Grey’s Anatomy fans are still struggling with the fact that longtime stars, Sarah Drew (Dr. April Kepner) and Jessica Capshaw (Dr. Arizona Robbins), will not be returning to Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital next season. For nine and ten seasons, respectively, both characters have put fans through a rollercoaster of emotions that won’t stop until this season comes to an end, and it has been a long, crazy ride.
It’s hard to believe that when fans first met April and Arizona, the McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) versus McSteamy (Eric Dane) debate was going on and Seattle Grace had just merged with Mercy West – it seems like another lifetime.
Both characters are beloved and iconic because they have represented two groups of people we don’t see much of on TV – especially when they arrived back in 2008 – devout Christians and the LGBTQ community, and creator, Shonda Rhimes, said it was going to be hard to say goodbye.
"I will be forever grateful to both Jessica and Sarah for bringing these characters to life with such vibrant performance and for inspiring women around the globe. They will always be a part of our Shondaland family," said Rhimes.
As showrunner Krista Vernoff explained, both Arizona and April will forever be in the fabric of Grey’s Anatomy, but their stories have gone as far as they can go. So, that means that fans must say goodbye to them both in this week’s season finale.
This makes it the perfect time to look back on April and Arizona’s best moments that make us already miss them, and to remember a few that will have us thinking, “See ya!”
20 Personal Jesus
In an episode called "Personal Jesus," April Kepner is shown struggling. Ever since fans met Kepner, she has been a person of faith, and this episode even begins with her narrating the story of Job, a character from the Bible who goes through trials and tragedies. It quickly becomes clear that we are supposed to connect Job and April because the tragedies keep piling up.
First, her jilted fiancé, Matthew Taylor, shows up – the one she left at the altar when she ran away with Jackson Avery – and then she has to deliver his wife’s baby. Thankfully, the baby makes it, but then after an unforeseen complication, the wife dies, and April feels responsible.
Then, April helps with the case of a little boy who the cops thought was breaking into a home. Although April didn’t assist in the surgery, she is still bummed out about losing another patient.
April eventually goes to the hospital chapel, where she runs into Matthew and sits to pray. It is devastating for fans to watch her try to collect herself and hold back the tears while processing everything that has happened. She falls apart on the church pew, and it was the absolute worst moment of the episode. Watching one of the most optimistic and upbeat characters be so broken and undone was moving.
19 The Savior of Tiny Humans
She was only supposed to appear in three episodes back in season five, but Arizona quickly won the hearts of Grey’s fans all over the world, and that resulted in her becoming a series regular in season six. When we met her, she was the bubbly and smiley pediatric surgeon with a pink scrub cap who roller-skated around the hospital and saved tiny humans, all while falling in love with Dr. Callie Torres.
At first, doctors at Seattle Grace didn’t take peds seriously because of the stereotype that it was the “easiest” specialty. But, after we met Arizona, everyone realized just how awesome the specialty really was. She even inspired Dr. Alex Karev to become just as passionate about pediatrics as she is, and he eventually turned into an incredible pediatric surgeon because of Arizona and the faith that she had in him.
She eventually transitioned from a pediatric surgeon to a fetal surgeon and created a pediatric cart that resulted in her mentor Dr. Nicole Herman (Geena Davis) offering her the opportunity to start her own clinic in New York City.
The beautiful, intelligent, and confident Arizona is always there for whoever needs her, and even though she seems sweet, it is best not to mess with her.
18 Orange Scrubs
When Dr. Kepner first waltzed on the show, she was annoying, a little misunderstood, and definitely not someone you would expect to become one of the most compelling figures on the popular medical drama. Drew navigated through April’s storylines with incredible talent that made fans start to really care about her.
But it hasn’t always been that way. April has become such an icon of the show that it is hard to remember that she made her first appearance on the show in orange scrubs and was just one of a group of doctors arriving from Mercy West. In her first episode, she was a meek resident who carried around a little red diary, so she could write down all of her insecurities.
In one of Lexie Grey’s meanest moments, she reads some private entries from April’s diary to use against her during the competition among doctors after the merger. It was a kick to the gut for viewers, and the first glimpse at young April’s shaken confidence.
She failed her boards, lost one of her best friends, and moved home to Ohio. But after the plane crash that rocked the hospital, she made her way back so that viewers could enjoy her for years to come.
