Arizona and April's Grey's Anatomy departure explained
Note: contains spoilers for all 15 seasons of Grey's Anatomy.
Get attached to TV characters at your own peril, because one day they'll be ripped away from you forever.
Grey's Anatomy fans were left teary-eyed when they waved farewell to Dr Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) and Dr April Kepner (Sarah Drew) at the end of season 14.
Fans were convinced that April was going to be killed off, putting a stop to any future return. In the previews for the penultimate episode of season 14, Jackson could be seen hysterically crying – never a good sign, and then we found out why: April was involved in a car crash which saw her fall down a ravine and suffer horrific injuries. It really did look like the end.
But despite being brought back to life, it was not enough to keep her on the show. April resigned from her role at Grey Sloan Memorial and went on to do "God's work", dedicating her time to helping the homeless.
Such a move was, in hindsight, always on the cards for the highly religious character, who had previously dedicated her time to Doctors Without Borders after her son, Samuel, died. April had also been dealing with some difficult personal issues, turning to alcohol to cope and sleeping with surgical intern Dr Vikram Roy – so it felt like we could, at some point, lose her.
The decision to write April out of the ABC medical drama came as a shock to Drew, who revealed on Twitter on 8 March 2018 that she was still coming to terms with the news herself when the decision was made public: "I know you're sad. I'm sad too. I haven't really had the time to process this information. I've been with it for less than 48 hours.''
And following her exit, she shared a photo on Instagram with the caption: "It was such a joy to get to spend my final week on the show with almost everyone in the cast in a gorgeous location in Malibu. We laughed SO much, goofed off WAY too much, and had our fair share of hugs and tears."
As for Arizona, her future always looked uncertain when Dr Nicole Herman (Geena Davis), who was Arizona's mentor in fetal surgery, returned to Grey Sloan Memorial during the penultimate episode of season 14.
Fans instantly suspected that Nicole's return could signal the end of Arizona, whisking Capshaw's character away for an external project which would see the pair do various amazing surgeon things – and that turned out to be the case. Nicole and Arizona went on to build the Robbins-Herman Center for Women's Health.
It had also become apparent that Arizona had very little keeping her in Seattle, apart from her job. Her daughter, Sophia, lives in New York with her ex-wife Callie, so it always felt like she would eventually move on before the show drew to its natural close.
Following her exit, Capshaw summed up her time on Grey's Anatomy with an extremely emotional response on Twitter on 8 March: "For the past ten years I have had the rare privilege of not only playing Arizona Robbins but also being madly in love with playing her.
"She was one of the first members of the LGBTQ community to be represented in a series regular role on network television. Her impact on the world is permanent and forever.
"I am sad to see her go but I am consoled by the idea that she will continue to live on and on in all of our consciences and imaginations."
Producers decided not to renew the contracts of Capshaw, who had been on the show for ten seasons, and Drew, who had reprised her role for nine seasons, because of "the show's creative direction".
Co-showrunner Krista Vernoff said: "The characters of Arizona and April are permanently woven into the fabric of Grey's Anatomy thanks to the extraordinary work of Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew.
"As writers, our job is to follow the stories where they want to go and sometimes that means saying goodbye to characters we love. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with these phenomenally talented actresses."
But as we know, Grey's Anatomy is no stranger to bringing characters back – Dr Teddy Altman (Kim Raver) has returned for season 15, which is currently airing in the US on ABC, and is due to return to the UK on Sky Witness on October 24th.
When asked by TV Line if April would ever come back, Vernoff said: "Never say never".
With both characters still alive and well, they could technically make a comeback – April is still seemingly living in Seattle, just off camera, so logistically that's more than possible. And for old times' sake, there's certainly no reason why the pair couldn't return for the show's final season, which has rumoured to be number 16 – Ellen Pompeo, who plays the titular Meredith Grey, is contracted for one more chapter.
Here's everything else we know about season 16 so far.
As you would expect, it wasn't just the fans who were unhappy about April and Arizona's exits.
Jesse Williams, who plays Jackson, tweeted: "Sarah and Jessica are easily among my very favourite people and co-workers, so this news f**king sucks. To say they'll be missed is a massive understatement."
Show creator, Shonda Rhimes, also thanked the pair for their contribution on Twitter: "I will never stop being grateful for the chance to work with @sarahdrew and @JessicaCapshaw. In April and Arizona, they created powerful unforgettable characters."
Central cast member Ellen Pompeo called out Deadline for "pitting women against each other" after running an article which said: "The decision not to bring back Capshaw and Drew comes on the heels of the blockbuster new Pompeo pact that gave her a significant salary increase, paying her as much as $20 million a year, including signing bonus, producing fees, ownership in the show and other extras."
The 48-year-old also shared a post on Instagram in which she said: " Saying goodbye to characters, cast mates and friends is always very hard regardless of the circumstances."
You better grab those tissues, folks, because there's going to be a lot more where that came from.
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