After weeks of build up and lingering questions, Grey's Anatomy officially said goodbye to Dr. Alex Karev on Thursday's night's farewell episode following actor Justin Chambers' abrupt exit from the series back in January. A staple on the series since it first premiered back in 2005, the ABC medical drama wrapped up his storyline in a unique way after it was revealed that Chambers would not be appearing in any further episodes.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for Grey's Anatomy Season 16, Episode 16, "Leave a Light On."
Alex was sent off, and said his final goodbyes, through a series of letters sent to a handful of characters, in which he clarified his sudden absence, explaining that he has reconnected with his ex-wife Izzie Stevens, who was raising their 5-year-old twin boys.
Keep scrolling to read Alex Karev's complete letters to Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington), Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), and Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.).
His letter to Meredith
The first letter of the episode to be read was the one written from Alex to Meredith, in which thanked his "person" for all that she’s done for him and opened up about his absence.
"Mer, this is not the way I wanted to do this, but you know me," the letter read, according to PEOPLE. "Any chance to take the easy way out. You know as well as I do, you'd yell or give me guilt or crap or whatever you do that seems to always set me straight. You were always the one to set me straight. When that didn't work you'd flop in my bed and say the one perfect thing that would make sense. The thing is, I can't come back. I can't face you. I deserve the guilt and to be called an ass. I don't want to be set straight. I don’t want you to say the right thing. Because the one perfect thing isn't in Seattle. Not anymore. I swear it’s not about you or work or Jo, it's about me. I left and I'm with Izzie."
Explaining that he had called Izzie during Meredith's insurance fraud trial to both get a letter in support of Meredith and to "hear her voice," Alex revealed that he learned Izzie had 5-year-old twins, which are his.
"You always said Christina as was your person, then I was your person, but you've always been your own damn person," he continued. "You are my best friend and I will miss the hell out of you but I’m finally exactly where I should be. I never had that before."
His letter to Jo
The second letter to be read was his letter to Jo, his wife. In the letter, Alex apologized for leaving and admitted his feelings for Izzie.
"You deserve more than a letter," he wrote. "This right here, this cowardness, it’s officially the worst thing I've ever done. It’s about me, it's not about you. You deserve so much better than this. I love you, Jo. I love that you are brilliant and brave and no matter what you go through you never let it hold you back. It makes you stronger, kinder. You made me kinder. You love me for exactly for who I was and I loved you. I love you. Maybe it’s not fair to say that but it’s true. But this is also true. I’m in love with Izzie."
"I imagined this whole life for her where she was happy and had a bunch of kids," he continued. "I never imagined me in that picture but suddenly I am…There was a part of me that always wondered, always wanted to know, always felt like we left thing unresolved…I reached out to her and we started talking and it scared the crap out of me."
"She's here in Kansas on a farm in this incredible place in the middle of nowhere," he said. "Izzie had my kids and I know you get what that really means. You of all people know why I can’t just leave now. I have a chance to make this family whole. I need to give these kids the family you and I never had."
"I wish getting everything I always wanted didn't have to hurt you in the process," he wrote. "But I can't lie to you and I can’t come home. I'm not coming home, Jo. I can't face you. I can't look you in the eye because I wouldn't be able to walk away…Thank you for taking care of me when I needed it."
He then revealed that he had signed divorce papers and left everything to Jo, including his shares in Grey Sloan.
"You deserve everything good in this life," he said. "I hope you find somebody so much better than me. Thank you I’m sorry."
His letter to Bailey
"You were mean and impatient and knew everything and liked everyone else but me, even when you pretended you didn't," Alex wrote in his letter to Bailey. "Or you were convinced they had 'it,' that something that would make them great some day. Hell, you named your kid after O’Malley and Mer named harked after you and you, you just seemed like all my other teachers before you who took one look at me, decided I was garbage and that was all I'd ever be."
"But here's the thing, unlike everyone else, you let me grow the hell up," he continued. "You gave me crap when I deserved it. you pushed my buttons and my limits when I needed it. Yeah it's a teaching hospital and all that. But you did more than that. And you know it."
"And sure it’d be pretty great if I just stayed there forever and repaid you for everything you did for me, but you and I both know I can't. I never could," he added. "You helped me grow the hell up and you took a bullet out of my stomach. You protected Jo from herself and if I started the whole list of everything I learned from you, I would never stop writing. Just know this, it took me a long time to say it, but I'm a good Peds surgeon. I'm an OK guy. I'm still trying. But I'm a really good damn surgeon…I know who I am. I became the guy you trusted at the hospital to keep your secrets and now, I’m a surgeon. A friend. A father of two incredible kids with Izzie Stevens…I love you Dr. Bailey."
His letter to Richard
Unlike the other letters, Alex's letter to Richard is never read aloud, as it is thrown in the trash before Richard’s AA meeting. Although fans never get to hear the letter word for word, Richard does speak about its contents to the group, where he admits that he was angry with Alex when he first read it.
He went on to tell the group that he was upset with Alex for abandoning Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital and all of the work he has put in there as well as at Pac-North. He goes on to admit that he was even more upset that Alex had chosen to say goodbye via a letter, not allowing Richard to say anything to him in person or close their relationship in a more proper way.
How have fans reacted?
Fan reaction to Alex's sendoff has been overwhelming bad, many feeling as though the series overlooked 16 seasons of character development.
Despite loving Alex, who was among just a handful of characters from Season 1 remaining on the series, many fans thought that killing his character off would have been a more fitting end for Alex's storyline than the one portrayed on the show.
I’d honestly rather have Alex Karev die THAN have #GreysAnatomy ruin 16 seasons of character development to have him ghost everyone, and leave his wife for IZZY FUCKING STEVENS.— Madison H (@murlzz) March 6, 2020
What does executive producer Krista Vernoff have to say about Alex's goodbye episode?
Addressing the shocking send off following the episode, executive producer Krista Vernoff told Entertainment Tonight that it was "nearly impossible to say goodbye to Alex Karev."
"That is as true for me and for all of the writers at Grey's Anatomy as it is for the fans," she told the outlet. "We have loved writing Alex. And we have loved watching Justin Chambers' nuanced portrayal of him."
"For 16 seasons, 16 years, we have grown up alongside Alex Karev. We have been frustrated by his limitations and we have been inspired by his growth and we have come to love him deeply and to think of him as one of our very best friends," Vernoff continued. "We will miss him terribly. And we will always be grateful for his impact, on our show, on our hearts, on our fans, on the world."