Grey’s Anatomy is one of the greatest success stories in modern television. Conceived by the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, as a feminist series with a diverse cast, Grey’s was originally a mid-season replacement for the mostly forgotten comedy-drama Boston Legal. ABC was surprised by the show’s popularity and it was kept on the air for the remainder of the season. Since then, the show has become a massive critical ratings phenomenon, not to mention a cultural juggernaut.
It has remained one of the most widely seen shows on television since its premiere and inspired four hit spinoffs – so far. Now that is has entered its fifteenth season, it has become the longest scripted primetime show in ABC’s history, as well as the second longest running primetime medical drama - it only has to run for seven more episodes to beat out ER.
With such a large and dedicated fanbase, it’s inevitable that the show would be the subject of some interesting fan theories – some fun, some believable, and some outlandish. Considering that the show has occasionally reveled in the fact that it’s a soap opera and has had storylines that border on the ridiculous (how many calamities can befall one group of doctors? How many people who are attractive enough to be TV stars can work at one hospital?), it’s understandable that fans would imagine the show going in bizarre directions.
From Alzheimer’s diagnoses to ghosts to purgatory, the show’s fans have thought of numerous sharp left turns that the Grey’s Anatomy could take.
These are 20 Wild Fan Theories About Grey’s Anatomy That Change Everything.
20 Meredith Has Alzheimer’s
Let’s face it: Meredith Grey has lived a ridiculously melodramatic life. The hospital she works at has been flooded, hit by an earthquake, and has been the site of two mass shootings. Meredith’s co-workers have been hit by trucks, electrocuted, and perished in airplane crashes - one even broke through the windshield of her car and managed to live. There is one simple explanation for why Meredith’s life is so bizarre - she’s a character in a soap opera.
However, some fans want a more grounded explanation – she has Alzheimer’s. This would mean that her crazy experiences are the result of her mis-remembering her life and would tie into the various references to Alzheimer’s on the show.
19 Owen Isn’t The Father Of Teddy’s Baby
Owen and Teddy got together last season while they were in Germany. Teddy got pregnant shortly afterward, but it’s never been confirmed that he is the father of Teddy’s baby. For all we know, Teddy might have indulged in more than just schnitzel during her German vacation; after all, the show kept the details of her time in the country a touch fuzzy.
Owen’s paternity is also a touch suspicious given Teddy’s age, which is around fifty. Most women who try to get pregnant at that age need multiple tries (not to mention fertility treatments) to do so, so her getting pregnant with Owen’s child seems a little unlikely. These storytelling choices leave lots of room for more drama and new revelations!
18 Dylan Minnette Plays The Same Character On Grey’s Anatomy And 13 Reasons Why
One of the most common varieties of fan theory is the sort that postulates that two characters portrayed by the same actor are, in fact, the same character who just changed their name for no explained reason. One of the most famous is the one which claims that Jennifer Connelly played the same character in the beloved children’s film Labyrinth and the harrowing drama Requiem for A Dream. A similar theory proposes that Clay Jensen from 13 Reasons and Ryan, a one-episode character from Grey’s, are the same person.
Oddly, there is a focus on both characters’ ears – Jensen has to listen to the tapes left for him while Ryan got his ears fixed on Grey’s Anatomy.
17 THE SHOW IS PART OF THE MCU
Here’s a hypothesis that’s a little far-fetched, even by the standards of fan theories. The reasoning behind this is that Grey’s takes place in a world of extremes, and advanced technology, much like the Marvel Universe, and that the doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital are awfully, well, heroic. Supposedly, the holographic software shown in one episode of the show bears more than a passing resemblance to holograms used by Tony Stark.
This theory also likes to note that Grey’s Anatomy and the Marvel Cinematic Universe are both owned by Disney. We can only hope this means a Grey’s/Avengers/Frozen crossover is on the way.
16 Alex Will Fall In Love With Meredith
Alex wants to settle down. Meredith has been there for him since they’ve known each other and vice versa. Maybe the two wouldn’t make the most romantic pairing imaginable, but they would definitely make sense together in the sort of way that would work for a long-term, committed relationship.
Some fans like this pairing because of what the two have been through together, while others feel that Alex makes far more sense as a quasi-brother figure in Meredith’s life than a lover. In that way, this pairing resembles the Katniss/Peeta pairing from The Hunger Games franchise, and we all know how that turned out.
