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Grey’s Anatomy: Why Ellis Grey Returns In Season 18

Grey's Anatomy: Why Ellis Grey Returns In Season 18

Ellis Grey has been pivotal throughout Grey’s Anatomy. Her return in season 18 could spell something major for Meredith and the series at large.

Grey’s Anatomy fans will be delighted to know that Ellis Grey is officially returning for season 18 of the beloved medical drama. Ellis proved to be a pivotal character in Meredith’s journey throughout the early seasons of the series and quickly became an audience favorite. As dreamy and integral as Derek was to Meredith’s growth, it was the tumultuous relationship she had with her mother that served as the foundation for her earlier emotional arcs. Although Ellis died in the series’ third season, her character made several appearances throughout the later seasons in flashback scenes and dream sequences. Significantly, every time she returned marked an important moment in Meredith’s life.

Grey’s Anatomy has never shied away from exploring the darker sides of Meredith’s relationship with her parents. There was, for example, that time Meredith donated part of her liver to her father despite their estrangement. What makes Meredith’s relationship with Ellis especially complex is the way in which they mirror each other. In fact, the series has always juxtaposed Meredith’s life and career next to Ellis’, particularly in showcasing moments where the former succeeded in doing what the latter otherwise failed.

The details of why exactly Ellis is returning to the series (and how) are, of course, being kept under wraps. Considering, however, that Kate Burton has reportedly signed on for a multi-episode arc, it evidently spells something major for Meredith. Indeed, questions arose during the latter half of season 17 about whether or not Grey’s Anatomy would be cancelled after season 18. Narratively speaking, Ellis was the reason Meredith went to medical school in the first place. In other words, she was there at the beginning of the series, so the news of a prominent Ellis-Meredith storyline could be a hint that the series really is coming to an end. After all, there’s nothing Grey’s Anatomy loves more than bringing storylines full circle.

Grey's Anatomy: Why Ellis Grey Returns In Season 18
Grey’s Anatomy: Why Ellis Grey Returns In Season 18

Of all the relationships Meredith has had throughout Grey’s Anatomy, her relationship with Ellis has arguably been the most important and, what’s more, has emotionally and spiritually lasted the longest. Even if the character herself doesn’t appear onscreen, Ellis is either talked about or alluded to arguably the most consistently, which is no small feat considering there are original characters from season 1 still on the show. She has, throughout it all, essentially been the standard to which Meredith holds herself. As a result, there’s been a sort of cyclicality in Meredith’s journey: like Ellis, Meredith became a general surgeon, climbed the ranks at her hospital, won a Harper Avery, and found herself raising children alone. What separates Meredith from Ellis is that Meredith learned from her mother’s mistakes and succeeded in being a loving and nurturing mother to her children in a way that Ellis wasn’t.

What’s significant about Meredith’s generational improvement on her mother’s failures is that it ostensibly establishes Grey’s Anatomy’s perfect ending. The theme of daughters accomplishing what their mothers couldn’t is the root of a popular fan theory in which Zola saves Meredith in the end. Just as Meredith grew up and became a renowned surgeon, the theory posits that Zola will do the same. In Zola’s case, she will find the cure for Meredith’s Alzheimer’s (which was what she tried to do for Ellis but ultimately couldn’t). If season 18 does mark the end of the beloved medical drama, a storyline in which Meredith begins to experience early-onset Alzheimer’s would both perfectly explain Ellis’ reappearance and emotionally bookend the show. The long-standing series started with the mother and daughter; it should rightfully end with them, too.

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