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Spoilers ahead for the January 23 crossover event between Station 19 and Grey's Anatomy.
Grey's Anatomy closed out 2019 on a cliffhanger that left the lives of several key characters in very real jeopardy after a car crashed into the bar where they were trying to unwind with a drink, and the 2020 crossover event between Grey's and spinoff Station 19 had a bloody mess to clean up. The two-parter marked Station 19's Season 3 premiere and Grey's Anatomy's Season 16 winter return, and Grey's deadly past made it all too possible that some character(s) could bite the dust. According to Grey's boss Krista Vernoff, the "intention" was there.
The good news for fans is that the death toll was surprisingly low, with the most impactful death of the crossover being one of the people in the crashed car. That's not to say the event didn't pack an emotional punch, what with the severe injuries of several doctors and, of course, the fallout of Bailey's miscarriage back in the fall. Krista Vernoff shared why the crossover didn't kill off more people in the crisis:
That question makes me laugh because, for sure, it was a signature of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ for many years to kill off characters. When I came [back] in Season 14, you’re looking at how do you surprise people anymore? And it continues to feel like the more surprising thing to not kill them. I often say to the writers, 'Then, when we do one day, it will be genuinely shocking.' With this big crossover event, I will say that there was, in initial discussions, the intention to have someone die. But what happened is that we realized, as we were breaking [the season of] ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ that Bailey was going to lose her baby. And we realized as we were breaking the midseason finale, that we weren’t going to have time to properly process that loss.
Grey's Anatomy's infamous willingness to kill off major characters, going way back to the early years and peaking with the death of McDreamy, did undoubtedly leave plenty of fans nervous about the fates of all the Grey's and Station 19 characters who were in that bar when the car hit. Krista Vernoff's comments to Variety indicate that the intent was indeed to kill somebody off.
While it's good that there were no devastating doctor deaths to kick of Grey's in 2020, the episode was still a heartbreaker thanks to Bailey trying to process her miscarriage in the middle of an emergency, and of course Chandra Wilson's incredible performance. Her breakdown to Richard over the loss of the child, who she was imagining as the daughter she'd always wanted, was a tearjerker. Imagine if one of the residents had died a horrible death on top of what Bailey was going through!
So, although that tragedy struck in the midseason finale, the loss was still impacting the story and the characters in the winter premiere when so many lives were in jeopardy. Which characters were potentially going to be killed off before Krista Vernoff and Co. decided Bailey's loss was enough? She went on to share:
Everybody in that episode, at some point, was on the chopping block. The amount of times that we’ve decided we’re killing characters, and then we’re like, ‘No, let’s change it’ — it would drop your jaw. And you’d be amazed at how many people have been on the board for weeks; we come up with different codes that mean that character is dying. And then we’re like, 'No.' So there’s no one person. There were a lot of conversations about who might die in that bar, from both casts. At the end of the day, Bailey’s baby felt right.
Helm seemed to be the one on the chopping block before she managed to pull through in Grey's winter premiere, but apparently there were many people who might have been killed off. While characters like Ben, Jackson, and Herrera were likely never going to meet their end, there were some supporting characters handy whose deaths would have packed a punch. Instead, there were just some serious injuries from the bar incident, while Bailey dealt with her personal tragedy.
Does this mean that everybody on Grey's Anatomy and Station 19 will be safe for the rest of the season? Definitely not. Bailey was on her way to processing her loss by the end of the crossover, and fans shouldn't count on Grey's only delivering relationship drama surrounding Amelia's big secret or dealing with Justin Chambers' absence as Alex Karev after how the winter premiere handled the void. Some darkness is already on the way for one character, and it's always good to stay prepared for twists when it comes to Grey's Anatomy.
You can catch new episodes of Station 19 at 8 p.m. ET and Grey's Anatomy at 9 p.m. ET on ABC Thursdays.