Shonda Rhimes put in this?), but it’s also the catalyst for much of Meredith’s personal journey that is triggered by this trauma.

14/15 “Drowning on Dry Land” (Season 3, Episode 16)

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey in Grey's Anatomy Season 3 Episode 16
Image via ABC

Speaking of trauma, remember when Meredith gets knocked in the water by a disoriented victim of a ferry crash, and having just been confronted by her cold and abrasive mother that she is an ordinary disappointment, she decides not to fight it and let herself drown? “Drowning on Dry Land” is Part 2 of 3, and Meredith spends much of this episode beneath water narrating, but the fact that Pompeo can still relay so much of what the character is feeling and thinking through such little action is what contributes to the episode’s emotion.

13/15 “Losing My Mind” (Season 4, Episode 15)

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey and Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepard in Grey's Anatomy Season 4 Episode 15
Image via ABC

Having lost McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) at the end of Season 3, because he needs to be with someone who will swim and not drown, Meredith spends most of Season 4 grappling with Derek’s rebound relationship with Nurse Rose (Lauren Stamile). Deciding that she wants to learn to swim, she reluctantly enters therapy with Katharine Wyatt (Amy Madigan), who recurs in multiple seasons in a standout role. “Losing My Mind” isn’t necessarily completely Meredith-centric, but after Dr. Wyatt implies that Meredith is something of a coward with her feelings at the end of the previous episode, Dr. Grey confronts something, in this episode’s final moments, that will become pivotal to the character’s overall arc: her famous surgeon mother attempted suicide in front of her as a child. “So you think I’m broken? Fix me. Because I’m no quitter.” Chills.

12/15 “Elevator Love Letter” (Season 5, Episode 19)

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey and Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepard in Grey's Anatomy Season 5 Episode 19
Image via ABC

While we would never properly get the Meredith and Derek wedding fans so eagerly yearned for back in the early 2010s, “Elevator Love Letter” is one of the most romantic moments between the couple that any list of Meredith’s most memorable moments would be remiss without it. Towards the end of the episode, Richard (James Pickens, Jr.) blocks Meredith from entering an elevator until the doors open to reveal Derek, with all the successful surgeries the two of them had done together plastered on the walls—including that of Izzie (Katherine Heigl). He reminds her that it’s because she’s been through the worst and has seen the worst that she’s able to help people and take responsibility for others’ lives as well as her own, and for these reasons he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. They kiss. Swoon!

11/15 “Death and All His Friends” (Season 6, Episode 24)

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey in Grey's Anatomy Season 6 Episode 24
Image via ABC

You might think that the hospital shooting episode is included here merely because of Ellen Pompeo’s performance during and after Derek is shot, but that’s a given. I’m including it solely for her performance during the scene where, after having discovered she’s pregnant earlier that day, begins having a miscarriage while furiously trying to operate on Owen (Kevin McKidd) as Cristina (Sandra Oh) operates on Derek. It’s not so much that the shooting and the traumatic experience of miscarrying itself were enough to make Pompeo’s performance compelling, but it’s one of many where Meredith puts aside her own pain, figuratively and literally, to help someone else.

10/15 “Flight” (Season 8, Episode 24)

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey and Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd in Grey's Anatomy Season 8 Episode 24
Image via ABC

Another instance that needs to be included solely for Pompeo’s performance alone. When the surgeons’ plane goes down en route to Idaho to assist with a surgery, Meredith, Derek, Cristina, Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), Mark (Eric Dane), and Lexie (Chyler Leigh) must fight to stay alive. With Derek’s hand badly injured and Lexie tragically succumbing to her injuries, Meredith still somehow manages to tell everyone, “Let’s try and keep it together, okay?” But if you’re not randomly haunted by Meredith frantically calling out “Derek!” at the top of her lungs when they initially can’t find him after the crash, well, I’m not sure how to communicate with you.

9/15 “Remember the Time” (Season 9, Episode 2)

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey, Justin Chambers as Alex Karev, and Sarah Drew as April Kepner in Grey's Anatomy Season 9 Episode 2
Image via ABC

As flashbacks explain the events that followed the fallout from the plane crash, Meredith and Cristina clash over Meredith’s insistence that everyone stick together and stay in Seattle. Yang’s way of coping, however, is to get as far away as possible from the place where bad things keep happening, taking a cardiac fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. As Mark, too, ultimately dies from his injuries after months in the hospital, the episode ends with Cristina listening to a voicemail that Meredith had left her, which is probably my favorite narration of Meredith’s from any episode. “So I figure this place has given me as much as it’s taken from me. I’ve lived here as much as I’ve survived here. It just depends on how I look at it. I’m gonna choose to look at it that way and remember you that way. Hope you’re good. Bye.”

8/15 “How to Save a Life” (Season 11, Episode 21)

Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd in Grey's Anatomy Season 11 Episode 21
Image via ABC

Remember how in 2009 we all thought that George O’Malley’s death was the most traumatizing fictional loss we’d ever experienced? Well, none of that would even compare in the slightest to the tragedy of losing Derek Shepherd. Or should I say, watching Derek Shepherd narrate his death at the hands of incompetent doctors. But what’s even more memorable is—you guessed it—Pompeo’s performance as Meredith is forced to say goodbye to the love of her life. In fact, I will even find myself spontaneously shouting, “Give me the papers!” and silently choking back tears.

