Being the Sun comes with a heavy price, and Meredith Grey now realizes that. It was a momentous occasion as this landmark series celebrated 400 episodes.
The finale was incredibly bleak, but there was such a haunting quality to it where it felt as if it could've served as the final installment ever or that the end of an era is very much near.
The double-hour finale's nod at the big occasion mostly came in the form of its usage of flashbacks to multiple scenes. They've gotten significantly better at providing us with flashback montages, and they incorporated them at critical times when they aligned well with the current plots and events.
Reliving Derek's death scene as Mer fought and failed to revive Cora was brutal but effective. Moments, good and bad, as Webber went off on Meredith, flashing through her mind added more weight to the moment's tension.
And the flashes of the various interns and residents as the current ones packed things up struck the right tone as the residency program collapsed before their eyes, leaving them "orphaned."
They also did a fantastic job with the musical choices, bringing back classic Grey's Anatomy staples and deftly aligning them with scenes that suited them.
While Chasing Cars wasn't playing during an actual death, of which there were a couple, it suited the end of the residency program.
The finale used those types of tools to commemorate the occasion, brought back two fan favorites, gave shippers of that pairing more closure, or maybe an opening, and delicately tied Mer's stagnancy at the hospital that raised her with her long history there.
Commemoration of this milestone came in the form of Mer's storyline exclusively, but much of that didn't settle in until the second half of the finale.
The majority of the installment tried to tie up all the other storylines with the many characters and give them some semblance of closure.
Maggie and Winston's arc addressed how Maggie has been out of touch with how she's handled the Wendell situation.
I guess I feel like, um, like I don't know you, and you don't really get me. Winston, I love you. I just think maybe we got married too quickly.Maggie
She got frustrated with Winston when he mentioned that she didn't know about having siblings because she didn't realize how drastically different it is when you're raised with them versus finding and creating that bond as adults late in life.
Somehow, Maggie took the scenario and ran with the idea that she and Winston got married too quickly and that it was a possible mistake. While it's true that they did, and they've spent most of their marriage getting to know one another, it was odd for her to suddenly try to derail or doubt their relationship because of Wendell.
Fortunately, she and Winson talked things through during a finale where it easily could've gone in the opposite direction, and their marriage seems fine.
On the other hand, Jo and Todd's relationship was one of those things where they decided they wanted to break the two of them up by the finale, so Jo found every random reason why she wanted to dump Todd.
It was too fast for him to tell her that he loved her. Otherwise, Jo giggling with Link about how Todd sings when he orgasms or other little things that felt sucky to share with an ex-lover to foster jokes felt like Jo nitpicking and a blatant setup for Jo and Link.
Although, by the end of the finale, she reaffirmed that they were hanging out as friends again. It works for now, but it still doesn't feel like romantic JoLink is off the table.
However, all of the above doctors managed to work well together on the tragic Clark family case. Maggie and Link working together professionally rather than those times when they were raising Mer's kids was rather refreshing.
But Link was way too emotionally invested in the Clark family. It was hard not to be, though. Keeping Simon alive was nerve-wracking on its own, but then Kristen had the placental abruption, and for a bit, there was concern that the entire family would die.
Simon sacrificing his blood to save his wife and his son was heartbreaking, but at the rate that things were going, there was such a bittersweet relief that he managed to stay alive long enough to see his son.
Cedric Sanders was utterly amazing. Simon's plea to Link broke your heart, and Sanders sold the hell out of Simon's dying moment with his child. It was almost enough not to get distracted by how terrible that doll baby was.
He and Bianca Santos gave heartrending performances, and one really invested in their arc.
Simon lost his battle with cancer, but it was good to know that Catherine was well. She remains a woman who is living with cancer successfully.
It made sense that she's the reason Jarpil returned with Harriet, who has grown so fast. However, besides fun for the fans, there wasn't much to Japril's return to the series.
Bailey putting April in the pit was amusing, and her serving as a sounding board for Amelia had its merits, but her return didn't live up to the hype.
Jackson did a little schmoozing with the accreditation lady, and he was good for that Catherine death psych-out and a turning point for Mer and Bailey, but otherwise, there was nothing to it.
We got confirmation that he and April are together again, though, so the Japril fans probably loved that nugget.
And the Kaimelia shippers likely appreciated that final moment with those two as well. Unfortunately, that's not narratively satisfying, though.
Kai should be allowed not to have an interest in kids. It was okay for them to be a fling or whatever you want to call it. They ended things well at the swingset when they expressed their feelings and departed.
Reuniting them when there's still a difference in opinion on the topic of children undid that scene and just felt like fan pandering for a popular relationship.
