Every TV drama has heartbreaking episodes, tumultuous twists, and unexpected plot lines. However, long-running ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy takes dramatic moments to a whole new level. While every show set in a hospital is bound to have upsetting and shocking scenes, Grey’s is just *so* extra. There’s been a plane crash, a flood, a shooter loose in the building, and dozens of tragic deaths over the past fourteen seasons. It’s featured ruthlessness on a par with Game of Thrones – literally no character is safe.
With so many killings, heartbreaks, and tragic accidents taking place in the show, it’s kind of hard to pick out which moments have ended up being the most dramatic. However, we’ve trawled through every episode to try to find those few events that sent your heartbeat into a real frenzy. If you’ve ever felt personally attacked by the creative choices of Shonda Rhimes, this is the article for you.
16. Addison Showing Up
Let’s go back… back to the beginning. Back in season one, Meredith Grey and Derek ‘McDreamy’ Shepherd’s burgeoning relationship was somewhat stalled when it turned out that he was already married. He conveniently forgot to mention this to Meredith, who only found out when Derek’s wife, Addison, showed up at the hospital. The seemingly-perfect McDreamy had been lying by omission all season. Poor Meredith was heartbroken when Derek (admittedly briefly) decided he wanted to try to save his marriage. It was one of the show’s first major plot twists, and it had us all pretty devastated. However, Derek and Meredith got their happy ending eventually (temporarily, at least) and Addison actually turned out to be pretty cool. Good times all round!
15. When the ‘John Doe’ Turns Out To Be George O’Malley
When George O’Malley actor T. R. Knight decided to leave Grey’s (in slightly controversial circumstances), Shonda Rhimes needed to find a way to pretty conclusively write him out of the show. Instead of, say, letting him take an extended trip away, or having him just leave to work at a different hospital, Rhimes decided to be brutal. George’s death is one of the most heart-wrenching in the entire show. At first, the staff at Seattle Grace don’t know that it’s him they’re treating: he’s been horribly disfigured in a bus accident. However, when George traces “007” – his former nickname – on Meredith’s palm, the penny drops. Despite all of the team’s best efforts, George doesn’t make it.
14. Season Eight’s Plane Crash
Okay, this has to be the most extra episode in the history of Grey’s Anatomy. You wouldn’t exactly expect a drama set in a hospital to kill and injure a ton of its characters in a plane crash, but hey – it happened. After successfully separating conjoined twins Brandi and Andi Evans, a delegation from Seattle Grace went to Idaho to operate on similar patients. However, their chartered plane crashed mid-flight, and carnage ensued. Meredith got metal embedded in her leg, Cristina dislocated her shoulder, and Arizona ended up having her leg amputated. However, Lexie and Mark were the true victims of the crash, with neither of them making it in the end. Lexie died pretty much immediately after a part of the plane crushed her, while Mark’s life support was switched off after spending a month in a coma. So effed up.
13. Dr. Burke Leaving Cristina At The Altar
The Grey’s season three finale is a pretty memorable episode for fans of Cristina Yang, Meredith’s BFF. She’s left heartbroken after her fiancée – Dr. Preston Burke – leaves her at the altar. He claims it’s for her own good, and feels bad for forcing Cristina to change so much throughout their relationship. However, this dramatic breakup still stung pretty badly. Those shots of Cristina shaking and sobbing uncontrollably in her wedding dress… Man, they broke us. Anyone who dares to hurt Cristina is basically dead to Grey’s fans – she’s too good to deserve any level of suffering. While Burke leaving her was ultimately a blessing, as she herself admits, it was still a dick move to do it at the last possible moment.
12. Callie’s Car Accident
This shocking tragedy had us all on the edge of our seats back in season seven. On a car journey fraught with arguments, Arizona finally asked Callie to marry her – but the car crashed before she could get an answer. Arizona left the scene pretty much unscathed, but Callie hadn’t been wearing her seatbelt and ended up flying through the car windshield. The race was on to save both her and her unborn child. After a lot of stress, some near-death experiences, and a load of random musical moments (‘cuz why not?!), Callie made it through and was able to accept Arizona’s proposal. Her daughter Sofia also lived, despite being born incredibly prematurely. It was a double miracle!
11. When Seattle Grace Flooded
Back in season five, a plumbing issue caused Seattle Grace to flood in a pretty spectacular fashion. Water came rushing in through doors, down corridors, and even through the ceiling. In fact, a ceiling pretty inconveniently collapsed onto a patient during surgery, with water rushing into his open body. However, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In the process of clearing the patient up following the collapse, the team finds a tumor in his pancreas. They manage to remove it cleanly and quickly and cure their patient without a need for chemotherapy. What started as a dramatic disaster ended up saving someone’s life.
10. Cristina Getting Stabbed With An Icicle
Of all of the weird and wonderful major injuries that we’ve seen in Grey’s, this has to be the most unusual one of all. After having an argument with Meredith, Cristina storms out of the hospital and falls on some ice. Before she can get up again, an icicle falls from the roof and impales her in the stomach. I just winced even thinking about that! This slightly improbable incident (why was it that icy in Seattle in September?) did help to bring Cristina and her future husband Owen together. Owen helps to remove a piece of the icicle from Cristina’s stomach and even gives her a cheeky kiss afterward. Nice!
