How Grey’s Anatomy Pulled Off Patrick Dempsey’s Surprise Return

Now that was the kind of surprise we didn’t know we were waiting for.

In the last 30 seconds of its season 17 premiere, Grey’s Anatomy shocked us all with the return of Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd, who reunited with Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey on a breezy beach and will return for next week’s episode too. Yes, he’s still dead, but even in a dream sequence, this is the first time Dempsey has returned to the show since Derek’s death in 2015.

Derek’s return means there’s absolutely something wrong with Meredith, which is concerning, but the reunion was actually designed as a way to bring fans some joy in a time when there’s not a ton of joy to be had. Pompeo, Dempsey and showrunner/mastermind Krista Vernoff explained how the reunion came about in an interview with Deadline.