RELATED: Why Nick Marsh Is Meredith Grey’s Best Post-Derek Love Interest

7/15 “The Sound of Silence” (Season 12, Episode 9)

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey in Grey's Anatomy Season 12 Episode 9
Image via ABC

So much of Grey’s Anatomy’s charm revolves around Meredith’s narration, so it was an interesting twist to have the character go mute for almost an entire episode. What was less interesting was, of course, the circumstances which forced Meredith to go silent, as she’s attacked by a patient and suffers multiple injuries, including a broken jaw that must be wired shut to heal. For someone who always has so much to say, whether for herself or for others, “The Sound of Silence” taught both Meredith and the audience that a lot can be said by going silent, and a lot can be healed that way, too.

6/15 “In the Air Tonight” (Season 13, Episode 20)

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey in Grey's Anatomy Season 13 Episode 20
Image via ABC

One of my personal favorite episodes of the entire series finds Meredith and Nathan Riggs (Martin Henderson) both on the same flight to the same medical conference. Meredith is understandably a nervous flier, given her status as a plane crash survivor. Although they get it on in the bathroom, she insists it doesn’t mean anything and is still hesitant to let Riggs into her life. But when some intense turbulence leads the doctors to spring into action, including Meredith draining the fluid from a man’s drain with a straw, she sees every traumatic incident in her life flash before her eyes, reminding her that turbulence in all forms is a part of life. After deboarding the plane, Meredith decides that she owes it to herself to move on from her past and agrees to begin dating Nathan.

5/15 “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” (Season 14, Episode 7)

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey, Justin Chambers as Alex Karev in Grey's Anatomy Season 14 Episode 7
Image via ABC

One of the more overlooked elements of the later years of Grey’s Anatomy is that, despite Meredith always being the central character, she was used to sharing the spotlight with other cast members who were equally as compelling. But by the time Sandra Oh, Patrick Dempsey, and even Sara Ramirez had left the series, it allowed Meredith to become the renowned and ultimately decorated surgeon she was born to be. Nominated for the prestigious Harper Avery Award for her successful stomach wall transplant, Meredith is hesitant to attend the awards since she’s hesitant to accept the attention. Pulled into surgery, the OR is where she ultimately learns of her victory, and the moment of recognition on her face for all that she’s worked for in her life is worth everything.

4/15 “The Winner Takes It All” (Season 15, Episode 11)

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey, Jeff Perry as Thatcher in Grey's Anatomy Season 15 Episode 11
Image via ABC

One of Meredith’s recurring storylines in the earlier seasons of the series was her attempts to reconnect with her father Thatcher (Jeff Perry), who remarried and had more children in the form of her half-sisters Molly and Lexie. But after Lexie’s death in Season 8, Thatcher all but disappeared from the lexicon of Grey’s Anatomy, especially once Maggie (Kelly McCreary) ushered in an era of Meredith’s maternal backstory. But in Season 15, Richard informs Meredith that Thatcher has terminal leukemia and that she should consider paying him a visit. Having had no contact with him since Lexie died, because she was the one who forced them to communicate, Meredith reluctantly visits her dying father, where she simultaneously calls him out on his failures while accepting him for who he was. It’s nice closure to a part of Meredith’s story that once occupied so much screen time.

3/15 “My Shot” (Season 16, Episode 8)

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey in Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 8
Image via ABC

Yet another episode that would make this list incomplete without it, “My Shot” finds Meredith facing a hearing with the medical board over the fate of her medical license, having committed a felony by putting her own daughter’s name on the surgery she performed on an immigrant child with no insurance. Not only does Alex (Justin Chambers) manage to scrounge up everyone important from Meredith’s past to speak on the behalf of her medical talents as well as her personhood, the episode’s highlight is undeniably when Meredith verbally confronts the doctor who killed Derek, who’s on the medical board, of course. Not only does Pompeo give another knockout performance, but that scene, in particular, is cathartic for those of us who might never have the chance to confront those who have wronged us. Or watch them drop dead from the confrontation. A dream, honestly.

2/15 “Good as Hell” (Season 17, Episode 13)

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey and Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd in Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 13
Image via ABC

I was weary of network TV’s attempts at fictionalizing the COVID-19 pandemic when we were still very much in it, and a lot of Grey’s Anatomy’s portrayal is extensively fictionalized, but that doesn’t mean that Season 17 wasn’t some of the series’ most emotional episodes ever. Meredith spends most of the season in a coma, having contracted the virus in a pre-vaccine reality, but she also gets to spend it on a beach in an in-between universe, where she gets to visit with everyone significant that she’s lost. “Good as Hell” sees Meredith’s friends and colleagues begin to panic as they try everything to get Meredith to wake up. Meanwhile, she speaks with Derek about how she’s not sure if she’s ready to leave the beach, because there’s no pain there. It’s only when their daughter Zola (Aniela Gumbs) visits her in the hospital that Derek tells her he even misses the pain, because pain at least means you’re alive. Meredith realizes her children need her as Zola ultimately wakes her. *Oprah voice* Tissue, please! I now need tissue.

1/15 “You Are the Blood” (Season 18, Episode 20)

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey and Aniela Gumbs as Zola in Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 20
Image via ABC

Offered a position at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Season 18 finds Meredith contemplating leaving Seattle, just as everyone else in her professional life has had the freedom to do. But that doesn’t stop Richard and Dr. Bailey (Chandra Wilson) laying immensely unfair guilt trips on her for even considering her options outside of Grey Sloan Memorial, which is suffering from an incredible physician shortage as a result of the pandemic. As the hospital’s famed surgical residency program is hanging by a thread, Meredith makes a risky move during a surgery that may have compromised the program’s chance at survival, leading Bailey to quit and leave Meredith in the role of Chief of Surgery. As Meredith contemplates leaving the life she’s lived in the hospital, supported by flashbacks from the entire series to celebrate its 400th episode, she’s confronted by a vision of her former self, who tells her in just one look that she has to save what she helped build. More tissue, please!


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