'Grey's Anatomy' boss Shonda Rhimes: Why Mark Sloan had to die

greys-anatomy-season-finale-patrick-dempsey-eric-dane.jpgEvery so often, we find ourselves under the impression that "Grey's Anatomy" boss Shonda Rhimes lives to hurt us. This week, as we mourned Mark Sloan -- one of our all-time favorite "Grey's" characters -- we were struggling a little with our undying Shonda love. (Seriously, Shonda, we watched "Off The Map" for you and now you kill off McSteamy? Not cool.) A long, thoughtful message on her WhoSay page brought us back to Team Shonda, though.

Once confronted with the reality that Eric Dane had to be written off, Shonda & co. faced a decision as to just how to do that. He'd just been in a plane crash and lost the love of his life. Normally, we'd say that kind of upheaval would give him the license to pack his things and head back to New York -- especially since Seattle Grace is obviously cursed -- except for the fact that Mark's family was in Seattle.

" I had many options for ways Mark could leave the [show]," writes Shonda. "But any option that didn't include him dying required him to a) grieve for Lexie indefinitely and b) willingly walk away from his daughter. We fought about this incessantly in the Writers Room. I didn't want to Mark to die but, as the writers rightfully argued back, Mark couldn't abandon Sofia and he certainly couldn't abandon Callie once Arizona's leg was amputated. And even if he left, he'd what? Wander the Earth forever loving Lexie, missing his child and never finding happiness. Hmm...that doesn't sound like what I want for my beloved Mark Sloan."

eric-dane-kate-walsh-addison-mark-greys-anatomy.jpgThere was one loose end left untied for Mark, though: Addison Montgomery. Now on "Private Practice," Addison may not have been the love of Mark's life, but she was certainly one of his great loves. Their history together is powerful, and with Kate Walsh also leaving "Private Practice" this season, there was a window of opportunity.

" I kept pitching that he goes to L.A. and runs off with Addison," Shonda says. "I loved that idea. But it still required Mark to abandon his child and abandon Arizona. And it meant that I'd have to scrap all the plans I had for Addison this season - and her plans are wonderful. Also, that would somehow suggest that everything he said to Lexie when she was dying was easily forgotten."

We're interested to see whether Mark's death is addressed on "Private Practice."

There's also some appeal in the idea that Mark and Lexie are now "together" in some other land where hospitals don't get shot up and planes don't crash and bombs don't get lodged in peoples' ribcages... etc etc etc.

As for a little insight into why Eric Dane decided to leave the show, Shonda remains mum, saying, "what happens in Shondaland stays in Shondaland."

EOnline, however, says that the three major actors cut this season -- Dane, Chyler Leigh, and Kim Raver -- were axed for budgetary reasons... mostly. When ABC told "Grey's" producers that they needed to cut actors, Leigh was an easy choice, because she'd already expressed interest in leaving the show to spend more time with her family. Raver had been gunning for more screen time, which in such a large ensemble show was impossible, so her exit was also a mutual decision.

"As for Dane, well, according to insiders, he did not ask to leave the show," writes Kristin Dos Santos at EOnline. "However, before you Grey's fans get even more upset, please know that according to sources, there were 'very legitimate reasons' for Shonda's decision to let him go." A little behind the scenes drama, perhaps?

One thing is for sure -- we're absolutely going to miss Mark Sloan. So much. Really just a lot.
Photo/Video credit: ABC