Okay, yes. I am one of those rather horrified viewers who, after eleven seasons (three that were really good) and ten years, saw McDreamy literally get his plugged pulled on Grey's Anatomy. As the showrunner and creator, Shonda Rhimes, has every right to control the direction of the program and make it her vision. But this isn’t the Walking Dead or Breaking Bad, so there should be a limit to number of plane crashes, bus deaths, shootings, ferry drownings, and bombs that can occur in one hospital. Also, this is a television show that has become a team effort, involving numerous directors, writers, and actors who have spent a decade embodying their characters. So I can’t help but feel a little betrayed in the way that she wrote out a beloved character who has been pivotal to the show (despite the actor not being shy about his frustration with the recent writing).
So let me vent. There was enough foreshadowing with Derek Shepherd telling Meredith, who have been the romantic duo pulling at our heartstrings for eleven seasons, that he is willing to give up his dream job because she is everything to him. And to wait for him, he will be right back. Boom. After saving four people who were in a stupid car accident in an area with plot-driven lack of cell phone service, his cell phone magically turns on, causing him to STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD to fish around for it in the seat. So a semi plows into him. Then he is sent to crappy hospital where the doctors let him go brain dead. And Meredith is forced to take him off life support. Irony layered on top of irony, considering that the actor Patrick Dempsey is a professional race car driver, and his character Dr. Shepherd is a neurosurgeon.
Here’s the thing. Fiction writers should be the sole creators of their novels, and it is their right, their privilege, to decide the fate of their characters. This gets tricky in long-running series, where fans are very, very invested in their favorite characters and their relationships. Charlaine Harris has received death threats from readers who were unhappy with the conclusion of her Sookie Stackhouse books. So yes, we do need to take a chill pill and trust that authors know what they’re doing. Authors are entitled to do whatever they want with their characters. For a while, there seemed like there was a hit list on long-running love interests and significant others of main characters in mystery series, and I assume this was done for character and plot driven reasons. As a reader, I found that the manner in which the deaths were carried out decided whether or not it was the nail in the coffin that caused me to stop reading the series, or impactful enough to have me compelled and invested in seeing where the author was going. In a genre where death is expected, mysteries have had the significant others of characters killed off with varying degrees of success. To name a few (needless to say, spoiler alert, although I will be vague about which book the deaths occur):
Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak series – Dana Stabenow crafted a brilliant death scene for the long-term love interest of her protagonist, and I can still envision their final beautiful/horrific scene together. I am the first to admit that I have no soul, but I was in tears when I read this. While devastating to the reader and to Kate, it forced her character to evolve and would continue to impact her for books to come.
Karen Kijewski’s Cat Colorado series – The author kills the main character’s very likable love interest in the first page of what would ultimately be the last book of the series. The book does not involve the investigation of that murder at all. It’s hinted that the investigation will occur in future installments, but for whatever reasons the series ended. Talk about unsatisfying, as Cat is depressed and mourning the entire book and the reader never gets a sense of resolution for the murder. Meh.
Karin Slaughter Grant County series – I hated this one. On the LAST PAGE, just after declaring that he is completely in love with Sara Linton, has never been happier in his life, and he’s ready to adopt a baby with her, the love interest literally goes boom and dies. This was the worst of the worst clichés.
So yes, the authors are the ones who should decide the fates of their characters. Readers and fans will whine when their favorites die, but if we trust in the authors’ visions we will continue to follow them despite the pain. Poor Arthur Conan Doyle had to drag Holmes back from the dead due to pressure from his publisher, so I can sympathize with authors feeling as though they may lose control over their books due to their fans. If I have grown to trust an author, I am also willing to trust that he or she has a vision, and is motivated out of more than just shock value and emotional manipulation. That is the deciding factor over whether I will continue to follow a series, even after breaking my heart.