It would've been perfectly fine if Amelia had loved and lost, finally realized and owned up to her part in things with Link and how she made him feel, and she was single so that when she got into another relationship, she would've broken the patterns.
Second chances at love can be romantic, but in this case, this one doesn't make sense or respect Kai. It's disappointing in that regard.
Amelia: Link, I'm sorry I broke your heart. You felt blindsided, and I had forgotten how badly that hurt. If I had remembered, I would've handled things differently. I'm sorry.
Link: I Never would've had a kid. I'm too cynical, and the world is too dark. But Scout, my heart cracked open, and the world got a little lighter. You gave me a son, and I got to be his dad, so I don't hate you. I love you. Just not in a painful way anymore.
However, at least heartbroken Amelia led to a much-needed and long-overdue conversation between her and Link. They both finally felt like themselves again when they talked to each other. It was a beautiful scene.
The Atticus Lincoln we know and love was back, and Amelia actually acknowledged how crappy she was to him. They spoke to each other like mature adults, acknowledging that they're forever family via Scout.
Link speaking about how much Scout changed his life and world and thanking Amelia for bearing him was sweet.
But the finale also highlighted Amelia's codependency, which is probably another reason why it would've felt better if she chose to be single for a bit.
She was a shell of herself without Kai, and it had her clinging to her other relationships. It's what prompted her to make proper amends with Link and put things behind them.
But it's also why she freaked out over Teddy and Owen leaving her. She sees them as her family, too. And the idea that they're gone under mysterious circumstances troubled her.
Owen and Teddy going on the run is utter madness!
It was only a matter of time before Owen's actions with the assisted suicide for veterans caught up to her, and his reckoning came in the form of John, a determined husband with a vendetta.
He was desperate, but it sucked how much he wanted to push Owen into doing something that pushed his ethical boundaries further, and he kept using honor to manipulate him. It would've worked, too, if not for Teddy.
John snitching to Bailey put everything in motion, and the timing couldn't have been worse with the accreditation lady roaming around.
Bailey was at a loss for words, but she cares about them so much, so it's not a surprise that she gave them ample time to bolt. What else could she have done?
The assisted suicide storyline was a bit of a messy one as, for a long time, they ignored that it's legal in Washington and relied heavily on Owen just making dumb choices.
But it was due for things to catch up to him. Even still, one never could've imagined that the last time we'd see Teddy and Owen, they would be on a plane to who knows where with the kids. And now, a hospital experiencing a staffing shortage is down two of its best surgeons!
But now we can add Richard to that list since he and Catherine went on sabbatical, and Nick, now that Mer has sent him away. Sadly, the residents are now orphans, and Bailey quit to spend time with Pru.
It's all so much to process!
It was sad to see Helm and Levi packing up their things, but if he had to leave a hospital he loved, Levi went out taking a meaningful stand.
I loved how they tied the blood shortage into many of the plots during this installment, and they also allowed Levi to challenge the homophobic, despicable blood ban against queer men.
While it was weird that Helm didn't seem aware of it, the rest of the way they addressed the issue was great. I even love how they once pulled off a halfway decent Station 19 mini-crossover by utilizing Ben and Travis.
Not only could Travis express his similar anger that sexually active gay men's blood is treated as if it's freaking diseased, but it aligned well with Travis' arc on Station 19, where he's become more vocal about injustices and wants to run for mayor.
It makes no sense that in 2022, even amid a blood shortage, there are these archaic, bigoted measures that prevent perfectly good donors from giving blood because of who they have sex with -- they can literally test the blood just freaking fine; there's no logical reason for it to exist.
I'm like Pavlov's dog, Bailey yells, and I snap to attention.April
And they showed a million times over how this ban can cause deaths. We don't know Levi's blood type, but imagine if it could've been used for Kristen or to save Mer's patient?
What if Bridget didn't have to die?
Mer's portion of the installment was the strongest of them all.
It has often felt like Ellen Pompeo was phoning it in for the past two seasons, but she was fantastic during this finale.
Meredith should be allowed to leave Grey Sloan. She's right; it's unfair that she's the only one obligated to stay.
It was rich when Jackson flew in and tried to pressure her. He got to leave, so why shouldn't she?
Tension has been building for Meredith and the others ever since they learned of her intentions, and it came to a head in a big way.
Admittedly, Mer opting to perform that risky surgery in the middle of their accreditation review and a blood shortage when it could've waited had her coming across as defiant and petulant.
But more specifically, she kept coming across as the incarnation of her mother, for better and worse. It was such a fascinating development when you could see how Mer has become her mother somehow.
If you reflect on it long enough, it's something that's been building and almost feels like her inevitable destiny. Yes, Ellis is an awful person in many ways, but she's generally a complex woman.
