To start, I really do get why they wrote her exit the way they did. In fact, if you go back in this thread to when they announced Ellen would only be in 8 episodes, I had been adamant that she wasn't going to get a proper 'exit' episode (hell, I even thought she would probably still even be holding a position at the hospital) because I knew she was still going to be doing the VoiceOver (sidenote - I'm glad they threw in the bit where she said "I'm still here" in her VO when she was reading the book to sort of indicate that her VO's will continue).
However, that was also when I was still assuming she would sign on for another 5-8 episodes in season 20, it was also before Ellen officially announced her departure as a regular with tons of goodbyes from the cast and crew, it was also before ABC marketed the hell out of this episode as a "farewell". So this episode to me, and to other fans judging from comments sections literally everywhere, felt like a slap in the face to longtime fans.
This very clearly was Ellen Pompeo and Meredith Grey's exit episode. And we got absolutely nothing. Her lack of screen time was the first thing I noticed. We were 40 minutes into the episode and had seen her for a total of 7 minutes, maybe. There was absolutely no 'bigness' to the story. Leaving Seattle and GSM is a huge moment for this character - we had an entire season about it last year, and it's finally happening and we didn't get a single poignant moment to mark the end of her time there. No conversation between Meredith and Richard/Bailey. Not even a scene of her walking around the hospital. It's baffling, really. We've continued to see Jackson and Koracick the same way we'll see Meredith, but they had better exits than this.
The storyline with Nick was absolutely ludicrous. I appreciated the full circle Pick Me Choose Me Love Me moment in the scrub room, but the whole thing just feels like it came out of nowhere. Her pretending not to hear him on the plane was so off-putting to me too. Who does that? It didn't feel empowering or like growth to me, it felt like a serious regression of her character.
Overall, the issue with the episode was that it did absolutely nothing to serve and honour Meredith's character and the things happening in her life. And that's the reason I'm sort of let down after ~17 years of watching this. And to be honest, I thought I would have egg on my face with my previous comments about this being my last episode, but I actually have zero desire to return (and won't be). It's been fun though!
My only thought is that Krista is plotting the season finale to be her final 'farewell' (which it likely really will be) – but I don't disagree at all that this episode needed at least one big moment. Seriously, we just needed a great Bailey, Mer, Richard scene! I really do feel like they saw season 18 as her ending (that episode was FULL of flashbacks) and then this felt like... an after-thought, almost? It's a weird position to be in to have to wrap up her story but not WRAP up her story. The Nick thing is my biggest question mark. I don't really get the endgame there at all, and at this point I almost don't even want them together anymore? Their communication this season was a total 180 from how mature and thoughtful they were last year. It was so refreshing to see them talk things out.
That said, I actually really enjoyed the rest of the episode, especially the intern stuff. Simone and Lukas have great chemistry, and Mika has so much potential as a character, so I am interested to see where the show goes the rest of this season, and I'm definitely still on board. But... I'm going to have mighty high expectations for the season finale.
I also LOVED Winston finally calling Maggie on her shit. I feel like no one ever has properly, and he just absolutely pegged her. It feels like we're watching her turn into Ellis, and I almost wonder if the writers have the balls to turn her into that properly cold and ruthless mini-Ellis that they kind of hinted at her.
I also liked that they had a bunch of fun group dynamics (Amelia, Winston, Jo, Maggie working together) and that they're setting up more (Amelia VS Teddy for Chief). It feels like with Meredith gone, we may actually feel like the cast is more cohesive again. Time will tell, I guess.