Much to the chagrin of this Grey’s Anatomy fandom, season 17 proved that Cristina Yang’s time around the series is finished. Inspired by actor Sandra Oh, Cristina Yang has turned into a favorite personality over the pantheon of Grey’s Anatomy’s grand cast and her death in the season 10 finale was equally memorable and psychological. Her moment on the series intersected greatly with lots of the show’s other important players, mainly the show’s central character: Cristina’s”individual,” Meredith Grey.
Canonically, Cristina is still living (quite a feat in itself considering the numerous characters the show has murdered ) and currently serves as Chief Medical Officer and Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the prestigious Klausman Institute for Medical Research in Switzerland. The series has done its best to describe the cardio god’s silence through time, recently implementing a seminar in which text messages out of Cristina flash across the screen to weigh in on the happenings at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.
But after the events of Grey’s Anatomy season 17, lots of fans have begun to realize that these sporadic texts may be the most audiences see of Cristina before the series’ end. Mostly, when things took a dramatic twist for Meredith, who nearly died after her reckless bout with COVID-19, Cristina was nowhere to be found. She did not even appear into the comatose Meredith on her limbo-like beach, where several loved ones (Derek, George, Lexi, Miranda, and Richard) appeared for her. The season 17 finale may have observed an additional text message exchange between the two greatest buddies discussing the same near-impossible procedure, but the truth even this perfect setup didn’t result in an appearance from Cristina doesn’t bode well for those hoping for an eventual return.
There are also Oh herself, who has for years expressed polite disinterest in returning to the role which got her five Emmy Award nominations. Asian Enough podcast, Oh’s response was definitive. “I left that series, my God, seven years ago almost,” the actor mused. “In my head, it has gone. However, for a whole lot of people, it is still very much alive. While I know and I like it, I’ve moved on.” Truly, Sandra Oh has had a hectic streak recently, playing the groundbreaking title role in Killing Eve and expressing characters in Amazon’s Invincible series and Disney’s movie Raya and the Last Dragon.
While it’s unclear as to whether or not the show’s creators have directly asked about a potential return, Oh’s choice to steer clear of the hit medical drama is an understandable one. She put in astounding work through her decade-long portrayal of Cristina, a critical player in the show’s quest for nuanced female friendships and unapologetic female strength. Grey’s Anatomy’s authors, headed by showrunner Krista Vernoff, have done their very best to honor Cristina’s legacy in the seven years since she left the series. But it’s incontrovertible that Cristina’s continued absence has some nearly insurmountable story hurdles and has led to some unavoidably clunky plotting to describe it away.
Grey’s Anatomy season 17 may have put the final kibosh on any expectations the audience could ever see Sandra Oh’s Cristina Yang in the future. Yet, just like the majority of long-running television shows, cast turnover can (and maybe should) happen to keep the larger story chugging forward. Thanks to Netflix, which currently streams the show’s earlier seasons, each of the moments that created fans fall in love with the hard-edged cardio prodigy are only a rewatch away.