There still has yet to be a show that can effectively tug at my heartstrings on a weekly basis the way the first few seasons of Grey’s Anatomy could. Births and deaths, patients and doctors, moments of pain and moments of love—this show was able to make me cry for so many reasons and for so many characters. And while every couple had (and I’m sure still has even though I stopped watching a long time ago) plenty of poignant moments, Meredith and Derek were the center of so much of what made this show incredible, including its heartwarming and heartbreaking moments.
The scene where Derek comes to visit Meredith after she almost dies in an explosion at the end of Season Two’s “As We Know It,” is the perfect mixture of heartwarming and heartbreaking. The longing in this scene is so palpable that it makes my chest ache even all these years later.
The tension is built so perfectly throughout this scene, with Derek coming to see Meredith even though he’s married to Addison, and then with Meredith telling him that she couldn’t remember their last kiss—her loneliness written across her face like the cut on her forehead. But the tears don’t start for me until Derek describes that last kiss for Meredith. I remember sobbing when this scene first aired, thinking about how romantic it was that he remembered every little detail of that final moment of happiness. Patrick Dempsey’s delivery of that speech is perfect; you can feel every emotion as it courses through Derek—happiness, love, regret, and longing. HIs little smiles throughout the scene still kill me in the best possible way.
Some television moments make you cry because of how badly you want two characters to find happiness, and this will always be one of those moments for me. The electricity in the air between Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo is almost unbearable; this is such a simple scene, but the two of them put so much emotion into it that it’s impossible not to feel a desire to see these two people find love with one another again.
Grey’s Anatomy is filled with big moments designed to inflict maximum damage on your tear ducts. But where the show really excelled in its early seasons was in small moments of genuinely palpable emotion. Meredith and Derek have always been the emotional core of this show, and that’s true because of the quiet power of scenes like this one.