17 The Calzona Relationship
Season 7...it was the best of times, it was the worst of times...massive car accident, pregnancies (real life and tv life) , births (real life and tv life), saving lives, losing lives, weddings, breakups, hilarity and heartbreak. Resilience, grit, perseverance and some insanely hard work. And a musical episode on top. And I am grateful for IT ALL. @shondarhimes shattering glass ceilings with love is love is love is love...
If you miss Arizona and Callie’s relationship on Grey’s, you are not alone. It all started during a cry-fest in the bathroom at Joe’s, when Arizona showed up to give Callie some comforting words after her series of unlucky relationships with the likes of George O’Malley and Erica Hahn. But, the shock came when Arizona told Callie that there were people waiting for her when she made her way out of her funk – and then kissed her.
All of Arizona and Callie’s firsts are memorable. At a birthday party gone wrong, Arizona told Callie that she loved her. When they got married (in one of the first lesbian weddings on TV), the two brides were stunningly beautiful.
But, they also had their share of struggles. They survived Arizona leaving Callie for Africa and Callie getting pregnant with Mark’s baby. But then, there was the horrifying car accident that left Callie’s life hanging in the balance and the plane crash that resulted in Arizona losing her leg. The “in sickness and in health” part of their vows had its fair share of tests, and after Callie went against Arizona’s wishes, with the result being a leg amputation, Arizona struggled with her new life. But, in an unforgettable shower scene, Callie reminded her wife that she wasn’t alone in her misery.
16 The Hotel Connection
Last season, one of the most memorable Grey’s moments was when Jackson and April got close in a hotel hallway, but many fans were not happy about the surprise storyline. Throughout the episode, there were hints that the former couple was going to get back together during their Montana trip. They Facetimed their daughter, Harriet, and they collaborated on a surgery that proved to be a success.
They accomplished a tough operation that had never been done before on a young girl with a throat tumor after constantly bickering in previous episodes. Following the surgery, they were about to part ways to rest in their separate hotel rooms. But, their hallway small talk suggested they each had another activity in mind.
“I’m just thinking about our track record in hotel rooms,” Jackson said as he approached his former wife.
There were plenty of Grey’s fans delighted by the twist, but others knew that the reunion was a total mistake that would not end well.
15 Crazy Season Nine
After April failed her boards in season eight, she ended up having a bumpy ride during the show’s ninth season – which included nervous breakdowns, a pregnancy scare, and new relationships. She didn’t make the best choices, but fans were still on her side.
She eventually got her job back, but only after she quit the hospital and moved home to work on her family’s Ohio farm. But, Owen (Kevin McKidd) convinced her to return as an attending, and she couldn’t say no. So, she started the ninth season where she belonged – in the operating room.
When April came back, she and Jackson tried to make things work again. But, she ruined it when she said she “dodged a bullet” because she didn’t have to marry Jackson anymore. Then there was her relationship with Matthew, the cute paramedic who won her heart with burritos in the front seat of his ambulance. He seemed to love her, and they appeared to be a good fit, especially since they both had Christian beliefs. And, even after he found out she lied about her virginity, he ultimately decided to stick by her.
Then, during her ride along with Matthew, there was an accident where a little boy was dying in the street. Seattle Grace had closed their ER to save money, but the next closest one was too far away for the little boy to survive. So, instead of following the rules, she took the patient to Seattle Grace and arranged for a secret operation.
14 Africa Was A Weird Choice
To many, Arizona is a great fetal surgeon who rolled her way into everyone’s hearts (including Callie’s) on her heelies. But, when it comes down to it, she left Callie for Africa. Callie was at the airport and going to make the trip with her, but Arizona told her right there and then not to go. And, the only reason she was going in the first place was because Arizona asked her to.
Then, when they were broken up, Callie got pregnant with Mark’s baby, and Arizona had the audacity to hold that over her head. She didn’t like Mark at all until he was at the end of his life, which makes no sense because Mark was Callie’s best friend. Who doesn’t take the effort to like or get along with their girlfriend and then wife’s best friend?
Then there was the plane crash. Callie had to watch Mark briefly wake up only to lose him when he didn’t wake up from a coma. She had to watch as doctors took him off of a ventilator and wait for him to pass – her best friend and the father of her child. And while all of this happened, Arizona ignored her and let her deal with the grief all alone and then guilted her for saving her life.
