911 - Seasons 1 & 2 - Review By Thomas Cori (September 23, 2019, 7:00 am)
911 explores the lives of first responders in the city of Los Angeles, admittedly that premise is nothing new or original, but it does manage to stand out, mainly thanks to it's well-crafted storylines and a tendency toward sensationalism (something that can be found in most of Ryan Murphy's shows) that somehow stays bearable.
The first season starts of by framing most of the main characters in the first episode. From Ex-Alcoholic and captain Bobby Nash, who struggles with his past throughout the season, to Abby Clark whose life pretty much only revolves around taking care of her sick mother, to Buck, a playboy with a nasty attitude.
The most interesting thing for me this season was Bobby's storyline, it is so different from what we usually see in these types of shows that it makes his character stand out and feel more human. It was nothing more than the story of a broken man trying to redeem himself, the idea here is not to tell a story just for the sake of shock value or drama.
This darkness follows him throughout the season, as we see him frequently go to Church and seek guidance, nothing came to make this feel less serious or distract attention from it, making the other storylines pale in comparison.
Abby and Buck were also a big part of this season. In some aspects, Buck's story compares to Bobby's as he tries - and succeeds - at turning his life around. Though he starts off the season as a cocky playboy who has about no respect for the many women he dates, his attitude quickly starts to change when he meets Abby through the phone while on call. Their relationship slowly blossoms and help both characters grow, Abby realizes that she can have a life aside from caring for her mother while Buck just learns to behave like an adult. Though I have to admit that this relationship feels sometimes forced to keep Abby connected to the rest of the more active cast.
As I mentioned, the biggest flaw of this show is sensationalism. The best example of that is Athena's daughter, May, who attempts to commit suicide due to bullying. Instead of making this a worthwhile lesson in acceptance, since all this came from her father's coming out, it just became a big demonstration of unprofessional-ism on Athena's part as she publicly arrests the students responsible and gets desk duty for that - only to get back on the streets an episode later. Another good example is Chimney's accident, why have a character go through such a traumatic event (I mean, not even the most trained professional can get a pole through the head and walk away with nothing more than a little scar) not to build on it afterwards?
Unlike season 1, this season took the time to show a lot of character backstory, especially of how they came to work for the 118. But the thing that really struck me was the subtle nods at the characters' cultures and how it affects their decisions, it shows that their lives didn't start when we started watching but that they have an ethnicity, education, sexuality and experiences that shape who they are and how they react. Just see how forgiving Athena was with Marvin in episode 2.
Abby's departure was a big shock at the end of season 1, the way her character just faded away was a very intelligent move to make her exit the show. This game of will she/ Won't she come back at the beginning of the season, as well as Buck's struggle to forget her, helps us ease into this new reality along with the people who knew her.
A new addition was made to the crew of the 118, Eddie, a new firefighter who lives with his handicapped son (Christopher), though I did appreciate seeing some fresh blood, his story took so much screen time in the first few episodes that I started to feel forced to like him. A lot of his past seemed to be made to make us feel sorry for him, from his son's disease, to his wife leaving him, to her dying, needless to say, I was glad that it was toned down latter on.
But Eddie wasn't the only new person around, as Buck's sister came to live with him after running away from her violent husband. We slowly discover how toxic that relationship was, and Jennifer Love Hewitt did a great job at making us understand the paranoia and constant fear that comes with that. Her developing relationship with Chim was very respectful of that though it didn't exactly end well for him when the violent Ex - Doug - came back. But not to worry, though he did get assaulted, resulting in a punctured lung and lacerated stomach, he went right back to work as if nothing happened - much like the pole accident in season 1.
This tendency to skip ahead and not finish some storylines properly worries me for season 3. Will this mean that Buck's struggle with his injury at the end of the season will be forgotten?
Hen and Athena's relationship also got a lot of attention, slowly developing over the course of the season, and showed that women can have successful careers and a good family life without these two aspects of their lives being in conflict like in so many other shows. Something that 911 also does differently is writing its gay character, Hen, whose sexuality isn't what defines her and isn't mentioned every two seconds.
All in all this season did a much better job at showing the stress of being a first responder from the person who answers the phone to the people that are physically there. It didn't only lean more heavily on the reactions of the people sharing the lives of first responders, but on how much pain and stress comes from the risks that these people take.
With season 3 fast approaching, and a new spin-off in the works, it is safe to say that Fox has a lot of faith in this franchise and that it might stick around for a while, let's hope that it won't bring about a dip in quality. What about you, what were your favorite moments and stories these last two seasons? What are you most looking forward to this year?