Grey’s Anatomy continues to shock and delight fans with returning characters and new faces alongside our beloved surgeons at Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital. Kate Walsh’s return as Addison Montgomery has been a highlight, and Scott Speedman reprising his role of Dr. Nick Marsh after a one-episode arc in Season 14 was a lovely surprise. But something about these new characters makes me think there might be a different game at play here. With the introduction of so many new faces — the majority of whom are in Minnesota — is ABC low-key setting up a new spinoff?

I ask this question amidst the news of another doctor joining the Grey’s Anatomy cast in a recurring role. Greg Tarzan Davis will play Dr. Jordan Wright, Nick Marsh’s favorite resident in Minnesota, Deadline reports. Davis — who will be seen alongside Tom Cruise in both Mission: Impossible 7 and Top Gun: Maverick in 2022 — will be introduced in the December 9th episode. In it, Jordan crosses paths with Meredith on a case she’s brought in on. With Davis’ casting, the recurring Minnesota characters now total four.

Peter Gallagher joined the show this season as Dr. David Hamilton, a former associate of Meredith’s mother who suffers from Parkinson’s. He approached the younger Grey in the Season 18 premiere about building a team to do a deep dive into curing Parkinson’s. During her time in Minnesota, Meredith reconnected with Nick Marsh, who she’d had chemistry with in Season 14 when he visited Seattle for a transplant. E.R. Fightmaster has also joined the medical drama as rock star neuroscientist Kai Bartley, who is working closely with Amelia on the Parkinson’s research.

Making Meredith and Amelia the conduits between Seattle and Minnesota feels very much like how the Private Practice cast was introduced on Grey’s Anatomy before Addison Montgomery made her move. Not to mention Station 19 started when Ben Warren, a former series regular on Grey’s  Anatomy played by Jason George, decided to become a firefighter. With the fate of Grey’s Anatomy up in the air, building a spinoff in a world outside of Seattle is smart. The two worlds could continue to intersect, but certainly wouldn’t have to, if and when Shonda Rhimes pulls the plug on the flagship series.

But Meredith’s being the primary connection to Minnesota — their research is done in The Grey Center, gifted to her by Dr. Hamilton in a successful attempt to woo her — seems a bit of a stretch if the endgame is to be a spinoff. Sure, Ellen Pompeo has held down the medical drama for an impressive 18 seasons, but she’s also been vocal about not wanting to continue for much longer. Similarly, Scott Speedman has been noncommittal about how long he’ll continue in the role of Nick Marsh.

Perhaps those two will ride off into the sunset together, with Caterina Scorsone and E.R. Fightmaster leading the new Minnesota series? Okay, that idea has my attention. Because if not, why else would they choose in Season 18 to introduce a whole new world outside of Seattle? Why would we be meeting all of these new characters if Grey’s Anatomy is singing its swan song?

Earlier this year, ABC Signature President Jonnie Davis excited fans, as he said that the alphabet network and Krista Vernoff’s team were working on “the next phase of Grey’s Anatomy.” However, only hours later, he was forced to backpedal on his comment, insisting that there were no conversations happening about a spinoff.  

For a minute It looked like ABC might be setting up a Seattle trilogy, similar to NBC’s Chicago dramas, as the Seattle Police Department began to play a larger (and pretty unfavorable) role in the firefighters’ lives on Station 19 last season. That angle is unlikely, as the police/firefighter drama has worked itself out in different ways. However, you better believe we fans have got an eye open for other spinoff possibilities, and Minnesota seems to be a likely candidate.

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. Its firefighting companion, Station 19, airs immediately before it at 8 p.m. ET. Be sure to check out our fall 2021 TV schedule for premieres through the end of the year.

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