Meredith reaching a point in her life when she realizes how and why Ellis could be how she was and even relate in some ways is such a realistic awakening a person can have about their life and parents.
Meredith wanted to do things to spite her mother for so long, but she's actually become her. It's brilliant and compelling, and it's something that makes you excited to see how things play out for her next season.
Meredith is work-oriented, she lives for the job, she's had all of these groundbreaking achievements, and the sky is her limit.
Congratulations, Meredith. Ellis would be proud of you.Webber
She's a brilliant mind in high demand, always treated like this prodigious genius who followed in her mother's footsteps. She hasn't been able to escape her mother's shadow; even in Minnesota, she can't escape the Ellis effect.
But to everyone else, she's become her mother's dreams, some extension of her, a walking legacy.
Mer isn't a terrible mother, and she's more attentive than Ellis ever was, but she also has spent so much time away from her kids, for work, mainly, or because she was sick.
She's not consciously an absent mother, but maybe Ellis didn't think she was either.
And Meredith won't bend or submit to a man or romance. The ease that she snapped at Nick, accusing him of things he didn't quite say and pushing him away, had shades of Ellis doing the same to Thatcher and Richard.
These moments were so striking, and they hit harder because she kept seeing and hearing her mother at times.
It's like Mer has done so much to avoid becoming her mother, and somehow, slowly, then all at once, she became a version of her anyway.
It spoke volumes that she reflected on the advice that her mother gave her when she was lucid. She felt like Ellis warned her about Webber and being at GSM.
She even implied that there was truth in Ellis, stating that she couldn't reach her full potential under Webber's tutelage. But much of that has come from feeling as if Webber, Bailey, and others are trying to hold her hostage at this hospital.
The more they kept pushing and prodding at her, the stronger a case they were making for her to leave on the next thing out of there.
The sole responsibility for fixing the hospital shouldn't fall on Meredith; it's very much true. However, maybe there is also some truth in Mer saving the place that shaped and made her.
Mer's resentment was understandable, though. It showed the double-edged sword of her being "the Sun."
You really just should go. Just go. Just go back to Minnesota. I have a lot of work to do here.Mer
For years we've lamented how irritating it was that they placed Mer on this pedestal as if the Sun rises and sets on her behind. The narrative that she's the only person who can keep anything together felt absurd.
But they played into this well for the finale. They took that and used it to bite Mer in the ass and trap her.
And to borrow from our long-time round table panelist, Meaghan Frey, it felt like a metaphor for the show itself and how the series has trapped its lead into it -- the notion that a show has been on for nearly two decades all hinges on this one woman.
It's not the first time that it has felt like Mer and Pompeo were one and the same. Mer's speech about why she wanted to leave felt like Pompeo speaking directly to the audience.
Because the end of an era is easier said than done.Mer Voiceover
Every time Mer thought she was on her way out; she got sucked back into the hospital's drama. Bailey quitting and leaving her in charge as chief, with parting words that somehow Mer broke it and needed to fix, was jawdropping.
And now Mer is the chief at a hospital that she doesn't even want to be at anymore -- this place that she can't ever escape. It's like she's the only one tethered to this place until its demise.
Juxtaposing all of these other doctors who left or got to leave with Mer being forced to stay against her will was a good ending.
Mer's teary-eyed, frustrated, broken expression as she sat in Bailey's chair, the ultimate power thrust upon her, something she probably aspired to have, was such a fantastic shot and some of Pompeo's best in recent years.
She got this position, but it's not even something she can enjoy. Everything around here is in shambles, the hospital is in disrepair, everyone else got to jump ship, she pushed the man she currently loves away, and she's unhappy and stuck.
After picking another fight with Nick and sending him away, she's also alone. It seemed she regretted it by the end, but maybe it was too late. He was already gone, and she was all alone while heading this broken empire.
Webber's indictment hit hard as we saw Mer in those final moments. Would Ellis be proud of her?
She is extraordinary, but that's come at a cost and high expectations and demands she didn't want. She is the Sun, a finite point, fixated, unmoving because being the Sun comes with responsibilities.
She is Ellis Grey's child. She's Ellis Grey.
It's an ending that could have served as a bleak series finale if it had to, but it also could've worked as Pompeo's last season if necessary too, and something was chilling about that.
But with this development and the mental and emotional state that Meredith was in by the end of the finale, I'm intrigued by where she'll be when the series returns.
I haven't been that invested in Mer specifically in a long time.
Over to you, Grey's Fanatics.
What did you think of this milestone finale? Are you shocked by what happened to Mer? Let's discuss it below!
To relive the season, you can watch Grey's Anatomy online here via TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.