15 Most Characters Are Embodiments Of Meredith’s Emotions
Similar to that once-popular theory that all of the Winnie the Pooh characters represent mental disorders, this Inside Out-inspired theory hypothesizes that all major characters besides Meredith represent her own emotions. Derek is her ability to love, Cristina is her desire for friendship, Mark Sloan is her desire, and Owen is her bravery. This theory is very exhaustive and mentions nearly every significant character in the show.
Purely from a character perspective, this is an interesting idea, and adds another dimension to the characters we all know and love. However, this theory also includes speculation that all of the characters besides Meredith are only hallucinations, which would be a bit of a difficult pill for most fans of the series to follow.
14 The Series Finale Will Feature Ghosts
Here’s a theory that isn’t about decoding what we’ve seen from the show so far, but more about conjecturing what curveballs Shonda Rhimes could throw at us. Some fans like the idea that the Grey’s Anatomy’s finale will feature Meredith walking around Grey Sloan Memorial and seeing the ghosts of all of those who lost their lives throughout the series.
An ending to the show that pays homage to its past would be nice. However, it would be asking a lot from fans to accept that a show, which has been on for over a decade and never had any supernatural element, would introduce ghosts in its last episode. The episodes where a character hallucinated seeing ghosts was poorly received, so Rhimes and company might not want to add actual ghosts to the show anytime soon.
13 LEXIE IS NOT REAL
Here’s an example of fans noticing a writing error and taking it more seriously than the show’s creators ever would. Lexie was born in 1984 and is a surgical intern in 2006; having that job is an extremely unlikely accomplishment for a 22 year old. That caused one fan to theorize that Lexie simply cannot have existed.
This is an example of explaining one contrivance with an even larger controversy. If this were revealed to be the case, it would be a pretty tired twist considering how many other shows and movies have done it, but stranger things have happened.
12 The Finale Will feature a Hurricane
Ending the series with a hurricane would be an obvious throwback to the well-liked season in finale “Perfect Storm”. Nostalgia is usually a part of the last episode of a series and this theory is rooted in some fans’ expectations that Grey’s Anatomy might want to recapture some of the magic of an earlier episode. However, there’s a line between homage and stealing and ending the series with another hurricane would probably make the showrunners look like they were completely out of ideas.
No one wants a series finale that’s too rooted in a series’ past – we’re looking at you Seinfeld!
11 Derek’s Storyline Was Foreshadowed
In a show full of loss, Derek’s was one of the most heart-breaking. Upon a repeat viewing of the series, one Reddit user found that Shonda Rhimes might have foreshadowed his end seasons prior. In the show’s second episode, Meredith and Derek look over a patient in a coma, and Derek comments that if he were to fall into a coma, he would want to be surrounded by his loved ones. Ten seasons later, that’s exactly what happened.
As sad as his passing was, it is amazing to think that the show’s writers might have planned things out that far in advance.
10 The Entire Show Was A Dream
Grey’s Anatomy has referenced The Wizard of Oz a few times over the years, which isn't that strange. After all, it is the most widely seen film in the world. This theory imagines the show taking things a step further by proposing that it might reveal that the entire show was actually a dream. This revelation would certainly explain why the show got ridiculous here and there, but modern audiences usually hate finding out that a single scene they just saw is only a dream.
Imagine how disappointed people would be if they found out that the entire show they’ve been watching for fifteen years was all a dream! This is the sort of bottom-of-the barrel writing decision the show’s writers need to avoid.
9 Zola Will Work At the Hospital
Here’s a theory that’s sweet. One fan thinks that when Meredith gets older, she will become the Chief of Surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial and Zola will join the hospital’s intern class. Then Meredith can deliver the speech that Richard used to deliver to the interns, as she proudly looks at Zola. It would be a sweet way to wrap up the series and open the door for a new Grey’s Anatomy show to premiere sometime in the future.
Family is a major theme of the show and ending on a moment of mother-daughter love would tug at our heartstrings. It would also be cool to see the characters several years in the future.
8 Owen Will Be The Next Major Character To Perish
It’s been a surprisingly long time since the show has lost a major character. The showrunners are really fond of the group of people that they're currently working with. Regardless of why all the show’s major characters have stayed alive for the past few seasons, some fans think that the current lineup of characters cannot last too much longer.
A number of fans have hypothesized that Owen Hunt will be the next to go this season. Why? Derek’s sister was introduced a season before his passing and Owen’s sister was introduced first season. We can only hope that this is all just a coincidence and all of our favorite characters will live happily ever after.
