There are several ways a character can exit ShondaLand: They might simply pick a new path in life. They might move to Switzerland. Or more than likely, they’ll die. But when it comes to how they’ll die, the options are limitless. Rhimes has killed characters in plane crashes and hospital bombings. She’s shot people point blank between the eyes. She’s drawn out a character’s death to give them ample time to say goodbye. She’s shocked viewers by killing others in the blink of an eye (and with a bus, no less). So years ago, when word got out that Tim Daly was leaving Private Practice after the show’s fifth season, fans instantly started to gossip.
The first question: Will Pete be killed? It actually felt unlikely, considering that Pete ended season five having been arrested for murder after illegally unplugging a patient at the request of the patient’s partner. All signs more or less pointed to Pete either going to jail or going on the run indefinitely. And one of those theories wasn’t all that far off.
In the season six premiere, Pete’s last act did involve going for a run—only it wasn’t out of the country. On the morning of his hearing, Pete sent Violet a text saying that he’d gone for a jog, and that he loved her no matter what—a.k.a. the thing a character does right before he or she dies. While Pete was out, California experienced a very small earthquake, one viewers barely even noticed until Pete didn’t show up in court. But even then, it seemed plausible that he’d chickened out and decided to run from the police. Hours later, Violet got a call from Pete’s phone—but it wasn’t him on the line. Apparently, the earthquake had happened during Pete’s jog through Runyon Canyon, at which point he suffered a heart attack, fell off the path (where no one could find him), and died.
The delivery of the news was just as bad as Pete’s anticlimactic death. Fans found out when Cooper walked into Violet’s office and she explained that she’d had to identify the body. She didn’t even say the words “Pete’s dead.” Instead, Cooper had to ask for clarification. And just like that, we’d seen the last of Pete, who just five years earlier was the McDreamy-McSteamy hybrid that drew Addison to California in the first place. He was the hot doc at the center of everything. And after years of character development, Pete didn’t get any sort of real goodbye. He died alone in a ditch, and all viewers got was a weird conversation between Cooper and Violet to announce the news.
It’s one thing to kill a character in a crappy way, but to do it off-camera just felt cold. Did Pete not deserve a proper goodbye? This was a man Addison had loved, and yet she didn’t get any sort of farewell. This was one of Sam’s best friends…and he got nothing. To cut off Pete’s story after he’d done something illegal—no matter how juicy it was—just made it feel like he got the short end of the stick.
But even if you can get over the cruelty of the situation, there’s the fact that Pete’s death just didn’t fit. Pete was a a naturopathic doctor and licensed herbalist. He was in shape (clearly; he was going for a run). When killing a healthy, attractive man, it’s a little hard to believe that a tiny earthquake would cause him to have a fatal heart attack.
Of all ShondaLand’s deaths, Pete’s was probably the worst. Yes, even worse than Reed’s—because at least her brutal murder gave us a moment we’d never forget. But not Pete’s. Pete’s death didn’t provide a sense of closure, it didn’t provide good drama, and it just plain didn’t fit. Any man who can be deemed the McDreamy-McSteamy hybrid of California deserves better.