The anticipation of a death is an unsettling experience — even if that death is of a character on television. We viewers went into last night’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, titled “Flight,” much like the family member of a cancer patient goes into the hospital for the last time: with complete and utter dread, knowing the end is near. We had the knowledge that one major character wasn’t going to be alive at the end of the hour, per interviews that series boss Shonda Rhimes gave. And a plane crash at the end of last week’s episode all but spelled out that the victim would be one of the six doctors on the flight: Meredith Grey, Derek Shepherd, Cristina Yang, Mark Sloan, Arizona Robbins, or Lexie Grey.
Then, last week, Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, and Sandra Oh resigned their contracts for next season, so the field of possibilities narrowed to just Arizona, Mark, or Lexie. Seeing as how Arizona and wifey Callie had been put through so much last season with that horrific car wreck, it was basically boiled down to one half — or both? — of will-they-or-won’t-they couple Mark and Lexie. It was only about 20 minutes into the episode, then, that it became clear the victim was Lexie, who had been crushed under part of the plane that crashed in the woods.
This being the often-overwrought Grey’s Anatomy, Lexie’s final few minutes were full of the requisite melodrama. After it became clear that Mark wasn’t going to be able to move the debris off Lexie and save her, he sat with her as she passed away, the bottom-half of her body crushed by the plane. “Mark,” she told him, despite his disbelief, “I’m dying.” And she made a final request of Mark, the man she had just professed her love to: “Please, tell Meredith that I love her and that she was a good sister. Please, tell my dad…” But Mark didn’t want to believe what was happening in front of him: “No, you’re not dying. You don’t die today.” But he couldn’t stop the inevitable. “We’re gonna have the best life, you and me. We’re gonna be so happy,” he told her, obviously responding to her confession from last week. “So you can’t die, okay? You can’t die. Because we’re supposed to end up together. We’re meant to be.” And then she passed away, with Mark closing her eyes.
It was an intense death. I mean, how awful was it to watch one of Grey’s longest-running characters pass away so quickly — and rather unceremoniously? I get that Ms. Rhimes had to do what she had to do — and every show needs to be shaken up once in a while — but I don’t love that Lexie was the one to die. Could it have been someone less important somehow? I guess it would have been too obvious to do Kepner. And you probably just don’t kill off a hottie like Mark Sloan, right?