Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 16 Review: Leave a Light On

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"There's really no good way to say goodbye."

And with those final words, Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 16, which served as the Alex Karev sendoff, ended. And you know what? The words couldn't have been truer.

The fact of the matter is the Grey's fandom is one of the most passionate in history, and there was no way they could appease everyone.

Helllooo Alex Karev! - Grey's Anatomy Season 14 Episode 6

Alex Karev is every bit as ingratiated in the fabric of this series as Meredith Grey herself. Given the circumstances, there was no way of writing out his character that could do him justice.

It felt as if, short of killing him off, nothing they did would keep him in line with his character and uphold the decade and a half worth of development.

Alex Karev abandoned everyone and everything in Seattle for a life with Izzie and his kids in Kansas.

Backing Mer- Tall  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 8

The good news here is that Alex got a happy ending. He's with the love of his life (sorry, Jolex fans, apparently, that's Izzie and always has been), and he has a family of his own.

He gets to be a dad, one unlike his own, and he gets to settle down on a farm in Kansas and maybe become chief at a hospital there too.

I left, and I'm with Izzie.


Alex Karev gets a happily ever after.

And we can also be grateful that Justin Chambers provided voiceovers as the three most special people in his life (outside of his new family) read the letters he sent them.

His Life Now - tall - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 6

We couldn't see a current version of him; instead, we got a stand-in writing and tending to kids, but we at least got to hear him one last time.

Alex Karev left his wife and his friends/family of 15 years a "Dear John" letter. He at least gets kudos for handwriting them. No one does that anymore, and it's a lost art.

I'm not coming home Jo, I wouldn't be able to look you in the eye and walk away.


It added a sentimental touch to everything more than anything else.

Unfortunately, some of our worst fears are true. Alex's actions felt like a serious regression, and it was difficult to accept how everything played out.

New Chief, New Hospital  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 2

It's also reignited the general annoyance with Meredith and her rallying against the system storyline. It was through her court proceedings and legal troubles that Alex decided to reach out to Izzie, whom he hasn't spoken to in a decade.

He wanted to get character references from her, but he confessed that more than anything, he wanted to hear her voice again and know that she was OK.

When I asked you to marry me, I meant it. When I told you, "I love you" I meant it.


The flame he held for Izzie never extinguished and not even his love for Jo and his marriage could compare to it in the end.

And bless his heart, Alex tried to stumble and reason his way through why he left everyone the way that he did and never looked back. But no matter how heartfelt and tear-inducing some of the letters were, it didn't match up with what we have known in all of these years.

A "Dear Jo" - Grey's Anatomy

The letter reading hierarchy played out as expected. You would expect Jo to go first if this was any other series, but for Grey's, they had to start with Meredith.

Unfortunately, it lost something out of the gate because of everything leading up to this moment. Meredith and Alex spent nearly the entire season apart. They haven't spoken to each other much at all.

You always said Cristina was your person, then I was your person, but you've always been your own damn person. A force of freakin' nature. You've never needed anyone but you.


But more importantly, as far as we know, Meredith didn't even know he was missing until recently. She hadn't noticed that her best friend was gone until Jo pointed it out to her when a self-absorbed Meredith went to their apartment to discuss her gift from Cristina.

She hasn't been around while Jo began to worry about the whereabouts of her husband. She sent and referred to one text message looking for him, what, during Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 14?

Cristina's Package - Tall  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 9

Meredith has been so far removed from the missing Alex storyline, and before that, she hasn't so much as visited him at Pac-North. Alex's final season had a startling lack of Merlex, so the final goodbye was even bitterer.

And still, it was about Meredith. She had the most personal envelope -- he used "evil spawn" when he left it to her. He then went on to discuss how amazing she is.

You were always the one to set me straight. To point out when I was being an ass. And when that didn't work, you'd flop on my bed and say the one perfect thing to make it work. But the thing is, I can't come back. I can't face you.


As her more recent person, he left her with his rendition of Cristina's Sun speech by reminding her that she is her own person, and maybe if the season didn't spend a nauseating amount of time kissing Meredith's ass more than usual, it wouldn't have been as irksome.

He shared with her the news that he has children now. Izzie used the embryos they froze, and she had twins -- a boy and a girl.

Mer Reads Alex's letter  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 16

And now he gets to be a father to them, and if he has moments of doubt, he can think about how incredible of a mother Meredith is, and can someone gag me with a spoon?

