What Will Happen to Alex Karev on 'Grey's Anatomy'? Some Fans Think He Might Be Killed off in Season 16

Hannah Jeon

From Good Housekeeping

Grey's Anatomy fans have suffered a whole lot of heartbreak over the years, but perhaps no other blow was more surprising than the recent announcement that Justin Chambers — aka Dr. Alex Karev — would be leaving the ABC medical drama after 15 years. Unlike many of the show's other character departures, Justin Chambers' exit in the middle of season 16 came without warning, which has left many fans wondering how the show might address the glaring absence of the beloved character for the rest of the season — especially since it was revealed that his last episode has actually already aired.

Needless to say, Grey's fans already felt Alex's absence in the season 16 mid-season premiere, which aired last night on January 23. After the episode offered no real explanation as to why the pediatric surgeon was noticeably missing (besides the brief mention that he's still in Iowa taking care of his sick mom), many fans are now left with the worst-case scenario question: Does Alex Karev die on Grey's Anatomy?

The question is not unwarranted when considering how much the medical drama is historically known for killing off plenty of fan-favorites in the past — including Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), Mark Sloan (Eric Dane), Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh), and George O’Malley (T. R. Knight), to name a few. And since we know that there won't be any kind of official on-screen sendoff for Alex, many fans have plenty of ideas as to how the character might be written off the show — including the heartbreaking theory that he might just be killed off. Here are some of the many possibilities to consider:

Alex Karev will die off screen.

Yes, as much as we don't want to consider this as a possibility, many fans think that Alex's absence will inevitably be explained by an off-screen death — especially since he has such strong ties to his wife Jo (Camilla Luddington), who still remains on the show. After all, the first half of season 16 left the couple with a happy future in view, with no likelihood of them separating any time soon: Alex had just proposed to her for the second time after he and Jo realized they had never mailed in their signed marriage license (they had wed in Season 14).

"They’re going to kill Alex off offscreen...how else would they make this make sense?" one fan wrote on Twitter. "Even if Camilla left too (which she’s not) it wouldn’t make sense that Alex left without saying his goodbyes and he wouldn’t just leave Jo."

Another fan on Reddit agreed, pointing out that the lack of an official send-off for Alex gives it a higher chance that his storyline will end in an off-screen death. "...Usually when a character doesn’t get the chance to say goodbye, they usually end up dying off screen," the fan commented. "He just got legally married to Jo so them getting a divorce and him wanting to leave Seattle would make no sense, I feel like killing him off is really the only way to tie up his storyline."

Photo credit: Kelsey McNeal - Getty Images

Alex and Jo will move away together.

Though there's no news of Camilla Luddington having plans to leave the show alongside her co-star, many fans of Alex and Jo (also known as #Jolex) believe that the only option that makes sense for the characters' storyline is for Jo's character to leave as well. As some fans speculate, the couple might move away from Seattle due to a professional opportunity that might just be too good to pass up.

"This could honestly end Jo’s character since her storylines are so deeply tied to Alex," one fan wrote on Reddit. "I wouldn’t be surprised if they make it so Jo or Alex gets a once in a lifetime offer and they move away sort of like what they did with Christina. It’s the most graceful departure this show can do."

Alex will move away to be closer to his mom ... without Jo.

Other viewers think that a very likely possibility is that Alex will move back to Iowa to take care of his mother, while Jo stays behind at Seattle at her current job. After all, the current explanation for Alex's absence is that he left to take care of his sick mother back in Iowa — which might be the perfect setup for him having to move back home permanently, perhaps as his mother's condition gets worse. (Though, hopefully, Jo might be planning to join him at some point down the road?)

Alex and Jo will break up.

Unfortunately for #Jolex fans, another big possibility for the show is that Alex and Jo might just split for good — even after all that they've been through together for the past few seasons (which include finding out that they had wed with no marriage license and, later, Jo checking into a psychiatric hospital for depression and PTSD). As one fan has pointed out, all of this has "set the stage for some instability" in their relationship, especially with Jo having offered Alex an "out" from their relationship before checking herself into inpatient treatment in the first half of season 16.

Photo credit: Eric McCandless - Getty Images

Of course, no matter which of these theories end up being true, it's almost definite that the show's goodbye to Dr. Alex Karev will be absolutely heart-wrenching for longtime Grey's Anatomy fans. In the meantime, now that Justin Chambers has officially left the show, many viewers have noticed that there's a new pediatric surgeon at Seattle Grace: Dr. Cormac Hayes (Richard Flood), or "McWidow," who has since then filled Alex's job as the new head of pediatric surgery.

As the new character has simply been introduced as a "recurring role" for season 16, it's unclear as to whether McWidow might be here to stay for good — or even if he's somehow replacing Alex's role as a new series regular. But, as the rest of season 16 of Grey's will air on Thursdays at 9 p.m. E.T. on ABC (and then will continue into season 17), it's expected that the show's dedicated fans will find out soon enough — and hopefully will also get some answers as to how he might fit into the lives of the characters at Seattle Grace, too.

And as for how the Grey's writers and showrunners might write off our beloved Dr. Alex Karev — well, here's to hoping that it's not too devastating of a heartbreak for us to handle.

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