Could Patrick Dempsey's return to Grey's Anatomy be yet another hint that season 17 could be the beginning of the end for the hit ABC medical drama? Star Kevin McKidd is calling Dr. Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd (Dempsey) and Dr. Meredith Grey's (Ellen Pompeo) reunion "perfect closure."
On Nov. 12, the series’ season 17 premiere concluded with a dream sequence featuring the shocking return of Dempsey more than five years after Derek's sudden death.
"It felt like a trip down memory lane," McKidd (who plays Owen Hunt and directed Dempsey in episode 3 this season) tells PEOPLE. "It was fun to see him and we had a great catch-up between takes at the beach. The weather was perfect so it all felt like summer camp — with masks and social distancing of course!"
McKidd, 47, also noted that seeing Meredith and Derek together again was "emotional."
"The idea of having Mer, with her illness, have these waking dreams where she connects with the love of her life is fitting and cathartic for everyone — for the fans especially," he says. "Mer and Der were the core relationship of our show for many years, and it feels like the timing is perfect for real closure."
Pompeo, 51, has also hinted that this season could be the end of the road for the series.
“We don’t know when the show is really ending yet,” she said in a recent interview with Variety. “But the truth is, this year could be it.”
“I’m constantly fighting for the show as a whole to be as good as it can be. As a producer, I feel like I have permission to be able to do that,” she later added. “I mean, this is the last year of my contract right now. I don’t know that this is the last year? But it could very well could be.”
If season 17 does end up being the final season, it sounds like the Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital clan will be more unified than ever, due in part to their collective experience adjusting to new safety protocols because of COVID-19.
"It has brought us closer," McKidd admits. "Everyone is rolling up their sleeves and adjusting. We are a family, so we all feel the deep responsibility of keeping each other safe."
He adds, "You can feel this shared love and honor between us all even more than usual."
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays (9 p.m. ET) on ABC.
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