Sorry. Nevertheless, the series of flashbacks between the two of them was touching, and it's the last of MAGIC. It's gone, poof, none of the friendships remain on the series, and that's depressing.

There's really no good way to say goodbye.


And it's also sad that he didn't get to say goodbye to the kids, or Amelia and Maggie, who were important to him, too. They were his family; they all lived together and operated as a family for some time.

No, they aren't as pivotal as the four people they focused on, but it hurts all the same. Maybe we'll hear more about their reactions later, but instead, we'll probably end up waist-deep in baby-daddy drama.

Malex Attack - Grey's Anatomy

It hit home harder when Zola was excited to show her uncle Alex her school project, and Mer had to explain to her that he left and found some other kids to love now.

But maybe one day Aunt Mer and her brood of children will go to Kansas to visit Alex's twins, and the play-cousins will have a ball riding horses and playing with chickens while Izzie bakes.

Oh, I love them, Mer. With every inch of me, and every cell. And I get to be their dad.


Oh, the Izzie of it all. She and Alex had a long, complicated history, but she left him. Izzie took off with only a letter explaining herself, so it's shitty that Alex did the same thing.

Alex, who has spent years resenting people for abandoning him turned around and left those he loves. It's a struggle to wrap one's head around it.

Proud Wife

And the secrets kids angle stings too. Yes, he told Izzie to do what she pleased with the embryos when he sent them to her, but wasn't it worth a phone call?

She had his children five to six years ago, and she just never told him? He would have never found out he had kids of his own had he not called her to save Meredith's ass.

I wanted to know if she was alive and well. I wanted to hear her voice.


She wouldn't have mentioned it had he not heard kids in the background and commented on them. And somehow, he wasn't angry or annoyed by any of that. He brushed past it all, and he hopped a plane and fell into "dad" mode and decided that Izzie is who he wants to be with for the rest of his life.

It's something that makes this development infuriating. If we're willing to accept that Alex has been in love with Izzie all of these years, and her having his children is a game-changer that made him give up his life for a new one, fine.

Alex and Izzie's Twins - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 16

But, we're not supposed to loathe him for how he chose to do it? He found out he had children by Izzie, and instead of telling Jo up front, he lied and said he was going to take care of his mom.

He used his sick mother as some alibi and went from giving Jo short answers to not responding to her at all. He knew by then he had abandoned his wife and life, and he didn't have the decency to tell her anything?

I hope you come to meet my kids. And they get to call you Auntie Mer. Because you'll love them, and they'll love you.


Alex, who is a straight-shooter, the guy who tells it like it is whether you like it or not got tongue-tied and decided not to say anything?

Alex ghosted Jo and everyone else. It's already a disservice that it took so long for anyone to pay attention to his absence. Jo probably should've contacted his mother ages ago.

Mer's Mentee- Tall - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 8

And while we're on the topic, how long was he gone? It sounds like he's been away for at the very least a month!

It's madness that once she got radio silence, Jo didn't jump on a plane or start calling around to hospitals or something assuming the worst.

If I say anymore in this letter, there is going to be feelings all over the place. I'm just writing to say goodbye, and thanks. I love you, Dr. Bailey. Dr. Alex Karev.


He was off playing house with Izzie and his children, and he had to spend an astronomical amount of time working up the nerve to tell people the truth.

Then he did so, and it was via letters, most of which were essentially the exact same.

Jolex Get Married! - Grey's Anatomy Season 14 Episode 24

It's funny, poor Jolex fans thought they were going to get a baby this season, and little did we know, one half of the ship go to have children.

I'm not even a Jo nor Jolex fan, and I'm offended on your behalf, you guys. I'm so sorry.

I hope you have a good life, Jo. I hope you find someone better than me. Thank you. Sorry.


But on that note, another unfortunate effect of how this played out is we can now expect "Woe is Jo" hours, and it's been irritating enough that so much of Alex's storylines in the last few seasons have been playing second to Jo.

Shoutout to Link, who slid the letter to her and was waiting for her to finish reading it, so he could offer day drinking and support.

Momma's Surprise Visit - Grey's Anatomy Season 15 Episode 15

Link is the best, even if his inspiring, "you're my hero" was eye-roll worthy.

