* This article contains spoilers for season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy *

Grey’s Anatomy season 17 promised one of the most surprising moments in the show's history... and it delivered. After multiple delays amid the pandemic, the medical drama starring Ellen Pompeo returned to TV this week with a two-hour premiere. It also marked the return of a former Grey's icon: "Dr. Derek Shepherd," a.k.a. "McDreamy." This is how Patrick Dempsey's character was reintroduced in the season 17 premiere.

Grey's Anatomy season 17 premiere: Patrick Dempsey returns

It was known that the new season would focus on the daily battle doctors around the world are facing with COVID-19. But what we didn't know was that the premiere would also welcome the return of one of TV's all-time favourite characters.

After two hours of tense events, the opening chapter of Grey's Anatomy season 17 ended with a beach sequence in which "Meredith Grey" (Pompeo) is reunited with "Derek Shepherd" (Dempsey).

The scene occurs in her dreams after "Meredith" passes out at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Though just a brief reunion for now, it was a first since Dempsey exited Grey's in 2015.

"McDreamy": A way to "bring joy" to Grey's Anatomy fans

In a Deadline quote, series showrunner Krista Vernoff said Dempsey's return was a way to "bring joy" to viewers in the midst of the pandemic.

"It happened because it was my job to find a way — once we determined that we were doing the pandemic — to also bring joy, and escape, and fan candy, and all the things that at Grey’s Anatomy we give people. We give them romance, and we give them humor, and we give them joy, and a lot of that is lacking for the medical community in this pandemic," Vernoff told Deadline.

All signs point to "McDreamy" possibly becoming a recurring character this season — but time will have to tell. The producer also announced that other characters who exited over the years could return to meet "Meredith" on the beach of her dreams.