When it comes to season finales, no TV show knows how to twist the knife quite like Grey’s Anatomy. Whether it’s a major death, an epic romance or a cataclysmic event, the medical drama has fans poised nervously on the edge of their seats, often while reaching for the nearest box of tissues. However Grey’s chooses to end a season, it’s almost always exciting and unexpected. The only thing viewers can pretty much count on is insane levels of drama set to an awesome soundtrack.
Although Grey’s Anatomy has had some finales that redefined what fans thought that television was capable of, there have also been a few that were painful disappointments. However, this is likely only because the writers raised the bar so high in previous seasons. Let’s see how they stack up against one another.
15 Season 15 - Jump Into the Fog
This most recent finale was so uneventful that you’d be forgiven if you didn’t realize that it was the capper to season 15 at all. After a plane crash, a crazed gunman and a superstorm, dense fog just doesn’t cut it. Sure, Teddy and Owen seemed to have finally gotten together, but poor Koracick. Jo wound up institutionalized and DeLuca took the fall for Meredith, who admitted she was in love with him.
Way too much time was spent on the painfully dull romance between Maggie and Jackson. By the time Jackson went missing in the fog, most viewers were grateful because it meant that they wouldn’t have to listen to the two of them continue their ridiculous argument. At least Nico and Schmitt worked things out.
14 Season 7 - Unaccompanied Minor
“Unaccompanied Minor” didn’t have too much going on in the way of classic Grey’s drama, but it also had the misfortune of following the show’s most harrowing finale ever. There was plenty of table setting for season 8, but little in the way of action.
Meredith’s duplicity regarding the clinical trial was revealed, driving a major wedge between her and Derek. She got custody of Zola pretty much the moment Derek admitted his doubts about their future. Cristina and Owen were in a rough spot too, with news of the former’s pregnancy hitting them both in different ways. There was a great Teddy/Henry moment, though.
13 Season 14 - All of Me
“All of Me” brought us the departure of both Arizona Robbins and April Kepner. Sure, it was nice that the two women lived to tell the tale, which is so rare for Grey's. However, reuniting April with the guy she left at the altar and giving Arizona an offscreen happy ending Callie left fans with two very dissatisfying conclusions for these fan favorites.
Alex and Jo got married, despite everything going wrong with their wedding, and sparks began to fly between Meredith and DeLuca. All in all, it was a fun and lighthearted episode, which is fine. It just couldn’t measure up to finales of seasons past.
12 Season 11 - You’re My Home
The season 11 finale wasn’t bad by any means, but there was just no way it could compete with “How to Save a Life." McDreamy’s final episode had all the excitement and heartbreak that viewers have come to expect from a Grey’s season capper. “You’re My Home” felt kind of anticlimactic after losing Derek so recently. The episode never really had a chance.
Richard and Catherine tied the knot, which was lovey, but this installment also saw the end of Jackson and April, so who’s ever getting over that? That final Derek moment at the end definitely pulled at the heartstrings as well.
11 Season 12 - Family Affair
Another finale centered on a wedding, “Family Affair” had lots of twists and turns, even if they were largely resolved by episode’s end. Also, Ben performed a C-section on April in a moment that although somewhat redeeming, was also thoroughly repulsive.
The show also lost Callie, which was disappointing, especially considering she drove off into the sunset with one of the show’s worst characters. However, it was nice to see her and Arizona make peace. Fans also witnessed the beginning of a rather pointless love triangle between Meredith, Maggie and Riggs. The real cliffhanger moment though, was Alex beating poor Andrew to a bloody pulp.
10 Season 10 - Fear (Of the Unknown)
This was Cristina Yang’s final episode, so obviously, it was fairly traumatic. However, this is another rare occasion in which a major character leaves the hospital, but not in a body bag. Plus, Cristina got a pretty great sendoff, even dancing it out with Meredith one final time.
On the medical front, there was a possible terrorist attack and Grey Sloan was dealing with the fallout. This episode also included the bombshell that Meredith had another secret sister, which, while somewhat well-worn territory, still made for a compelling story.
9 Season 13 - Ring of Fire
This finale is also known as that time that Grey’s Anatomy spent a full episode reminding you how awesome a character is right before writing them out of the show. In this case, that doctor was Stephanie Edwards and although it’s frustrating that this was her final appearance in the series, it was certainly one to remember.
With a dangerous criminal on the loose, Stephanie had to fight to save herself and a little girl. She succeeded, but Grey Sloan went up in flames due to her efforts - not that we could ever blame her for this one! Aside from the pulse-pounding action, this installment also featured a major surprise: Owen’s sister was alive.
