[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Grey's Anatomy's Season 15 premiere! Read at your own risk!]
Not many shows live long enough to see Season 15, and even fewer are able to remain fresh and exciting, but Grey's Anatomy's two-hour premiere accomplished that difficult feat with ease. Shonda Rhimes' long-running series kicked off its new season Thursday with humor, daring surgeries and that familiar drama that makes it one of the most addictive shows on television.
The premiere, which was written by showrunner Krista Vernoff, saw Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) experience something of a sexual awakening following a surprising kiss from DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti) during Alex (Justin Chambers) and Jo's (Camilla Luddington) wedding in the Season 14 finale. Unable to stop dreaming about her co-workers, she finally decides to get back into the romance game just as a hot new doctor, known around town as the Ortho God (Chris Carmack), arrives on the scene. Whether or not he's the guy for Meredith remains to be seen, but it's obvious he's not going anywhere anytime soon.
Elsewhere, there's baby mama drama ahead for Owen (Kevin McKidd), who doesn't know that Teddy (Kim Raver) is pregnant! With Owen already juggling fostering a teen mom and her infant while rekindling things with Amelia (Caterina Scorsone), his life will undoubtedly be rocked when he finds out he's about to be a dad twice over. However, he's not the only one facing a mountain of drama this season. After shifting his belief system and then losing a patient, Jackson (Jesse Williams) will go through a rough emotional journey that will probably serve as a roadblock in his relationship with Maggie (Kelly McCreary).
In the wake of the game-changing episode, TV Guide hit up Vernoff to get the scoop on what's in store this season, including Meredith's romantic journey, Alex's new gig, and how Teddy's return complicates things for Owen and Amelia. Keep reading to see what she had to say!
Meredith's sex dreams provided some great entertainment in the premiere but also alluded to something deeper going on in her subconscious. What do these dreams say about her? What does she need in her life right now?
Krista Vernoff: This is a woman who hasn't been kissed in a while. DeLuca kissed her at [Jo and Alex's] wedding, and I think he ignited her desire. Earlier in the show, Izzie (Katherine Heigl) talked about the beast having been awakened, and I feel a little bit like the beast was awakened in Meredith. DeLuca inadvertently woke something up in her that she's not gonna be able to put back to bed, and that is a little frustrating to her. But Meredith Grey is a doer and when something wakes up in her, she gets it done.
Towards the end of the episode, Bailey (Chandra Wilson) urges her to go and find her own happiness. What does happiness look like for Meredith this season?
Vernoff: There's a playfulness that's coming out. She's putting herself out there and saying, "Yes, I've been through all the pain and all the grief and now, I got something else. I love my life, I love my kids and I love my job, but I want a little more. I want someone to share it with. And it just makes her vulnerable and it makes her playful and willing to look. What we're doing that's different than what we've seen is, she's gotta go on dates. Like in real life, love doesn't always land in your lap with the first date. And so, we're leaning into that a little bit.
Throughout the premiere, there were these small moments that indicated Lincoln (Carmack), also known as the Ortho God, could be the man for Meredith. What were you trying to say with those flirtatious scenes?
Vernoff: I was trying to say that there are options everywhere when suddenly you open your eyes. Meredith is resistant. She shuts him down hard. I don't know if Linc is Meredith's type, but I think she doesn't know either. She doesn't know who she is romantically, as this adult woman post-Derek (Patrick Dempsey). So, who knows?
On a sadder note, Jackson was having a bit of a crisis of faith. His belief system starts to shift after DeLuca saves him, and then he experiences the emotional whiplash of losing a patient. Where does he go from there? What's going on with him?
Vernoff: It absolutely is an emotional whiplash and I think it's a kind of emotional whiplash that people who once were atheists that are now coming to believe in something else out there really struggle with. It's like you're believing in something and yet the world suddenly feels bizarre. What's the reason? What's the design? And Jackson is struggling. Maggie is struggling to support him. But he's a fort and he's gotta figure some things out for himself.
Jackson's accidental proposal really freaked Maggie out, so what's the status of their relationship? Are they ready to take that next step?