13 The Jackson & April Saga
The night before taking her boards April gets into a bar brawl, and afterward, she is with Jackson when their friendship quickly changes with a passionate kiss. In her late 20’s, she was finally ready to lose her virginity.
Then the next day, during a break while taking the boards, Jackson finds April in the middle of a meltdown in the men’s bathroom. He’s having his own personal panic attack, but they both calm down once they start talking about the night before, and then one thing leads to another.
Their first attempt at a relationship doesn’t work out and they start seeing other people. But, Jackson’s close call in a bus explosion stirs up something inside of April. She realizes she wants Jackson, but she is engaged to another man.
Eventually, Jackson gives her a reason not to marry Matthew, and on the day of her wedding, he stands up mid-ceremony and declares his love for the bride. The only person that is more surprised about this than Matthew is April.
After Jackson stops the wedding, April leaves Matthew at the altar and she and Jackson run away together. The two then decide to elope, and soon after, they get married April discovers she is pregnant.
12 Not Alone Anymore
After Arizona's infamous accident in the Grey’s Anatomy plane crash, she takes all of her sadness, frustration, and anger out on Callie – and fans weren’t happy. Some even started a subreddit to express just how unpopular Arizona’s character had become.
“Tumblr is definitely a shrine to her and I'm really hoping that someone else agrees with me here. I'm considering not watching the show anymore because her character and storyline bothers me so much. People are surprised that she hasn't even acknowledged them, or their loved ones at all. I feel like it's become the Arizona Show. Good acting On Jessica Capshaw's part but it's seriously ruining the entire show for me,” one fan wrote.
She was obviously not alone in her opinions, and other users quickly agreed with the negative view of the Arizona character. They had a hard time with the fact that Arizona went from all happy and bubbly to a dark and twisted character who was so mean to her wife.
11 Samuel Norbert Avery
Not long after they eloped, April found out she was pregnant with Jackson’s baby. But, during her pregnancy, April had an ultrasound that revealed signs of osteogenesis imperfecta. After further testing, audiences found out that the baby had type II osteogenesis, which is the most severe type.
After finding out that their baby’s bones were already breaking in the womb and causing him pain, April and Jackson decided that Dr. Herman could induce labor at 24 weeks. They named their son, Samuel Norbert Avery, and quickly baptized him after he was born. His parents then held him for a few minutes until he passed away.
There has been a loss of many characters on Grey’s, but nothing could prepare audiences for the loss of this baby. The tragic moment is one of the hardest to watch and it leads to a lot of issues for Jackson and April.
Before she induces, April confesses that the situation shook her faith to its core, and Drew says that she loves the episode because it is a journey of finding hope in the midst of pain.
"And that, I think, makes going through something this horrific worth it. Because as long as there's hope in there, and there always is, I believe," she said.
10 That Name
#FBF Yesterday was my last day playing Arizona Robbins after 10 years. It was a tough day. And it turns out that if you’re me it’s also... Joyous. Sad. Exhausting. Hysterical. Ridiculous. Heartbreaking. Inspiring. Wondrous. And a whole other list of stuff that it’s gonna take me a minute to fully feel. Those who were filming yesterday and I were fortunate enough to go through all of that together. I am so grateful to have had @thesarahdrew beside me and I am so grateful to have been alongside her. My first day playing Arizona Robbins was October 29th, 2008 and my last day playing her was April 19th, 2018...💕
For a long time, people thought that Arizona got her name from the Southwestern state, and she got grief for it quite often when she first appeared on the show. But, there was actually a good story behind her name, and she wasn’t afraid to share it.
She told Callie’s dad in one episode that most people think that her parents named her after the state, but it’s simply not true. They named her after the battleship – the U.S.S. Arizona. She explained that her grandfather was serving on the ship when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and he saved 19 men before he drowned.
Arizona went on to say that pretty much everything her father did in his life was about honoring that sacrifice, and he raised her to be a good man in a storm. He raised her to love her country and her family, and to protect the things that she loves.
She was never afraid of Callie’s dad, even though he showed up in Seattle to try to “pray the gay away” when he found out the two were dating. Arizona always approached Callie’s dad with warmth and compassion and telling him the origin of her name was her way of letting him know she was worthy of his daughter’s love.
