Grey's Anatomy fans were shocked when Patrick Dempsey reprised his role as the late Derek Shepard in a dream sequence with Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey at the start of the new season. Still, the longtime medical drama may have more tricks up their sleeve for Season 17. Asked if more former series regulars were making their way back on screen for a possible return, executive producers Andy Reaser and Meg Marinis told PEOPLE, "Wonderful and completely surprising things are absolutely possible."
There are plenty of characters who could make their way back to Grey's amid its 17-season run, but fans have speculated that one of Meredith's original fellow interns could make an appearance. Justin Chambers' Alex Karev just left the show in January, leaving his wife Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington) to get back together with the former flame. Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl). Heigl's character could make a return after her abrupt exit from the show in 2010.
Cristina Yang, played by Sandra Oh, has been making waves on Killing Eve but could make her way back to Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital after leaving during the Season 10 finale in 2014, and T.R. Knight's George O'Malley could also return similarly to Shepard after dying in the Season 5 finale. Outside the four interns, fans have also guessed Callie Torres, played by Sara Ramirez, Mark Sloane, played by Eric Dane or Lexi Grey, played by Chyler Leigh, to make an appearance.
Pompeo has been open recently about the trajectory of the show she's starred on now since 2005. Speaking with Variety last month, the actress admitted she doesn't "know when the show is really ending yet," adding that, "the truth is, this year could be it." While ABC has made no indication that it plans to cancel its hit show, Pompeo noted this was the last year of her contract, signed in January 2018.
In August, Pompeo told Dax Shepard on his Armchair Expert podcast that she would rather "dip out sooner rather than later when it comes to leaving the show." She continued, "At this point, having done what we've done, to leave when the show is still on top, is definitely a goal. I'm not trying to stay on the show forever. No way. The truth is, if I get too aggravated and I'm no longer grateful there, I should not be there."