As if we haven’t shed enough tears over Grey’s Anatomy already, season 16 has proven to be another emotional roller-coaster with one OG fan-favorite character. ICYM the heartbreaking news, Justin Chambers, who’s played Alex Karev since the show premiered 15 years ago, announced his departure from the show. And last night’s (March 5) episode was the closure of not just Alex’s chapter, but Alex and Izzie’s. Yes, that’s a name we haven’t heard in a while! Their love story played a big part in Alex’s character growth, and now that Alex has left, leaving only Meredith from the original group of interns at Grey Sloan, there’s a lot of questions that fans want answers. For those who missed out on the Seattle Grace days of the show, we explain how Grey’s Anatomy bid farewell to Alex Karev.
Why Did Justin Chambers Leave Grey’s Anatomy?
Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) and Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) were part of the original group of interns at Seattle Grace including the titular character Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), Christina Yang (Sandra Oh), and George O’Malley (T.R. Knight) when Grey’s Anatomy premiered in 2005.
Over 16 seasons, they went through ups and downs and saw several character departures for various reasons and new additions to the cast. Knight, Heigl, and Oh would depart from the series at different times, with only Pompeo and Chambers along with Chandra Wilson, who plays Miranda Bailey, and James Pickens Jr. as Richard Webber remaining from the original cast.
On January 10, 2020, Chambers announced that he was leaving Grey’s Anatomy after 15 years.
“There’s no good time to say goodbye to a show and character that’s defined so much of my life for the past 15 years,” Chambers said back then. “For some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time.”
His departure is not plot-driven, nor are there any bad feelings. Much like Alex has grown over the past decade, it seems Chambers also wants to grow professionally.
Alex’s final appearance was in the November 14 episode, where he brought a legion of witnesses to Meredith’s trial to save her medical license. He got a few mentions in later episodes before the March 5 episode finally explained where Alex is.
What Happened to Alex and Izzie?
As of season 16, Alex is married to Jo (Camilla Luddington). But this was not his first marriage.
Several years ago, Alex and Izzie were dating when she was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. Derek had saved her then, but when Izzie’s health got worse, Derek and Meredith gave their wedding ceremony to Izzie and Alex so they could get married.
Izzie almost dies during the surgery to remove the second tumor. In limbo, she meets George in the elevator, who was also close to death. Izzie ends up surviving, while George dies.
While still getting treatment, Izzie returns to her job at the hospital. But a mistake on her part endangered a patient’s life, and she is fired. She blames Alex for losing her job and breaks up with him through a letter.
When she realizes that Alex didn’t cause her to be fired, she returns to make amends and also reveals she is cancer-free. While Alex is happy for her, he officially breaks up with her and declares he is moving on.
That is the last time Izzie is seen on the show. Alex would later mention that she sent the divorce papers.
Alex Leaves Grey Sloan to Be with Izzie
After he was last seen at Meredith’s hearing, Alex is MIA on the show. The other characters express their concerns about Alex’s absence and his current wife, Jo also worries if Alex is cheating on her.
Chambers had announced his departure from the show by then and fans were wondering how the show would finally write in his farewell. The closure to Alex’s story came in March 5’s episode titled “Leave A Light On.”
The episode opens with Jo, Meredith, and Miranda receiving letters from Alex, who is revealed to be in Kansas the entire time. In each of the letters, Alex says he will not be returning to Grey Sloan or Seattle and expresses heartfelt gratitude to the three women for making him the man he is now.
Chambers’ voice dictates the contents of the letters as each of the ladies reel from Alex’s departure. The emotional words are punctuated with scenes of Alex and each of the three women, as well as Izzie.
Alex’s letter to Meredith first reveals that he is with Izzie. As he writes to Jo and Meredith, we come to know that Meredith’s trial gave Alex the courage to look for Izzie. He wanted to know if she was alive and well. Instead, he got some shocking news.
“It turns out that Izzie was single and couldn’t have kids because the cancer killed her ovaries,” Alex says in the letters. There’s a flashback to several seasons ago where Izzie was afraid of this happening and she and Alex decided to freeze some embryos.
Turns out Izzie used them and they have twins, Eli and Alexis, who are five years old. She was raising them on a farm in Kansas while working as a surgical oncologist. After the trial, Alex went to see his children and remained there.
He apologized to Jo for leaving her, writing, “I have a chance to make this family whole, and I just hope you love me back enough to let me take it. I need to give these kids the family you and I never had.”
So yeah, Alex is now in Kansas with the Izzie and their kids. He signed the divorce papers and left everything he had in Seattle to Jo, including his shares in Grey Sloan.
Alex and Izzie’s story came a full circle, and it was the perfect ending for their characters. There aren’t enough tissues for our tears, though.