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Grey’s Anatomy: Why T.R. Knight’s George O’Malley Was Killed Off In Season 6

The George O’Malley death in Grey’s Anatomy season 6 and T.R. Knight’s departure from the show were shocking — so how did George O’Malley die, and why was he killed off in the first place? The series is led by Meredith Grey, who started her journey as an intern along with many other characters that won the audience over before Grey‘s Anatomy killed them off. One of those Grey’s Anatomy characters was George O’Malley (T.R. Knight), who struggled a bit but became a very skilled and talented surgeon, and the best friend of Izzie Stevens. George dies in Grey’s Anatomy in season 6 due to complications from an accident.

Just when George O’Malley seemed to have found his path in medicine, he planned to leave Seattle Grace in season 5 to join the U.S. Army in Iraq. But on his way home, he jumped in front of a bus to save a woman’s life and was left severely disfigured. None of Grey’s Anatomy’s doctors recognized George, and it wasn’t until he traced “007” on Meredith’s hand that they knew who the “John Doe” patient was. His brain fatally swelled during surgery. The George O’Malley death in Grey’s Anatomy was a tragic ending. So how did George O’Malley die, and why did T.R. Knight leave the series in season 6?

Why Grey’s Anatomy Killed Off George O’Malley

T.R. Knight Chose To Leave

George left Grey’s Anatomydue to some behind-the-scenes creative differences. Knight’s Grey’s Anatomy season 6 departure was announced in June 2009, and he revealed (viaEW) not long after that the reason behind it was a gradual “breakdown of communication” between him and Rhimes, who he also said tried to discourage him from coming out. This led him not to ask what was going on with Grey’sAnatomy‘s George O’Malley storylines anymore, and he simply asked to be released from his contract, leading to the George O’Malley death.

In addition, Knight wasn’t comfortable with where his character was being led to before his Grey’s Anatomy season 6 (the same season when Katherine Heigle left) death and struggled with the storyline where George cheated on his wife, Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez), with Izzie. So, they killed George O’Malley to come up with a proper reason for T.R. Knight to leave the show. Knight later said he was at peace with his decision to leave Grey’s Anatomy in season 6 and end his time with the George O’Malley death scene, saying there “comes a time when it’s so clear that moving on is the best decision.”

He may have fallen prey to Grey’s Anatomy‘s shortfall in handling character exits, with their go-to solution being to kill them off. However, Grey’s Anatomy’s George O’Malley death stands out for how abrupt and cruel it was. George dies in season 6 of Grey’s Anatomy, and while it brought a lot of drama to the series, it was also a reflection of all the behind-the-scenes issues around the character, and how his ending was handled didn’t do justice to him.

How T.R. Knight Returned To Grey’s Anatomy (After George’s Death)

He Was Part Of An Important Meredith Scene

While T.R. Knight found solace after the show in George O’Malley’s death and his decision to exit Grey’s Anatomy in season 6, the actor and character have since returned to the series. In Grey’s Anatomy season 15, George O’Malley made a posthumous return in the episode “Flowers Grow Out of My Grave,” briefly appearing as a ghost who visits Meredith Grey on the Day of the Dead. However, this was accomplished through archived footage. T.R. Knight later reprised his Grey’s Anatomy role in season 17, appearing in one of Meredith’s unconscious beach visions while suffering from COVID-19, in which they reflect on George O’Malley’s season 6 death.

Why T.R. Knight Returned To Grey’s Anatomy

He & The Character Needed Closure

People were happy yet incredibly surprised to see T.R. Knight’s George O’Malley return in a season 17 episode of Grey’s Anatomy. While his reappearance was welcomed with open arms, it was difficult to imagine that the star would return given his reasoning for exiting the show and Isaiah Washington’s homophobic comments towards the actor. Despite the George O’Malley death scene, he did come back in Grey’s Anatomy, this time as a product of Meredith’s mind. The purpose of George’s reappearance on the show came down to one thing for showrunner Krista Vernoff: closure.

The George O’Malley death in season 6 was a shock to many, and some felt that the character was wronged for it. Bringing George back on Grey’s Anatomy was meant to act as closure for people who thought that the character wasn’t given a fair shot. T.R. Knight was originally a bit dubious when Vernoff approached him with the idea of returning to the program. However, his husband, Patrick Leahy, convinced him to return as George O’Malley. In an interview (viaDeadline), T.R. Knight is able to look back fondly at the experience, recounting, “It was incredible, it was just an overwhelming feeling of love in that moment.”

What T.R. Knight Did After Grey’s Anatomy

The Actor Had Some Notable Roles

After the George O’Malley death in Grey’s Anatomy, T.R. Knight has been in numerous movies and television programs. In 2013 he appeared in the movie 42 as Harold Parrot, and in 2015 he was in the feature film A Year and Change as Kenny. His last movie was in 2017, called Hello Again, where he played Carl. He’s also appeared in numerous television programs, such as The Good Wife, the Will and Grace reboot, and Law & Order: SVU, but his most famous property is being cast in The Flight Attendant as Davey Bowden.

What George O’Malley’s Death And Return Meant To T.R. Knight

He Thanked Grey’s Anatomy In A Beautiful Message

The George O’Malley death on Grey’s Anatomy was one of the saddest moments of the show, but T.R. Knight had such an impact as the character that he was the first person that showrunner Krista Vernoff thought of to visit Meredith in her dreams as she battled with COVID-19. The thought of Meredith and George walking on the beach together through troubling times warmed her heart (via E! News). Vernoff said,

“Right now in our lives, in this pandemic, pure joy is rare, and so I’m so grateful to T.R. for coming and playing, and offering that to everyone, because I think it’s meaningful.”

T.R. Knight essentially echoed these sentiments in an Instagram post shortly after the fated Grey’s Anatomy episode. Knight mentioned how much he enjoyed working with the fellow Grey’s Anatomy cast. He stated that George would “always claim [his] heart,” proving that there’s still a ton of love there, despite the Goerge O’Malley death. He also said that while Meredith and George love each other, it doesn’t hold a candle to the love he has for Pompeo. In summation, T.R. Knight had nothing but thanks for the cast, saying, “Thank you to Ellen, Chandra, Jim, Krista, and all the familiar faces for once again sharing your beautiful light.”

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