It’s remarkable for any television show to make it to 13 seasons. It’s even more remarkable when said television show is producing more than 20 hour-long episodes each year. But ABC’s soapy, sexy, tragedy-filled hospital drama Grey’s Anatomy is doing just that — and it’s still a solid force in the ratings to boot! With a 14th season already guaranteed, Grey’s Anatomy isn’t going away anytime soon. How is this possible? Does Shonda Rhimes have magical powers? Yes, but that’s irrelevant here.
Grey’s Anatomy has managed to keep its audience interested for many reasons, but two in particular stand out: It has a whole slew of characters worth caring about, and it isn’t afraid to take risks (see: stand-alone episodes, episodes focusing on one or two characters, and that whole musical debacle). Given those two traits, it would make a lot of sense for Grey’s Anatomy to toss longtime friends into a romantic relationship. Yes, I’m saying Grey’s should go there with Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and Alex Karev (Justin Chambers).
Of course, such a great migration from the friend zone shouldn’t happen immediately. Grey’s is likely to be around for a while, so there’s plenty of time to build the relationship until it feels inevitable. We’ll ease all you haters into it. Also, honestly, it wouldn’t feel organic if Meredith and Alex just woke up one day and started making out. There will be lots of confusing hurdles for them to pass before they realize the truth: Nobody else understands them the way the other does.
For this to really work, Meredith and Alex need to be endgame. No dipping your toes in the water, Grey’s. If you want to go there with Merlex, you have to dive in the deep end. The show could certainly use that sort of narrative target, anyway: As it trudges through a snoozefest Eliza Minnick plot, the 13th season is begging for inspiring, gut-wrenching, soul-mate level romantic entanglements. #Japril can’t do all the heavy lifting in this regard, you know?
The argument against this coupling is understandable. Meredith and Alex are best friends, they are family, and putting them together would ruin a perfectly great platonic relationship. Not to mention that season eight alternate-universe episode in which we actually saw Meredith and Alex engaged. It was pretty terrible. Meredith wears a pink cardigan! And for further evidence that a friendship turned into romance can be a bad idea, please see what happened to George (T.R. Knight) and Izzie (Katherine Heigl).
Still, the benefits of a Merlex romance are just too good to ignore. When I think about the end of Grey’s and how Meredith’s story might wrap up, there are really only two options. First, she ends up chief of surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial. Much like her mother, Ellis (Kate Burton), she’s on top of her surgical game, fulfilled by her career. She remains unmarried. But unlike Ellis, Meredith would be surrounded by the amazing family she’s built for herself. After everything, our dark and twisty girl deserves her day in the sun.
That’s an ending I could get behind. However, as much as Meredith says she’s dark and twisty inside, she seemed to really enjoy sharing her life with the late Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey). For that reason alone, it’d be a bit of a surprise if she doesn’t end up with someone else down the line. Meredith could settle for a life of romantic flings and steamy hookups, but that feels more Cristina (Sandra Oh) than Meredith. If she’s going to have another long-term love beside her when this whole shebang ends, who would be a legitimately satisfying suitor? Nathan Riggs (Martin Henderson) is a great character. He’s done wonders for Owen’s (Kevin McKidd’s) post-Cristina boring problems. Aside from the whole “Meredith repeatedly lies to her sister” thing, Maggie’s (Kelly McCreary) crush on Riggs is a fun development. I hope the guy stays around — but he’s not long-term love material. He’s disturbingly similar to Derek, from the arrogance and the flirtiness to the jawline that won’t quit. It all hits too close to home. He may understand Meredith’s grief over her husband’s death, but he doesn’t fully understand Meredith herself. You know who does? Her best friend, Alex.
The fact that Meredith and Alex are best friends might seem like a con, but it should really be a pro. Not all best friends need to end up together, but these two specifically? Yes, please. They’ve both been there for one another through so much. The inappropriate hookups, the marriages, the divorces, the deaths, the shootings, the drownings, the crazy women with new faces, the babies, the sperm donations, the long-lost siblings, the daddy issues, the mommy issues, the suspensions, the hangovers, the personal losses, and the professional wins. Can you imagine Meredith or Alex fully unloading their life story on a newbie? We’d run out of red flags. And if you don’t know everything about these two, you really know nothing at all.
Isn’t this the problem in Alex’s relationship with Jo (Camilla Luddington), especially now that it’s imploded? Yes, they connected because both experienced less-than-ideal childhoods and had to work hard for their success, but Jo doesn’t really understand Alex. That’s why she blows up when she finds out about his and Izzie’s frozen embryos. That’s why she’s extremely insensitive to how Alex might feel as she takes him to task over gun laws. (The dude almost died in a shooting, you dope!) That’s why she couldn’t trust him enough to tell him about her past. And that’s why Meredith has always and will always intimidate her: Jo knows Meredith gets Alex in a way she never will.
Meredith and Alex are fiercely loyal and protective people. The passion with which they defend, worry about, and remind each other that they’re better than how they may be currently acting goes beyond a normal friendship. If you watch the moment when Alex spoons Meredith as she sobs and then recovers from her hearing loss at the hands of a brutal beatdown and your heart doesn’t grow three sizes, I can’t help you. Or remember, way back during Izzie’s cancer plot, when Meredith sits in the on-call room with Alex while he freaks out over the enormity of what’s happening and she tells him “I know” over and over again because she knows he just needs to get it out? These two need each other. They’ve grown up together.
Both Meredith and Alex have had great loves — her relationship with Derek is epic and iconic, certainly — so it’s hard to think about them forging such an intimate bond again. But what’s more epic than a love story built on a decade of friendship? Two people who hated each other, then tolerated each other, then became best friends, then realized there was no one else on the planet they could ever be with? Toss in gratuitous shots of flexed forearms and a North Carolina seascapes and that love story is basically a Nicholas Sparks book.
Moving Meredith and Alex into romantic territory is risky, and if done poorly, it would most certainly be a disaster. But as their characters continue to grow, it’s the next logical step for their story. And if it’s done the right way, it could be really swoony. Meredith and Alex deserve happiness, on that we can all agree. What makes a person happier than being with the person they love most? It doesn’t need to happen today, or even this season, but soon, Grey’s Anatomy should start making moves toward its next great love story.