With Grey's Anatomy Season 16 having just come to an early end due to the coronavirus pandemic, showrunner Krista Vernoff is opening up about some of the biggest moments from the season. Speaking with TVLine, Vernoff addressed perhaps the biggest shock of the season: the exit of Justin Chambers' Dr. Alex Karev and the impact it had on Camilla Luddington's Jo Wilson.
"I didn't want to put anyone through it. [Camilla] had so beautifully gone through many months of very dark storytelling, and I didn't want any of us to watch Jo go into a hole again," Vernoff said of Jo's quick bounce back before going on to discuss the specifics of Alex's exit.
As fans recall, Alex had traveled to Iowa to care for his ailing mother during a November 2019 episode, which would mark his final episode of the series. In the episodes that followed, Alex was completely absent, going so far as to ignore Jo's continued calls and tests. In Season 16, Episode 16, "Leave a Light On," however, it was revealed through a series of letters that Alex had reconnected with his ex-wife Izzie Stevens, who was raising their 5-year-old twin boys.
Vernoff said the storyline "also felt honest," explaining that "because I've had the experience in my life where the pain of not knowing is so much worse than a very painful truth. Jo had so many episodes of not knowing [where Alex was] that even though the [eventual] answer was horridly painful, there was really honest relief [in just knowing what was up]. Getting an answer finally allowed her to strangely feel better than she had when she was just in the dark."
"Jo had imagined every possible worst-case scenario," Vernoff continued. "And even though one of them came true, just having the information allowed her to move on. It felt like she had done a lot of grieving for the relationship in the weeks prior to receiving that letter."
A series staple since Grey's Anatomy's debut back in 2005, Chambers had announced in January that he had made the decision to part ways with the series. In a statement, he said that "there's no good time to say goodbye to a show and character that's defined so much of my life for the past 15 years." He went on to explain that "for some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time."