9 Shooting Rampage
In the Season 6 finale, "Death and All His Friends," former patient, Gary Clark, goes on a shooting spree in the hospital that resulted in one of April’s best friends, Dr. Reed Adamson, losing her life. Her colleague, Dr. Charles Percy, also passed away that day, and April came close to joining the ranks of Clark’s victims.
But, in one of the show’s most memorable scenes, April has an emotional interaction with Clark while he is pointing a gun at her. She tells him her name and that she is 28 years old and was born on April 23rd in Columbus, Ohio. She then shares that her mom is a teacher and her dad is a farmer who grows corn. She then tells him that she has three sisters, with Libby being the oldest, and then, Kimmy and Alice.
She then begs and pleads with Clark, telling him that she is someone’s child and she is a person. April tells him that she hasn’t done anything yet and that she has barely lived. “I’m not finished yet. No one’s loved me yet,” she says.
After hearing all of this, Clark tells April, “Run.”
8 No Heartbeat
Arizona’s passion for pediatrics was always apparent, but she never wanted to have kids of her own. But in a sign of serious character development, she eventually decided she wanted to continue her family with Callie once they started parenting Sofia together. The couple went through the stressful process of facilitating a pregnancy, only to find out that there was no longer a heartbeat and Arizona had lost the baby.
She cared about tiny humans, both the ones she treated and the one she wanted to have with Callie. Arizona even gave a speech to other doctors about the topic, saying that her work is not general surgery on a miniature scale. Instead, they are children who believe in magic and play pretend. There is fairy dust in their IV bags, and they hope, have their fingers crossed, make wishes, and are more resilient than adults.
Still reeling from the miscarriage, Arizona made some mistakes, including getting too close to Lauren Boswell, and it eventually led to a hookup. Callie found out and told everyone that Arizona was a cheater, which made everyone at the hospital incredibly uncomfortable, even though Arizona did try to make it right.
7 Owen’s Best Man
In the Season 12 finale, a very pregnant April was in charge of holding onto Owen’s rings for his and Amelia’s wedding ceremony, and that reminded fans just how close the two had become after bonding over shared military experiences.
But despite April having that honor on Owen’s wedding day, things didn’t quite go as planned. When she heads to Meredith’s house to find the rings, her water breaks, and Ben is the only one around. Thanks in part to Drew’s performance, it was one of the most harrowing Grey’s episodes. Fans watched in disbelief as Ben pulled off an emergency C-section on Meredith’s kitchen table without any actual medical equipment or anesthesia.
Using ice to numb her stomach, April is in unbearable pain as Ben cuts into her. Everyone on the phone can hear her scream, but then there is silence. Then, Jackson tries to find out what is happening, but there is no response. Despite the circumstances, April and the baby are alive and healthy, thanks to Ben.
Performing the C-section allows Ben to redeem himself and get in Miranda’s good graces once again, and fans get to meet baby Harriet.
6 Positive Representation
Arizona is so open about who she is that she says she is “super gay, like the gayest of gays.” She doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her. She is who she is, and she positively represented the LGBTQ community on television. Some fans have even said that they admire her so much, the character has helped them become proud of who they are.
Capshaw says that acting as a lesbian on an enormously popular show for so long has been a huge positive in her life.
“I never would have imagined that I would be able to play a character that would feel like it does so much good,” she says.
The actress also says that she hoped her on-screen presence helped those who feel like Arizona resonates with them and it makes their day a little easier to see themselves represented. She says it also could be a crucial tool in teaching family member or friends about being gay.
“If it’s someone watching it who has someone in their life who is gay, and they might have not understood it before … all of a sudden, they have another person or another thing to point to and say: ‘Oh, that’s a different context.’"
5 She Didn’t Tell Him
In a big moment that brought the wrath of Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen), April knew that she was pregnant when she and Jackson signed their divorce papers, but she didn’t want him sticking around in a marriage that he didn’t otherwise want just for a baby. It is understandable, but it is a big thing to keep from your soon-to-be ex-husband.
But, Catherine eventually found out after Arizona decided to let the news of April’s pregnancy slip. And, Jackson found out when Arizona blurted it out because he was worried that April knew he had gone on a date (she didn’t).