9. The Shooter’s Rampage in Season Six
A grief-stricken shooter’s rampage through Seattle Grace in season six changed the show in so many ways. A ton of characters got killed off – although to be fair, most of them were only introduced after an unpopular hospital merger storyline. However, a number of well-liked characters ended up suffering. The shooter struck Derek in the chest, but Cristina was later able to save him. Owen tries to take the gun off the shooter who promptly turns on him. Likewise, Meredith suffers a devastating miscarriage due to the stress of the incident. The culprit, Gary Clark, committed this atrocity after the death of his wife in the hospital. He too ended up dead, committing suicide before the police could catch him.
8. Denny’s Death
Denny’s death back in season two was tragic on so many levels. First, Izzie tried to save his life by stopping his heart: cutting his LVAD wire would put him higher on the list for a transplant. Denny was at first reluctant to try the plan but was convinced when Izzie demonstrated just how devastated she’d be if he died. Izzie cuts the wire, but her plan is scuppered when Burke – the bearer of Denny’s new heart – is shot. Cristina, Meredith, and George all help Izzie to keep Denny alive, and his eventual transplant is initially successful. However, he tragically dies of a stroke while Izzie is attending the hospital prom, leaving her totally emotionally destroyed. The scene where she cradles Denny’s dead body while still in her prom dress is enough to bring a tear to anyone’s eyes.
7. Dylan Young Literally Exploding
I suppose dealing with explosions is kind of par for the course when you work in the bomb disposal business. However, Dylan Young came to an especially messy end when the cargo he was carrying went off. When a patient comes into the hospital with some unexploded ammunition stuck in his chest, the police put the entire building on lockdown. Meredith and Burke managed to get the bomb out of the man’s body, and Dylan happily came to collect the explosive material. He even had a bit of a casual flirt with Meredith, but as she runs outside to bid him farewell, the bomb goes off. Dylan ends up as nothing more than a so-called “pink mist,” totally traumatizing Meredith.
6. Meredith’s (Temporary) Death
In a three-party story back in Grey’s season three, we genuinely became worried that Shonda Rhimes would do the unthinkable and kill off her own main character. After being knocked into the water while treating the victims of a ferry accident, Meredith Grey really looked like she was about to drown. Luckily, a kinda creepy little girl saw Meredith fall into the water and is able to let Derek Shepherd know where she is. Despite Derek performing a daring rescue, Meredith’s condition is touch-and-go for a pretty long time. However, this allows our heroine to go through a dreamy limbo sequence, meeting up with previously killed-off characters and saying a final goodbye to her mother. Meredith ultimately survives, although every viewer’s emotions were shot to pieces in the process.
5. Jackson Stopping April’s Wedding
Trauma surgeon April Kepner’s first wedding in season ten didn’t turn out so well in the end. Midway through the ceremony, her ex-flame Jackson interrupted proceedings to declare his undying love for April. After some deliberation, April decided to leave her hapless fiancée Matthew at the altar and run away with Jackson. It was all very romantic… Although you can’t help but feel a bit sorry for poor Matt. He didn’t really do anything wrong! He was just the unfortunate third party in a love triangle destined to end badly for at least one person. Jackson and April later ended up marrying themselves, although their union didn’t last.
4. McDreamy’s Death
After investing so much time in building up the relationship between Meredith and Derek, Shonda Rhimes decided to snatch their happiness away by killing McDreamy off. To be fair, it sounds like this was mostly Derek actor Patrick Dempsey‘s fault. He apparently caused a lot of issues on set and may even have had an affair with a member of the production staff. After relations between Dempsey and the rest of the Grey’s team allegedly soured, McDreamy’s demise was inevitable. After being involved in a serious car accident, Derek heads to a pretty inept hospital. The neurology department doesn’t treat his head injury quickly enough, and he’s declared brain dead. Meredith makes the difficult decision to turn her husband’s life support off – all this while she’s pregnant with their third child. It’s devastating stuff.
3. Cristina Collapsing in the OR
Cristina had a reputation for being one of the best doctors at Seattle Grace. She was smart, sharp, and sassy, and rarely made mistakes. That’s why it was so surprising that she started to space out in the operating room during season two. The then-pregnant Cristina had seemed off all day, but things came to a head when she full-on passed out while in the OR. Her colleagues were understandably panicked and concerned for her welfare, and Cristina was quickly rushed for an examination. It turned out that her left fallopian tube had burst and was totally irreparable, causing severe internal bleeding and ending her pregnancy. This was especially shocking for her former lover Dr. Burke, who hadn’t even known she was pregnant!
2. Owen’s Severe PTSD Episode
Back in season five, Owen and Cristina’s fledgling relationship suffered serious strain when it emerged that the former had severe PTSD from his days as an army surgeon. This led to Owen almost strangling Cristina to death in his sleep. You’d think that something like that would have ended their relationship for good, but the two worked through it and did eventually marry. In the end, it was Cristina’s refusal to have children that ended their relationship. Still, Owen had us seriously worried for a minute when it looked like he was about to kill one of the show’s most popular characters.
1. The Death of April and Jackson’s Baby
After running away from her first wedding to be with Jackson, April pursues a relationship with the dashing doctor and the two eventually marry. They wind up becoming pregnant with their first child, and everyone’s thrilled. However, it isn’t long before tragedy strikes. It turns out that their unborn son has a number of severe conditions that mean he won’t survive more than a few days after birth. They make the tragic choice to induce April’s labor and let the baby die in her arms. It’s heartbreaking to watch, and the stress of the incident eventually breaks up April and Jackson’s marriage.