Monday, May 3, 2021

REVIEW: '9-1-1: Lone Star' - Owen Struggles to Relax and Becomes Obsessed With Proving an Arson Case in 'Slow Burn'

FOX's 9-1-1: Lone Star - Episode 2.11 "Slow Burn"

After being forced to take time off work to recover from his surgery, Owen finds himself immersed in the search for a serial arsonist. T.K. and Carlos take their relationship to the next level. Marjan copes with the aftermath of losing someone on the job.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 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 next episode of FOX's 9-1-1: Lone Star.

"Slow Burn" was written by John Owen Lowe and directed by Chad Lowe

Owen has been arrested for arson. That's the tease that starts this episode. The action then flashes back a week to show how the story arrived at that point. And yet, the narrative actually catches up to that moment. Instead, the hour concludes with Owen trying to prove his point about stumbling across an arson case only to be attacked by the likely suspect. The visceral image comes from him waking up in a room engulfed in flames. That's a powerful image that loses all of its potency because the audience is already aware that he will survive this ordeal and only spiral further in trying to prove his case. The department is already suspicious about his behavior. He isn't acting rationally. He believes that he is. He believes he can command his team once they arrive on the scene. That isn't his position any more though. He has been ordered to take time off to recover from his final cancer surgery. He doesn't know how to stop working. That could suggest that he sees things that aren't truly there. He needs some emergency to exist in order to have purpose in his life. It's not good enough to paint the bathroom, repot his plants and assemble a puzzle. Those activities don't fill him with joy. He needs to be on the job. He doesn't know how to take a break and relax. As such, he sees danger and jumps in to stop it. He saves a life. He still carries out that act of heroism. He doesn't suffer any consequences for doing so either. The only time that his physicality seems limited is when he starts coughing during the interview after the fact. In that moment, he needs to appear credible with his concerns. The arson investigator doesn't take him at his word though. Nothing in the investigation would suggest that some criminal element was involved in this fire. Everyone who knows Owen believes that he will act rationally in everything that he does. And then, the show highlights the irony of it all by presenting him as someone capable of this crime. He buys all the supplies necessary while showcasing the expertise to potentially fool the investigators. He needs the evidence on the scene to prove his theory. He is more than willing to break the rules in order to make that point. He won't let anyone talk him out of it either. But that's just another example of him being selfish and reckless. He has certainly become an exhausting central character this season. Moreover, the show feels the need to spell out everything that has happened to him and why it is now having a significant impact. Everything of importance has been removed from his life. He now feels empty and alone. That's meant to create a satisfying narrative of him becoming an arsonist. It seems unreasonable. The show doesn't want to present Owen as a hero here though. The viewer is meant to look at him with suspicion. But it's also designed to keep us on his side no matter what. He becomes a victim as well. This isn't the end of this ordeal though. People will still judge his actions and view them as fitting the typical pattern. That isn't true at all. People still buying into that offers condemnation for how small-minded people in these positions of power can be. That's not necessary in a show might to celebrate these first responders and highlight the difficult jobs they do every day. That is on perfect display in Marjan's story. The world frequently praises her heroism. The public notices her as someone who frequently does the most daring rescues on the job. Not every rescue ends with a save though. The 126 isn't able to save everyone. They always try their best. Here, the chain breaks before Marjan can rescue the husband. He dies. The wife almost does as well because of the grief and having to express that in a public space. That is a consequence of Marjan's public profile. She is a proud firefighter. She doesn't serve just for the fame. That has been an added bonus. Now, it produces consequences for her. She doesn't know how to navigate that. She doesn't need to be redeemed in the public sphere though. She saves lives regardless of that. She has that clarity. Her team has her back no matter what. She makes sacrifices for other people all the times. Sometimes, it's honorable and noble when she does. It can be unfair and unjust as well. Recognizing the difference is important. She has to navigate that given the high-stakes nature of this job. That is a fascinating story amidst an episode that only wants to be half-told with its big ideas about the state of Owen's life.