Of course, Jackson was irate and asked April if she knew before the divorce. She admitted that she did. Unable to contain his anger, Jackson screamed at April in the middle of the hospital and tells her that if he would have known about the baby he would have reconsidered the divorce. April shouts back that she knew that, and that is exactly why she didn’t tell him.
"You think I want you staying with me for the baby and hating me for the rest of your life?" she cried.
But Jackson didn’t ease up. Instead, he laid into her even harder and told her that if she wanted to play the martyr, she should go for it. But, eventually, he tries to make peace, and she explains to him that she waited to tell him because last time it literally tore them apart, no one could help the other, and everyone got hurt.
Jackson clarified that she wanted to wait until it was too late to make any real decisions and then asked about his options.
"You don't count here," she snapped back. "Yes, you're the father when there's a baby, but right now … it's my body, my baby. You are not my husband — you have no rights here." Then she slammed the door in his face.
4 The Right Direction
Arizona is a force to be reckoned with, and in her own words she grew up with the name Arizona, so she learned to fight on the playground. She always pushes people to be their best, try their hardest, and take risks.
She doesn’t want to hear no, and that goes hand-in-hand with her stubbornness. On more than one occasion, people had to get in her face and yell for her to listen. But, Arizona advocating for her friends and coworkers to be the best they can be and pushing them in the right direction made all her frustrating refusals to budge worth it. Everyone has learned something from her.
A lot of Grey’s Anatomy has revolved around characters struggling to express their feelings for one another, and Arizona isn’t excluded from this. But, she has emerged as one of the most direct, unafraid, and likable people on the show. Of course, sometimes she cries after being authoritative, but no one is infallible. But, her faith in herself and what she believes in made people listen to her.
3 The Combat Zone
After the passing of her son, April decides to practice medicine with Owen in a combat zone. She is gone for months, and once she returns, things are not the same between her and Jackson. She was so hurt about losing Samuel that she wanted to be in a war zone. Initially, she was supposed to be gone three months, but she kept postponing her return and upsetting her husband.
She returned almost a year later, appearing more confident, but also more distant.
Instead of dealing with their son’s passing as a couple, April fled and left Jackson alone to deal with his grief by himself, while she worked on healing troops. Was she wrong? Maybe. But, each person has their own way of dealing with grief, and April chose to fight all by herself. But, in the process, she left Jackson alone just when they needed each other the most.
By the time she came back their constant fighting was just too much, and that is what led them to divorce.
2 Arizona’s Journey
During Capshaw’s first few episodes, series creator, Shonda Rhimes, saw some potential for a storyline with Callie, and it turned out to be an experiment that kept working out. Their relationship became one of the most beloved on the show, and not just because of the visibility of lesbian women making things work, but also because they just had so much fun on screen.
Capshaw says one of her fondest memories from the show was a scene at the beginning of their relationship where the two danced it out.
The relationship endured several hurdles – from meeting in a bar bathroom to a walk down the aisle – but in the end, infidelity and too many traumatic events led to them growing apart and getting a divorce.
But even though her relationships are important, it is the events on the show that changed the character the most. Professional opportunities, personal struggles, and traumatic experiences have put her through the wringer. And, even though Arizona is still a positive person, her past experiences remind her of the reality of the world.
"It's been a really nice evolution," Capshaw shared.
1 A Kick In The Head
In one of the single saddest moments of the Season 14 episode, "Ain’t That A Kick In the Head," April confesses to Arizona that she is avoiding going home because it is too hard for her on the nights when Harriet is with Jackson.
As she lies on a gurney and cries, she says that she is super sad without her. April then complains about feeling lonely and adrift, and it is these kinds of moments that demonstrate the show’s ability to speak to the human heart.
For viewers who have ever missed anyone, especially your own child, it’s easy to understand April’s sadness. But even after Arizona offers a reasonable pep talk, April cries, “I don’t want a new normal.”
Just like any mother who has had to say goodbye to their child for the night, a weekend, or a summer, April’s feelings speak to the deepest part of a woman’s emotional center. Missing someone is probably the hardest thing for your spirit, and April nails it in this scene.
The grinding pain of a mother’s separation from her child makes this moment extremely difficult to watch. In an episode that featured Amelia’s brain tumor, it was watching April and Arizona lie next to each other, as two mothers pining for their babies, that was at the heart of the episode.