Sunday, January 19, 2020

REVIEW: '9-1-1: Lone Star' - Owen and T.K. Move to Austin to Rebuild Their Lives and a Firehouse in 'Pilot'

FOX's 9-1-1: Lone Star - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

Nearly 20 years ago, Owen Strand was the lone survivor of his firehouse on 9/11. In the wake of the attack, Owen had the unenviable task of rebuilding his station. After a similar tragedy happens in Austin, Owen - along with his troubled firefighter son, T.K. - takes his progressive philosophies of life and firefighting down to Texas, where he helps them start anew. On the surface, Owen is all about big-city style and swagger, but underneath he struggles with a secret he hides from the world - one that could very well end his life.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of FOX's 9-1-1: Lone Star.

"Pilot" was written by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk & Tim Minear and directed by Bradley Buecker

This show is a bit more upfront about the inclusive nature of the characters at the heart of its story. It's a direct objective given to Owen Strand when he is tasked with rebuilding this firehouse in Austin, Texas. He has to hire a diverse crew of candidates in order to improve the city's statistics. In fact, life improves when a variety of viewpoints and identities are brought together. Tragedy occurs and Owen hopes to lift up something new from the ashes. It can absolutely be dire and morbid. The opening sequence lays things out plainly that this is a community still bouncing back from a massive explosion and loss of life. It's a tragedy that may only inform one character moving forward though. Judd Ryder is the sole survivor from his firehouse simply because he was out of range of the blast radius. Sure, he was still injured and in the hospital for weeks. But he is alive and can return to the job. Now, Owen may be cautious about doing that because he sees a man in denial of how he is feeling. Yes, this career gives his life purpose and meaning. Without it, he is absolutely lost. It just takes a woman to come along and make that point glaringly obvious. Owen and Judd are kindred spirits in that regard. They have embraced similar fates. Owen simply has the perspective necessary to offer guidance to the young man. Of course, Owen isn't perfect either. He is withholding his cancer diagnosis. He hasn't told anyone. He opens up about it to Judd thinking it will form a strong connection between them. However, it should put his priorities into focus. Right now, Owen needs to do whatever it takes in order to keep his son healthy and alive. That too may be a daunting task because T.K. is a recovering addict who relapses after learning that his boyfriend is leaving him for another man. That's what motivates this change in scenery. Owen has lived in New York City for his entire life. He honors the memories of those who died during 9/11 every single day. And now, his health may be compromised as a result of that heroism. That is inherently tragic and has the potential to create a stark core narrative this season. It's really the only storyline introduced here with any sense of nuance though. Lead paramedic in charge of medical scenes Michelle Blake is first seen banging on the door of her sister's abusive husband. She needs to know what happened to her sister after she's disappeared. That is just insanely blunt in the hopes that an interesting character can come out of that. Liv Tyler is a fascinating performer for that context. She exudes a calm nature that lends herself well to the various emergencies. The personal drama though feels a little too wild and melodramatic. And yet, the show is rather blunt with the introductions of its entire ensemble. It has to spell out why each of these firefighters was hired and moved to this city to improve the inclusive numbers. Marjan is a Muslim women while Paul is a transgender man. Again, all of this is important because representation matters. Owen can give an inspirational speech about these firefighters being seen as heroes who can inspire people who have never seen themselves represented in the world at large. It can help them feel less alone and actually be empowered as a result. That's what Owen hopes to achieve. It's his core mission when his future is no longer certain. This all works on a theoretical basis. But it also took the original 9-1-1 series a season in order to figure out the right balance of outrageous emergencies and personal drama. It eventually found a way to be heartwarming and intense. The effort is present here. It's just going to take much more character depth in order to pull it off and give FOX a successful procedural franchise. Right now, the audience is left to infer so much based on just a few glances characters share and the idea of sentimentality. Judd is a puddle on the floor upon seeing the pictures of his fallen brothers on the wall. That means a lot to him. It probably won't be a big deal in the long run of the series though. It may only matter if tragedy touches this firehouse again which is something Owen pledges to avoid at all costs.