Vernoff: These are grown-up people. These are not 21-year-olds who propose before they've ever said I love you. It's not about whether or not she loves him. He is not proposing from a place of grounded health. I think that Amelia's line of "Is he competing with April?' is probably part of what it felt like to her. April, while she's no longer on the show, she's still alive in our world and a presence in Jackson's life. So, I think that her panic is not a reflection of her feelings for Jackson so much as this isn't right. He's not right. He's not himself. What's going on with him and how do I support him through it?
Is it safe to say Maggie and Jackson will struggle in their relationship while he's going through this personal crisis?
Vernoff: They're still in early stages. They just started dating in the final quarter of last season. It's Grey's Anatomy, so relationships in the early [stages] tend to struggle a little. That doesn't mean that there isn't love there.
Owen and Amelia's marriage ended in disaster, but now they're giving it another shot. How have they changed and what does that mean for this second attempt at a relationship?
Vernoff: What's changed between them is A) Amelia had a brain tumor, and B) a lot of fear, which she names in the premiere. She had a lot of fear about the things that Owen wanted and here, they accidentally ended up in the life that Owen wanted with these two kids. And it's not that scary to her. The stories we tell ourselves in our head are often so much worse than what reality provides. And so here she is, in the very reality of raising two kids with Owen and that's what they fought about. That's what ended their marriage. It's gonna be a complicated, twisty, turny road, because Owen's behavior last season was a little complicated and a little twisty and turny in terms of sleeping with her and trying to find Teddy and then being set back and proving Teddy right where he couldn't be alone. He went and took in a foster baby but also took in Amelia with a baby. It's an interesting thing. It's a complicated tangle.
Owen and Amelia have a nice thing going right now, so how will Teddy complicate that? She eventually has to tell Owen she's pregnant with his child.
Vernoff: She's not gonna do it easily and she's not gonna do it really soon.
In a surprising twist, Alex is the interim chief of surgery. How does he compare to Bailey in that role?
Vernoff: Alex Karev is an unlikely chief of surgery and that was a joy. It's a little bit of a fish-out-of-water story initially. Who would have thought that Alex [would score this position]? It's really joyful to see how he steps into it and rises to [the occasion]. It's funny, and Justin (Chambers) is just tremendous. Wait 'til you see him in a suit.
So we're gonna see Alex in a suit really taking this new role seriously?
Vernoff: It's a temporary thing because Bailey's gonna take her job back, but Bailey is trying to take care of her health and her stress levels and find the joy that she lost when Ben became a firefighter. It's a complicated journey she's taking, but she'll be chief again at some point. In the meantime, Alex is up against everyone's judgment and everyone's doubt and his own self-doubt and it's really great to see.
In addition to the Ortho God, what new faces can we expect to see this season?
Vernoff: We've got Alex Landiv, who is Ortho God's fellow. He's the Ortho fellow.
And in the premiere, he was seen flirting with an intern.
Vernoff: Yes, and he is our first openly gay male surgeon, which is an exciting thing for us. He's got a beautiful love story this season.
It's been reported that Ellen Pompeo is considering leaving Grey's. Can the show continue without her? Have you started thinking about the end?
Vernoff: I don't think Grey's goes on without Ellen, but I have not heard anything about the end because we're at the beginning of Season 15 and Ellen's under contract through Season 16. That's two years and 48 episodes away. Also, these rumors of Ellen leaving have been going on since like Season 3, so I won't believe that the show is over until Shonda [Rhimes] and Ellen and ABC all sit me down together and say this is it.
You're directing your first Grey's episode this season. What's it like to step into that role compared to producing and writing?
Vernoff: It is exciting, it is exhilarating and sometimes it's terrifying. I thank God every minute for Debbie Allen, who's our producing director, for shepherding me through this process in the most beautiful, most generous way. Today, when we're seeing what it looks like when the world doesn't support women, I feel like I'm living in this bubble, this beautiful matriarchy where women support women.
What can you tell me about Episode 7, which you are directing?
Vernoff: My episode focuses on Richard Webber's journey this season. He's struggling since his AA sponsor died and he hasn't replaced her. It's really beautiful, powerful, painful, not very funny material. I kinda did that on purpose, because I think comedy is harder to direct. I write comedy but I was a little afraid to direct it, so I was like, let me jump in on this one. It's written by [longtime Grey's writer] Elisabeth Finch. I'm surrounded by incredibly, powerfully talented actors. I just feel really lucky.
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8/7c on ABC.