But Jo has reason to be pissed. Alex has spent years telling her that he'll never leave her and how much he loves her. He stood by her side through everything and promised not to bail.

Jo: Ok. Whiskey tonight. Right now is for working.
Link: You're my hero.
Jo: Mine too.

He's reassured her that she's worthy and that she came first, and then he left her in the end. The flashbacks to him telling her about Izzie were all the more painful now.

But nothing compared to him spending half of his letter to her telling her how happy he is with Izzie and his kids. If you're going to write a "Dear Jo," then show some more damn remorse and leave the happiness out of it.

Happy Karevs - Grey's Anatomy Season 15 Episode 12

He shattered her world, and despite a few comments about how much he loves her too (not enough) or how he would've stayed with her if not for the kids (smells like obligation and settling, gee thanks), it felt rather impersonal.

It also had him convinced that she would understand as a fellow foster kid the importance of children having both parents in their lives, but did he say that f**king sh*t to Izzie who left them fatherless for six years, or no?

I missed my chance to watch my own child grow into an adult, and I would give anything to have those years with Maggie.


He prematurely took for granted that Jo would understand on some level, and that's just bullcrap and gross. And that's how they ruined Alex Karev after 15 and a half seasons.

Ironically, Bailey and Richard's moments were the most heartfelt, and they were the ones that made me forget that I was fuming.

Let Them Rest - Tall  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 6

Alex's letter to Bailey was the most emotional of them all, and Bailey's reaction to it while reading was priceless.

They've always had a unique and special bond. He was one of her problem children, but they became each other's family. He wouldn't have been able to face her either, and he credits her for making him the amazing surgeon that he is.

It's a matter of luck, of grace, that Alex Karev is who he is today.


He admits he's still not the best person, but he's a damn good doctor, and he isn't wrong. Via Bailey's letter and flashbacks, they covered his relationship with Arizona too.

They couldn't do a sendoff without acknowledging that bond as well.

Who's side is Alex on? - Grey's Anatomy

And while Bailey was torn up about another one of her babies leaving the nest, unbeknownst to her, she applied the situation to Joey.

Alex had a rough life, but he made something of himself, so she knew Ben couldn't be upset with her about her decision if he considered that.

Congratulations Miranda. It's a boy. It's a teenage boy.


It turns out Ben was perturbed by Bailey making a spontaneous decision that affected their family without speaking to him.

But then Bailey reminded him that he changes jobs like he changes sweaters, and he is the last to be upset by this. Benley is cute, and it was a moment that made you smile. It's understandable how Bailey could draw those parallels between Alex and Joey.

A Life Altering Decision - Grey's Anatomy

Richard was so pissed off he had to go to a meeting, and he spent his time there talking about Alex and lamenting his decision.

He felt like Alex was making a mistake, and more than anything, he was devastated that Alex didn't even say goodbye to him.

Alex Karev isn't coming back. Left his wife, his friends, his job. Alex Karev is a father of two now.


He knew what it was like to be in love with more than once person, and he didn't want Alex making the mistakes he did.

However, he could also understand Alex's impulse to be there for his children. If he had known about Maggie years ago, he would've done the same.

Drinks with the Bestie - Grey's Anatomy Season 14 Episode 17

Richard had the most emotional speech, delivered in that way only James Pickens Jr can do. By the time he got to "each one, teach one," it was enough to have you dabbing your eyes and temporarily ignoring the clusterf*ck that was this sendoff.

If not for Chandra Wilson, James Pickens Jr, and some of the nostalgia one faced with some of those flashbacks, the hour would've been too much to bear.

There's really no good way to say goodbye.


Many of us feared that no matter how they wrote Alex out, it would feel out of character or wreck his arc and growth, and honestly, it did.

His kids are cute, though. And it sounds like he's happy. You know, even if no one else is. Do you, Karev.

Over to you, Grey's Fanatics. How did you feel about this sendoff? Hit the comments below with your reaction.

If you miss Alex already, you relive his glory days when you watch Grey's Anatomy online here via TV Fanatic. 

Leave a Light On Review

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Rating: 2.7 / 5.0 (124 Votes)

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 16 Quotes

I left, and I'm with Izzie.


You were always the one to set me straight. To point out when I was being an ass. And when that didn't work, you'd flop on my bed and say the one perfect thing to make it work. But the thing is, I can't come back. I can't face you.