7 The Show Will Never End
This theory wins the award for the most far-fetched of them all. After an impressive fifteen seasons, some fans wonder if there are any secret plans to wrap up the series anytime soon. According to one fan – there’s not; Shonda Rimes has no intention of ever ending the show and it will go on and on, shifting its focus to different characters. This fan’s only evidence is that in the past five seasons there have been episodes without Meredith, which must mean she will be replaced as the show’s main character so that it can go on forever!
Maybe Rhimes would love the show to last over fifty years like General Hospital or Guiding Light, but odds are good that, like all good things, Grey’s Anatomy will eventually come to an end.
6 MEREDITH HAS MORE SIBLINGS
Grey’s Anatomy has certainly lived up to its title by focusing on members of the Grey family, including Meredith’s sisters Maggie, Molly, and Lexie. The introduction of Meredith’s sister Maggie seemed a little random all those years ago, so if Meredith did have more siblings, surely fans would be along for the ride.
One fan of the show has theorized that Ellis may have donated her eggs for medical reasons, meaning that a new member of the Grey family could be introduced into the series at any moment. Introducing yet another Grey into the show might seem a little contrived. If the show’s writers want to create another major character, it might make more sense for them to introduce this character in a without giving Meredith yet another sibling.
5 When One Character Gets Married, Another Loses Their Life
Grey’s Anatomy has followed a bit of a pattern. George and Ellie got married, then Meredith’s stepmother Susan perished. Alex and Izzie got married and George lost his life. Is it coincidence or formula? Most importantly, is it a pattern we can expect to continue in the future? Hopefully not, or else wedding bells on this show will start to sound like dirges.
This pattern could be Rhimes’ way of working the potent combination of love and mortality into the show in a tame way that everyone from kids to grandmothers can enjoy. Or it could be her way to make sure that viewers are always on their toes and wanting to watch the next episode.
4 The Show Is Flashbacks Of Zola Reading Her Mother’s Diary
When Meredith found her mom’s diary, she pored over it for a long time savoring its every detail and learning lessons from her mother’s experiences. A sweet, unexpected way to end the series would be to frame it all as the result of an older Zola reading her own mother’s diaries.
Such an ending might be a touch reminiscent of How I Met Your Mother, but with a completely different style and tone that would work much better for this series which probably needs to end on a warm emotional note to please its audience
3 Penny Is From Pawnee of Parks And Recreation
Here's another character crossover that ties together two roles played by the same actor. Samantha Sloyan, the actress who plays Grey’s' Penelope Blake, also had a very small part on America’s second-favorite pseudo-documentary sitcom, Parks and Recreation.
The evidence for this theory is that Penelope would move every two years, so she could have come to Seattle from Pawnee, or go to Pawnee after she leaves Seattle. However, Sloyan’s unnamed character on Parks and Recreation says that she’s spent her whole life living in Pawnee, and she’s also way too dense to have earned a degree from any accredited medical school. Maybe Pawnee has even lower standards than we thought.
2 Maggie Has Alzheimer’s
A spin on the popular idea that Meredith has Alzheimer’s, this fan theory is more grounded. Fans came to this conclusion after finding out that Maggie’s mother Ellis suffers from the disease, and Maggie has been shown having difficulty with the simple task of remembering people’s names.
Given that she isn’t nearly as central to the show as Meredith, the revelation that Maggie has Alzheimer’s presumably wouldn’t drastically alter the show the way that Meredith having the disease would. Then again, showrunner Shonda Rhimes has taught her fans to expect the unexpected. After Derek's sister Amelia dealt with her brain tumor, this would be a stroke of tragedy for Meredith's sister.
1 THE HOSPITAL IS PURGATORY
Here’s an interesting one: a fan asking other fans for theories about the show online joked that the series would end with the revelation that the show was set in purgatory and the doctors there help patients (the deceased) go to Heaven or Hell. The fan was clearly referencing a well-known interpretation of the hit TV series Lost.
Despite this theory’s origins as a joke, some fans have embraced it unironically. Its implication would be huge and bizarre. Did Derek’s passing cause him to go to Heaven or Hell? Why did God make purgatory a hospital? Why would someone believe this joke theory in the first place? These questions may never be answered.
What's your favorite Grey's Anatomy fan theory? Let us know in the comments!