Monday, January 18, 2021

REVIEW: '9-1-1: Lone Star' - Tommy Becomes the New Paramedic Captain as Owen Receives a Cancer Update in 'Back in the Saddle'

FOX's 9-1-1: Lone Star - Episode 2.01 "Back in the Saddle"

The 126 crew responds to a military tank on the loose in downtown Austin and a human pile-up at the roller derby. Meanwhile, new paramedic captain, Tommy Vega, joins the team. Owen is reunited with his ex-wife and T.K.'s mother, Gwyneth, and receives an update on his cancer.

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 season premiere of FOX's 9-1-1: Lone Star.

"Back in the Saddle" was written by Tim Minear & Rashad Raisani and directed by Bradley Bucker

The drama introduces two new characters at the start of its second season. Gina Torres joins the cast as Tommy Vega, the new paramedic captain replacing Liv Tyler's Michelle. Tyler opted not to return to the regular cast this season due to the limitations of travel regarding the COVID-19 production protocols on set. Michelle's absence is addressed here with her colleagues stating that she has left her job to become a fierce advocate for the homeless in the city. It's a serviceable enough exit despite the prominence Michelle's story had throughout the first season. And yet, it also comes with the expectation that she could return one day when the world is a little less crazy. Until then, Tommy has joined the firehouse. At first, she doubts her abilities after leaving the workforce for several years to raise her young daughters. She has to return to the job now in order to financially provide for her family. Her husband's restaurant is no longer a viable source of income. Their roles have shifted. She panics over not being able to see her girls as much as she wants. That is devastating to her. She is also adjusting to this new world. It takes a moment. Owen is a different kind of colleague who has made several changes to the 126. And yet, she proves herself in the field. Any fears that she had are quickly thrown out the window. If anyone doubted her abilities, she shows that she can withstand the pressure in any kind of situation. However, the world has gotten crazy. Much like 9-1-1, this show acknowledges the COVID-19 pandemic in its universe. However, it's not the driver of the stories. It has simply become a part of the atmosphere. The overall structure of the show is basically the same with the first responders dealing with a bunch of insane calls. Sometimes, the situations are incredibly tragic and dire. Other times, they are more light-hearted. The show adjusts to this new reality with its other big cast addition. Lisa Edelstein guest stars as TK's mother and Owen's ex-wife. She arrived in Austin after he was shot. She opted to stay once the pandemic hit and New York City was in a much more severe lockdown. That has allowed her and Owen to get back into a rhythm. It's enough to convince them that a relationship could actually be healthy between them once more. She is there to celebrate when he gets the happy news that his cancer has gone into remission. His reaction is very telling though. Gwyneth and TK want to share it with everyone. This is the best outcome they could have asked for. Meanwhile, he doesn't want to cheer too much quite yet. He may still fear that something else could happen. He has conditioned himself to brace for the worst. He sees it everyday. Moreover, he carries the cost of the longterm consequences for firefighters who worked at Ground Zero on 9/11. He knows just how devastating this disease can be. He knows that people don't have the same compassion and empathy they once did for their heroism on that day. Owen still serves. He is a strong and effective captain. The squad loves his leadership. They will jump into action the moment his and Tommy's lives are in danger. Of course, them using a firehose to disarm a person causing damage is a plot beat the creative team has already done on the original series. That may be a troubling sign of these two shows relying on the same methods to tell interesting stories. It appears as if this narrative will be taking its cues from the mothership in revealing a grand disaster that is about to strike Austin at the start of the season. Here, it happens to be lava. That's original and alarming. The woman in the food truck has no idea it is coming either. That's a terrifying image. One that should leave everyone concerned for the damage that could be done very shortly. This premiere introduces these new characters who provide complications to this world. However, it also offers the reassurance that the viewer can still expect the same quality and pacing of stories as has become expected in this franchise. That is reassuring. Plus, the insanity of the opening sequence with a tank being stolen and going on a rampage through the city proves that the level of dark and twisted humor is just as high as it has always been. That quality allows the story time to build on crucial developments elsewhere that simply need the space to grow into more rewarding moments.