Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Finale Confirms Cristina Will Never Return

Much to the chagrin of the Grey's Anatomy fandom, season 17 proved that Cristina Yang's time on the show really is finished. Played by actor Sandra Oh, the Grey's Anatomy Cristina Yang character has remained popular within the pantheon of the show's expansive cast, and her departure in the season 10 finale was both memorable and emotional. Her time on the series intersected heavily with many of Grey's Anatomy's other major players, primarily the show's central character: Cristina's "person," Meredith Grey.

Canonically, Cristina is still alive (quite a feat in itself considering the numerous characters Grey's Anatomy has killed off) and currently serves as Chief Medical Officer and Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the prestigious Klausman Institute for Medical Research in Switzerland. Grey's Anatomy has done its best to explain Christina's silence over the years, recently implementing a convention in which text messages from Cristina flash across the screen to weigh in on the happenings at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Despite this, however, it seems clear that Christina Yang will never really return to Grey's Anatomy.


Related: Grey's Anatomy: Why Cristina Yang Needs To Return

Of course, the Grey's Anatomy Christina Yang character is far from the only regular to depart from the show. Plenty of other characters have left Grey's Anatomy over its 17 seasons, with some returning in the flesh and some as ghosts during Meredith's near-death experiences. Because Christina is actually still alive in the Grey's Anatomy canon, it's technically even more possible for her to return as well at some point. However, details from the Grey's Anatomy season 17 finale, and actress Sandra Oh's own personal life, indicate that Christina Yang won't return, in all likelihood.

How The Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Finale Confirms Christina Won't Return

Cristina Yang

After the events of Grey's Anatomy season 17, many fans have begun to realize that her sporadic texts may be the most audiences ever see of Cristina Yang before the series' end. Primarily, when things took a dramatic turn for Meredith, who nearly died after her dangerous bout with COVID-19, Cristina was nowhere to be found. She didn't even appear to the comatose Meredith on her limbo-like beach, where many loved ones (Derek, George, Lexi, Miranda, and Richard) appeared to her. The Grey's Anatomy season 17 finale could have incorporated another text message exchange between best friends Christina and Meredith discussing the same near-impossible procedure. However, the fact that even this perfect setup didn't lead to an appearance from Cristina doesn't bode well for those expecting an eventual Sandra Oh return. However, a cryptic post on the Grey's Anatomy Instagram featuring Sandra Oh could be teasing her return.

Sandra Oh Has Moved On From Grey's Anatomy

Christina Yang in a Taxi

Of course, a crucial factor for the Grey's Anatomy Christina Yang character to return is actress Sandra Oh herself. For years, Oh has expressed polite disinterest in returning to Grey's Anatomy to pick up the role of Christina Yang that garnered her five Emmy Award nominations. In an interview with LA Times' Asian Enough podcast, Oh's answer was pretty definitive. "I left that show, my God, seven years ago almost," the actor mused. "So in my mind, it’s gone. But for a lot of people, it’s still very much alive. And while I understand and I love it, I have moved on." Indeed, Grey's Anatomy's Sandra Oh has had a busy run recently, playing the groundbreaking title role in Killing Eve and voicing characters in Amazon's Invincible series, Disney's film Raya and the Last Dragon, and Pixar's Turning Red.

After her run on Grey's Anatomy, she went into the live theater game for a while, then she managed to get a supporting role in the Melissa McCarthy-led comedy Tammy. After that, she returned to the small screen for American Crime season 3, and has continued to star in Killing Eve. Her work on the latter television series has won her a SAG Award and a Best Actress Golden Globe. When comparing the Grey's Anatomy Cristina character to Eve, Oh had this to say to Entertainment Weekly"I think it’s very different than Cristina. There’s certain [similar] aspects, for sure, like both of those characters are determined."

Related: Grey's Anatomy: Patrick Dempsey Fallout Explained - Allegations & Updates

While it is unclear whether or not Grey's Anatomy's creative team has ever directly asked about a possible return, Sandra Oh's decision to steer clear of the hit medical drama is an understandable one. She put in astounding work during her decade-long portrayal of Cristina Yang, a critical player in Grey's Anatomy's exploration of nuanced female friendships and unapologetic female strength. Grey's Anatomy's writers, led by showrunner Krista Vernoff, have done their best to honor Cristina's legacy in the seven years since she left the series. However, it is undeniable that Cristina Yang's continued absence comes with some almost insurmountable narrative hurdles and has led to some inevitably clunky plotting to explain it away.

What The Grey's Anatomy Cast Have Said About Sandra Oh's Cristina Return

Cristina and Meredith looking sad on Grey's Anatomy

Many of the Grey's Anatomy cast were saddened to see Cristina go. The Grey's Anatomy Cristina character had a huge impact on the series, and she stuck around for quite a long time. Ellen Pompeo has discussed how both Oh and Patrick Dempsey's exits have affected her differently. Pompeo stated that, at first, when she heard of Sandra's departure from the show she wondered if she could even do it anymore. On an episode of Dax Shepherd's podcast "Armchair Expert," Pompeo lamented about Oh's exit, saying, "Ugh! How do I go on without Sandra? Is there a show without Sandra?" Co-star Kevin McKidd (Owen) had some things to say about Cristina leaving the show in an interview with PEOPLE, and the possibility of the actress returning. McKidd had this to say: "I would love – and I always say it – I would love Sandra Oh to come back. [...] I don't think she will. She keeps saying she won't. Every time I see her, I'm always needling her, going: 'Come on, come on. Just one.' Maybe one day she'll say yes. I'm always working on her."

Grey's Anatomy season 17 may have put the final kibosh on any expectations that the audience will ever see Cristina Yang again in the future. Yet, as with most long-running television shows, cast turnover can (and maybe should) happen to help keep the larger story of Grey's Anatomy chugging forward. Thanks to Netflix, which currently streams the earlier seasons of Grey's Anatomy, all of the moments that made fans fall in love with hard-edged cardio prodigy Christina Yang are only a rewatch away.