The mixed messages regarding who will be the beloved character to die in the Grey's Anatomy Season 8 finale (Season 8, Episode 24, "Flight") have been all over the place recently. The latest rumor from Deadline states that all six of the original cast members —  Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey), Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey), James Pickens Jr. (Richard Webber), Justin Chambers (Alex Karev), Patrick Dempsey (Derek Shepherd), and Sandra Oh (Cristina Yang) — have renewed their contracts for Season 9, which seems to suggest that all six of those characters are safe.

But are they really?

For one thing, just because they’ve renewed their contracts for two more years doesn’t mean they won’t die in the Season 8 finale. Let’s look at Derek for example.

Patrick has been vocal in the last few years about his desire to focus on his racing career, and he’s even signed on to produce a four-part miniseries featuring his own car for the Velocity channel. Now, Patrick could have easily renewed his Grey’s contract on the condition that he’ll have enough time to pursue his passion.

How does that point to Derek being the dead character in the end? To reconcile both his racing time and his Grey’s duties, he could appear in many flashbacks on Season 9. If Derek dies next week (May 17), the heart of this show, Meredith Grey, will be a widow with a new baby. We don’t see how her story could continue without literally becoming painful to watch (spending our Thursday nights sobbing and heaving would hurt!), unless Meredith spends a good amount of time reminiscing on MerDer moments.

Looking more closely at show creator Shonda Rhimes’ comments regarding the finale death and Derek, we notice that she’s wildly vague about MerDer in Season 9. When discussing their “dream house,” she has said that "It does feel right to deal with it and talk about it and have it be done at the end of Season 8 when Meredith is graduating from being a resident." There’s no mention of Derek, and no mention of them moving in.

What do you think? Could you see Derek dying in just a week’s time? Share your theories in the comments below!

Catch a new episode of Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday, May 10 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

Molly Friedman is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @MollyFriedman.

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