8 Season 4 - Freedom
From here on out, the finales on this list are pretty much all winners. While season 4 was largely a disappointment - likely due to the writers’ strike - the ending was classic Grey’s. “Freedom” was a two-parter, so a lot happened. There was not one, but two unforgettable medical cases: the boy encased in concrete and the terminally ill young couple with no hope, save Meredith and Derick’s failing clinical trial.
Aside from that, Mer and Der finally reunited with the former's candle house grand gesture. Poor Rose though. Seriously, if there were any justice in the world, she’d have had a chance meeting with Finn, the handsome, kindhearted vet Meredith ditched back in season 3. Those two deserve some happiness. Still, this season ended on a hopeful note.
7 Season 9 - Perfect Storm
While soul-crushing due to Callie discovering Arizona’s betrayal, this episode kept viewers on the edge of their seats from start to finish. Thanks to a massive storm, Seattle Grace suffered a power outage and the doctors were scrambling to keep their patients alive. Shane was forced to perform a C-section in the dark, but thankfully, both Meredith and her baby survived.
Cristina realized that she and Owen couldn’t have a future, and Jackson literally rescued a child from a burning bus. Plus, there was a major cliffhanger that saw Richard electrocuted in the basement, with his fate very much in question.
6 Season 5 - Now or Never
One of the biggest shockers in Grey’s history was the revelation that George was the John Doe who had jumped in front of a bus to save a stranger. Aside from that, Izzie’s cancer had taken a turn for the worse as well. So, the season ended on a rather gut-wrenching note, with George dying and Izzie’s fate unclear.
It was a fine, if heartbreaking, farewell to fan favorite George, who had been given little to do that season. There were initially plans to show George’s final day in the season 6 premiere, but sadly, T.R. Knight refused to return.
5 Season 3 - Didn’t We Almost Have It All
"Didn’t We Almost Have It All" had one of the most soul-crushing endings of any Grey’s finale, but it was also the perfect showcase for Sandra Oh’s incredible performance. After trying so hard to make it work with Burke, he left her at the alter. It was a move that not only broke Cristina, but also completely destroyed Meredith’s already small amount of faith in love. Anyone's who's ever suffered a broken heart could relate to Cristina's utter devastation.
On top of everything else, poor Adele had a miscarriage. This episode also saw the departure of Addison Montgomery and the arrival of Lexie Grey, both of which would greatly impact the show moving forward.
4 Season 1 - Who’s Zoomin’ Who?
Grey’s Anatomy was never quite so much fun as it was during its freshman outing. This often overlooked finale was excellent and dropped the bombshell that literally no one saw coming. The series has been on for so many years and with the doctors surviving (or not) one disaster after another, it’s sometimes difficult to remember what the show began as.
Sure, there were exciting cases, quotable dialogue and lovable characters, but what really kept fans coming back from one week to the next was the romance between Meredith and McDreamy. Just when everything had finally fallen into place between Mer and Der, the wife that no one knew Derek had shown up looking “all leggy and fabulous."Jaws around the world dropped.
3 Season 8 - Flight
This was one harrowing episode of television. Centering on a terrifying plane crash that placed the lives of all our favorite doctors in jeopardy, “Flight” was the final episode for Lexie Grey, as well as the beginning of the end for Mark Sloan. If you’re not still crying over their final scene together, you might not have a heart.
Aside from the major deaths, the ramifications of “Flight” would be felt for years to come, with Callie and Arizona never quite recovering. It would also lead to the rebranding of Seattle Grace as Grey Sloan. However, the main reason that this finale ranks so high is the because of how fast it made fans’ hearts beat for the entire hour. Grey’s hasn’t been able to top it since.
2 Season 2 - Losing My Religion
In a run of fantastic seasons, season 2 still remains the gold standard for Grey’s Anatomy. So, it’s not too surprising that “Losing My Religion” ranks so high here. It’s impossible to talk about Grey’s most heartbreaking moments without immediately thinking about this episode.
Seriously, this was one packed hour: Burke’s tremor, Meredith and Derek hooking up at the prom and of course, the death of Denny Duquette. After several heart-stopping episodes, it seemed that he and Izzie might get their happily ever after in the end. However, this is Grey’s Anatomy we’re talking about here. That image of Izzie in her prom dress curled up next to the dead body of her fiancé is one that fans will never forget.
1 Season 6 - Death and All His Friends
Season six was great as a whole, but it’s the finale that everyone truly remembers. “Death and All His Friends” saw Seattle Grace terrorized by a bereaved gunman. This was a story that the show had spent much of the season building towards, so when it all came to a head, it was incredibly intense.
From Reed’s quick, shocking end to Bailey being pulled out from under that bed to Cristina operating on Derek with a literal gun pointed at her head, this episode is utterly unforgettable. Many finales have fans reaching for the nearest box of tissues, but this one left them quaking in their seats, unable to look away from the screen.