Longtime stars Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw will be departing the medical drama, along with their characters, April Kepner and Arizona Robbins. Judging by statements the actresses issued Thursday, it seems as though they were as surprised by the news as fans were. Amid speculation that Drew and Capshaw were fired to compensate for star Ellen Pompeo's new $20 million contract, showrunner Krista Vernoff insisted that the exits were conceived simply because the characters' storylines have come to an organic conclusion.
That certainly seems like a plausible explanation in the case of Arizona, whose storyline has somewhat floundered after the departure of her onscreen wife Callie (Sara Ramirez, who left the show after Season 12). As the only openly gay character among the series regulars, it will be a shame to lose Arizona's presence on the show. But there are any number of scenarios that could realistically take her away from Grey Sloan and/or Seattle with general — starting with the possibility of her reuniting with her Callie and their daughter Sofia in New York.
It's hard to imagine a credible exit strategy for April, who shares an infant daughter with Jackson (Jesse Williams, who is not leaving the show as far as we know). It would be out of character for April to leave Seattle and her daughter behind, and out of character for Jackson to let April move elsewhere in the country, taking Harriet with her. And, if April simply leaves Grey Sloan because she gets a job elsewhere in Seattle, the writers face the dilemma of having April be conspicuously absent from both Jackson's life and the lives of all her friends/former coworkers going forward. (Not that the show hasn't done this before.)
However, the easiest solution to get rid of April's character is an alarming one: by killing her off.
Hear us out: After experiencing a crisis of faith, April has been exhibiting increasingly risky behavior in recent episodes — and, given yesterday's news, it almost seems as though the show is telegraphing some type of horrible punishment to befall her. Jackson, for one, seems particularly concerned about April's newfound penchant for sleeping with interns, drinking to excess and coming into work hungover.
Would Grey's really go as far as killing off one of its most beloved characters, though? Um, duh. Remember Derek Shepherd, anyone? When Patrick Dempsey wanted to leave Grey's in 2015, the show responded to the exact same dilemma it faces here — getting rid of one character while keeping their (ex-)spouse and children in the fold — by killing Derek off. It's certainly not unlikely that the same fate could befall April. And to be honest, that's a much more preferable scenario than April somehow undergoing an extreme character shift that causes her to up and leave with no (reasonable) explanation.
Besides, Grey's has already broken #Japril fans' hearts this season by pushing Jackson and Maggie (Kelly McCreary) into an odds-defying romance. Those same fans may want to brace themselves for even more emotional devastation as the season concludes.
Or maybe April and Arizona will get their own spin-off and live happily ever after. Yeah, let's go with that theory.
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8/7c on ABC.