The iconic showrunner had a hard time watching Derek die but was proud of the way he was written off.
Derek Shepherd's death in season 11 crushed both Grey's Anatomy characters and fans. The episode where Derek gets in a car accident is still remembered as the most tragic Grey's Anatomy moment by many fans. Heck, some even stopped watching the medical show after that.
However, the show's iconic creator Shonda Rhimes is sure that such a conclusion to the beloved character's arc was inevitable. She just didn't have many options.
"Either Derek was going to walk out on Meredith, and leave her high and dry [or he was to die]," the showrunner explained to E! News.
With MerDer being the most loved canon couple in the show, Derek leaving Meredith and their children would have had much more gruesome consequences for the story than his death. It would have meant that the main love arc developing for 11 seasons was a lie. Such a development would have definitely been frowned upon by diehard fans.
"To me, it felt like that was the only way to make Meredith and Derek's magic remain true and forever frozen in time," Rhimes added.
Patrick Dempsey's exit from Grey's Anatomy happened a year prior to the end of his contract and was a mutual decision, according to the creator. It was later revealed in Lynette Rice's book about Grey's Anatomy that by his exit Dempsey had become insufferable, "terrorized" cast members during filming, and didn't exactly see eye to eye with the showrunner.
In the book, Dempsey agreed that he was burned out and frustrated due to the tight filming schedule. So his staying on the show was not an option, and Rhimes had no choice but to plan Derek's exit, which had become a painful experience for her.
The writer shared that the scene of Derek's death was so difficult to watch that she couldn't bring herself to go to the set during its filming, and first saw it in the editing room. According to Rhimes, the acting of the two stars, Dempsey and Pompeo, impressed her so much that she just couldn't stop crying. And though many fans believe it ended the golden age of Grey's Anatomy, the showrunner said that she and the cast were very proud of the way McDreamy exited the show.