Grey's Anatomy has beat all the odds.
Premiering as a midseason replacement in 2005, it was poised to face an uphill battle for viewership, but lightning struck upon its launch.
Launching the same season as Lost and Desperate Housewives, it became ABC's third big hit in so many months, something that rarely happens.
With Grey's Anatomy Season 17 on the air, the series still packs a punch in both the ratings and the storytelling department.
But there's an air of mystery surrounding whether the series will continue beyond this season, and we're starting to get the sense that we are in the middle of the final season.
From behind the scenes developments to the way storylines are playing out, this would probably be the most natural way to end the show.
Below we've rounded up the evidence that suggests the show is coming to a close soon.
Meredith Sees Dead People
If you watch Grey's Anatomy online, you know the series has killed off a string of big characters.
The first four episodes of the season featured the truly shocking returns of Patrick Dempsey and T.R. Knight as Derek and George, respectively.
Given that Knight exited the show in 2009, this was a huge development.
It's certainly possible the actor was told this is the endgame, and if he wants to return for a short stint to say a full and final goodbye, he should.
Dempsey, on the other hand, reportedly didn't leave the series on the best of terms, but the fans have yearned for his return ever since.
Bringing him back and having him pop up throughout the season is certainly a wild development. What if Meredith, god forbid, dies, and we see her walking off into the sunset with McDreamy?
The beach setting is a good plot device to help Mer come to terms with things that have happened, and it simultaneously gives viewers some closure.
We know Meredith has COVID-19, but her vitals showed major signs of improvement on Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 5.
We also know that the beach setting can be entered by living characters, as evidenced by the way Bailey finally told Mer about her mother's condition.
Even if Meredith fully recovers, the beach could pop back up as a means of coping for the staff members at the hospital struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ellen Pompeo Said This Could be the Final Season
The series has been a staple on ABC's schedule for so long, but Pompeo recently said the following in an interview with Variety:
“We don’t know when the show is really ending yet,” Pompeo said. “But the truth is, this year could be it.”
This is in stark contrast to then-ABC president Karey Burke saying earlier this year that the network wants to keep the show around “for as long as [Grey’s Anatomy producers] are interested in making more episodes.”
All of which brings us to our next point:
Ellen Pompeo's Contract Runs Out This Season
Shonda Rhimes has been vocal about wrapping up Grey's Anatomy when Pompeo is ready to scrub out of the beloved series.
“Ellen and I have a pact that I’m going to do the show as long as she’s going to do the show," the creator told E! News.
"So the show will exist as long as both of us want to do it. If she wants to stop, we’re stopping. So I don’t know if we’ll see 600 [episodes], but I want to keep it feeling fresh."
"As long as there are fresh stories to tell and as long as we’re both excited about the stories being told, we’re in. So, we’ll see where that takes us.”
Ellen plays the main character, and while a case could be made for keeping the show around without her, the truth is that a lot of longtime fans may use her exit to say goodbye to the show.
More worrying is that Pompeo has not expressed any indication that she will renew her contract, stating the following:
“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,” she told Variety.
“You know, I’m just weighing out creatively, what can we do?” Pompeo told Variety.
“I’m really, really, really excited about this season, and that’s all I can say about that. And it’s probably going to be one of our best seasons ever. And I know that sounds nuts to say, but it’s really true.”
This Star is "Confident" the Show is Ending
Giacomo Gianniotti, who plays DeLuca, opened up about the end of the show ahead of Season 17.
“At the moment, we have one more season locked in and I feel pretty confident that that’s where it’ll end, I think, from the conversations that I’ve had with people,” Giannotti candidly shared with Us Weekly in March.
He did, however, say that the show has a formula that could be adapted to continue telling the stories.
“We have a formula that’s really clear. We are a show that does a lot of political commentary. We’ve got real issues and there’s no shortage of issues coming up that need to be talked about,” Giannotti told the outlet.
“So as far as the writers are concerned, they could write it forever because there’s not enough small people in the world who don’t have a big voice that need a megaphone. We provided that year in and year out.”
Station 19 Could Continue the Franchise
When Station 19 was ordered, many fans wondered whether fans would warm up to another spinoff of the series.
Now in its fourth season, the firefighter-focused spinoff takes part in an extended universe with the parent series and regularly features characters from the parent series.
While the ratings have not been as hot as Grey's Anatomy, the most recent season is ABC's #2 scripted series, so it's not hard to believe it could continue the franchise.
Okay, Grey's Anatomy Fanatics.
What are your thoughts on the endgame of the show? Do you think we could be watching the final season now?
Hit the comments below.
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.