Fifteen years and seventeen seasons later, Grey's Anatomy may still be many people's favourite but it has certainly felt incomplete without 'McDreamy', aka Derek Shepherd, played by Patrick Dempsey who made his exit in season 11.

The sight of the late Dr Shepherd in the long-running hit TV show not only sent viewers into a frenzy but also caught them off guard as his widow Meredith Grey, played by Ellen Pompeo, struggled to reconnect with him in a dreamy flashback.

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And who asked McDreamy to make an appearance? Dr Grey herself.

"The idea just struck me so I just said to him, would you ever consider coming and being a part of the storytelling this season?" Pompeo told Deadline.

"The most important task we had this year was to honour the reality of this global pandemic and the impact it's having — particularly on healthcare workers," showrunner Krista Vernoff told EOnline.

"Along with that, we had to come up with creative ways to allow our show to still be fun and romantic and provide some escapism. Enter Patrick Dempsey. The beach motif — which will continue beyond the premiere — provided a way for us to live outside the pandemic, even if for a little while here and there. And Derek's return provided pure joy for us, for Meredith and for the fans."

She also revealed how she and Derek hadn't spoken since he had left the show, believing that because the show takes up so much of their lives, people need time to find and reinvent themselves.

The two-hour episode was both a catch-up and an introduction to the world of Grey's Anatomy amid the coronavirus. Surprisingly, the episodes were set in April 2020 just weeks before the global health emergency shuttered production — even before the final episodes could be finished filming.

Dempsey’s return is reportedly not limited to this one scene, so keep an eye out for McDreamy in further episodes, details of which have been kept tightly under wraps.