Monday, November 19, 2018

REVIEW: '9-1-1' - Hen's Origin Story Is Depicted as She Finds Her Purpose as a Firefighter in 'Hen Begins'

FOX's 9-1-1 - Episode 2.09 "Hen Begins"

Hen relives her evolution into the firefighter she is today as she recalls the first times she met Chimney and Athena.

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on this week's episode of FOX's 9-1-1.

"Hen Begins" was written by Aristotle Kousakis and directed by Jennifer Lynch

This is easily one of the best episodes that 9-1-1 has ever produced. It's a complete standout episode that focuses entirely on Hen's journey as a firefighter. It's a stunning achievement from Aisha Hinds. It's an hour that further fleshes out Hen's determination in this profession while also telling a very important story about sexism and racism in the workplace. At times, this show has suffered from some extreme tonal issues. It hasn't always known how to balance the absurdity of the emergencies that the first responders experience with the melodrama that is constantly going on in their personal lives. In fact, Hen suffered significantly in the first season with a story that was just too arch without really feeling grounded in a moving and genuine way. Even when one character has taken over as the priority in an episode, the drama can at times be quite heavy-handed. That's how it felt when Bobby revealed that he was partially responsible for the deaths of his family. That was so extreme. The issues that Hen faces throughout this episode are very topical and important as well. However, the show finds the right balance in order to have a meaningful discussion about them. The show trades in the ridiculousness that it is comfortable operating in to produce an episode that takes its characters and the jobs that they do seriously. The emergencies this week very much showcase how Hen has to think quickly on her feet in order to help people who are struck by natural disasters of this world. There is a torrential rainstorm during her first few shifts on the job. It feels so unnatural for the Los Angeles environment. And yet, it establishes the mood that Hen is constantly being drenched. It's both physical and metaphorical. She believes she is strong enough to succeed in this job. She finally feels passionate about something. She has always said that she was inspired to become a firefighter and paramedic after getting shot at 16 years old. That doesn't quite seem to be the case though. Instead, she had a life of uncertainties without really feeling fulfilled. In hindsight, she was able to craft this perfect story that makes sense while also being entertaining. But it also deals with the reality of not always knowing exactly how to respond to that kind of situation. Hen isn't perfect here either. She is still in a relationship with Ava. That drama doesn't really creep into the proceedings at all. The audience is just aware that it exists and will be causing her stress outside of the workplace soon. Instead, the main source of drama comes from a captain who believes that his men are at risk because the department wanted the good PR of having more female firefighters. He doesn't view women as being capable of doing this job. That's absolutely horrifying. One moment he can see himself in Hen. The next, he is terrorizing her and making her feel like she doesn't belong. It's because of Athena and Chimney that she is able to find some relief from all of this. She wants to carry all of this burden by herself. And yet, it's so freeing to watch her cope with this struggle by being able to talk about it with people who understand. That's the gift that Athena gives her. Hen's inspirational speech actually gets her co-workers to follow her into a dangerous situation. It forges a strong bond that makes them all stand in unity against their captain. Sure, that too could feel like too neat of an ending. But it also showcases how Hen is the embodiment of the future. She is one of the best firefighters this station has ever seen. And now, she is fully appreciated. The audience should already know that. But it's also so damn thrilling to see her soar despite everything weighing her down. That makes it even more rewarding to know the happiness that she currently has in her life.