Grey's Anatomy is one of the longest-running television shows in the United States and the longest-running show on ABC. With a staggering 15 seasons under its belt (and still counting), there's no doubt that it's a favorite of many people. It follows the life of Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) as she works her way up from medical intern to doctor and even to Head of General Surgery.
The show has received numerous awards, launched the careers of many of its lead actors, and is considered to have had a significant effect on pop culture. With season 16 set to premiere later this month, let's look back at some of the highest-rated episodes of all time.
10 SE08EP09: Dark Was The Night
The mid-season finale of season eight was an extremely emotional episode on several fronts. The core of the episode is that Teddy's husband Henry needs emergency surgery, and Teddy's needed on a different operation. Teddy places her faith in Cristina, the next best thing to Teddy doing the surgery herself. They hide Henry's face from Cristina and she starts the operation, none the wiser that it's Teddy's husband.
Unfortunately, things start the go wrong when Henry starts losing too much blood. The tumor completely eroded one of his arteries and there was no way to save him. Richard only shows Cristina the truth after Henry is gone. As a bonus, Owen lies to Teddy's face about Henry to stop her from walking out of her own surgery. The episode leaves you on an emotional cliffhanger, waiting for the fallout.
9 SE14EP07: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
The 300th episode of the show's run is a kind of memorial episode. The actual plot follows the victims of a roller coaster crash, but the cast spends a lot of the episode reminiscing on their pasts as new patients spark old memories.
There are a lot of callbacks to previous seasons and the episode even reuses songs from earlier episodes. The nostalgia is strong here and it's probably enough to move most diehard fans to tears, but there's still a lot left for Grey's Anatomy in the future.
8 SE10EP24: Fear (of the Unknown)
The season ten finale sent the acclaimed Sandra Oh off with a bang. Her last real episode (save for a cameo in the following season) before Cristina went to Zurich features a catastrophic explosion at the mall that resulted in massive casualties. The hospital staff mobilizes for the influx of patients while worrying if the explosion was an act of terrorism.
There's even a point where Cristina told Meredith she had to go to the mall before she left, leaving everyone wondering if the show was going to kill her off. Luckily, she didn't have time to run her errand before the disaster, and she gets to make her heartfelt goodbyes before safely boarding her plane.
7 SE12EP09: The Sound of Silence
A truly harrowing episode, the title "The Sound of Silence" is referring to the fact that the show's usual narrator (Meredith, of course) can't actually do any narrating. That's because Meredith is brutally attacked by a patient and no one notices to stop the beating, leaving Meredith in critical condition.
The staff of Grey Sloan Memorial has to come together to stabilize Meredith and stay by her side in the aftermath. She suffers many injuries, including a broken arm and trauma to her throat, as well as needing to have her jaw wired shut (hence no narration). Thankfully, she survives her ordeal.
6 SE02EP16: It's the End of the World
The first of a two-part episode way back in season two, "It's the End of the World" opens with Meredith's voice over talking about having a sixth sense of when you're going to die. Of course, we know how many more seasons the show has left. But it still sets a tense tone for the episode.
And her premonition proves somewhat true when a paramedic brings in a patient with a large chest wound, which they discover is hiding a bomb. The pressure is on when they realize the paramedic's hand might be the only thing keeping the bomb from exploding. Eventually, the young paramedic breaks and runs... and Meredith steps up to take her place.
5 SE02EP17: As We Know It
Completely the plot from the previous entry (and the song title), the stakes are high in the OR. Meredith has her hand in a man's body cavity, hoping to prevent the bomb hidden there from exploding. Meanwhile, Derek refuses to evacuate because he's still operating on Bailey's husband, and Bailey is in the middle of giving birth. There's a lot on the line.
The bomb squad gently encourages Meredith to remove the bomb from the body so they can take care of it. She's scared but manages to pull it out and hand it over. Success! Except moments later, the bomb goes off. Meredith is thrown into the hallway by the blast. Fortunately, everybody lives, including Bailey's husband and baby.
4 SE05EP24: Now or Never
"Now or Never" left off with a killer cliffhanger for any episode, let alone a season finale. Not only is Izzie still recovering from her brain surgery and experiencing lapses in memory, but the surgeons are trying desperately to save a John Doe who jumped in front of a bus to save a woman.
Fans of the show know that the John Doe, unrecognizable from his injuries, is actually beloved character George O'Malley. Who could forget the heart-wrenching scene when George traces "007" in Meredith's palm, and she realizes who he is?
3 SE06EP24: Death and All His Friends
Another harrowing season finale just goes to show that working in a hospital is apparently a very dangerous job. There's an active shooter in the hospital, Gary Clark, who wanted revenge for the death of his wife. The episode opens just after Clark shot Derek, who is bleeding out on the floor.
The episode is a tense balance between trying to save Derek's life and trying to stop Clark from killing more people. More people get shot, including Owen, and some are killed, but the important people make it through. Richard even convinces Clark to shoot himself instead of shooting him and go to jail.
2 SE15EP19: Silent All These Years
This plot from the most recent season stands out in it's confrontation with heavy subject matter. The characters and narrative handle the story of sexual assault with grace and maturity, making this episode a must-watch.
When a woman comes into the hospital after being sexually assaulted, Dr. Jo Karev takes on the responsibility of comforting her and encouraging her to contact the police. This is especially meaningful because Jo herself experiences abuse at the hands of her husband. The wall of women guiding the victim to the OR is one of the most powerful images in the show to date.
1 SE06EP23: Sanctuary
Perhaps the most dramatic and emotional episodes in a show famous for its drama and emotional resonance. Preceding "Death and All His Friends", this episode shows the beginning of Gary Clark's shooting spree.
Meredith's monologue at the beginning is chilling, foreshadowing the horror to come, but nothing overshadows that terrible moment Derek takes a bullet.