[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 2 finale of 9-1-1, "This Life We Choose."]
It's okay, you can stop holding your breath now.
The 9-1-1 Season 2 finale was a wild ride as the firehouse — specifically Bobby (Peter Krause) — found itself the target of a serial bomber, the son of the arsonist seen a few episodes back in "Bobby Begins Again." When a bomb placed on the truck caused it to flip and crash — on Buck's (Oliver Stark) leg! — and the bomber put himself between Buck and the first responders, Bobby stepped in to talk down the bomber and save his people.
And save them he did, though Buck's future as a firefighter is uncertain due to his injury. Though his doctor recommends waiting to have another surgery, he wants it done ASAP in hopes of returning to work sooner rather than later.
But the episode ends on a high note, first with a celebration at the firehouse for the end of Eddie's (Ryan Guzman) probationary period. Then, Bobby and Athena (Angela Bassett) decide not to waste another moment and get married, with only her kids as witnesses, at the courthouse.
TV Insider spoke with showrunner Tim Minear about the happy and troublesome events of the finale.
Was the plan always to end the season with Bobby and Athena married in a quiet ceremony? Why did you decide not to wait until next year?
Tim Minear: It wasn't always the plan. It just felt like the right thing to do. It sort of mirrored the proposal in a lot of ways, kind of spur of the moment. Both of these first responders realizing that planning for the future is sometimes a fool's errand and that you have to live your future in the moment, and that's part of the mission statement of the show.
I wasn't really interested in doing a long, drawn-out build-up to the altar. I think the show's a little more immediate than that. It just felt like the right thing to do after all the trauma everyone had been through.
Did you ever consider having everyone there, or did you plan to just do the family?
We'd talked about doing it in any manner of ways, but it felt like this was really about Bobby and Athena and those kids and the intimacy of it, which is not to say it won't explode into some kind of celebration in Season 3.
But we wanted to just really end on kind of a grace note with them and a moment of hopefulness, so the intimacy of it — the smallness of it — felt right.
And we had the celebration with Eddie's ceremony.
Exactly. That to me felt like the big crescendo of emotion with everybody together as family, which I think is really what drove Bobby to make the decision he did, looking out on all these people he loved and realizing the person he loved the most wasn't actually there. But it did make him take stock and realize what was important in the moment, because you never know about tomorrow or even later today.
Let's talk about the serial bomber. How much did Bobby need that moment stopping him, not just for his job, but for him personally? How different will he be going forward because of that experience?
We saw him throw away the book last season, but what Bobby's been through is not something he can just shake off or dump into a trash can. What we were trying to say in that moment for Bobby and what was important for Bobby is that it wasn't a tortured, brooding, 'it's all my fault and I'm a downer,' broody Bobby.
He is ready to step between a bomb and his people. He's ready to go up if that's what has to happen, and he walks into it with really no fear at all, because Buck's trapped under a firetruck for God's sake.
I think what was great for Bobby in that moment is that he wasn't there to play on that boy's sympathies or to tell him that he was in some way justified. He was just going to go out there and tell him the truth. "This is your choice. You are choosing this life. Things have happened to you. Life is unfair, and what you do with that is a choice." Which is the theme of the entire episode, obviously, this life we choose.
Speaking of the life they choose, Buck states that being a firefighter is his life. That's what matters to him. So what's his mindset when he's trapped under the truck and when he finds out he should maybe not have surgery right away but he decides to?
Buck has really come a long way in the two seasons. It is an avocation, it's a vocation, it's a career, it's a calling, it's all those things for him, and it's his family, too, right? Bobby is kind of a father figure to him and he doesn't feel like he has any other choice. That's sort of the beginning of Bobby's speech at the end, "Sometimes I think this life chooses us."
So, Buck is in a place where he's had a real moment of existential crisis. He's going to force his leg to heal, even if it ends up damaging that leg, because the most important thing to him is his life as a firefighter and a first responder. I would say we're going out on this season with Buck in the most perilous place of any of the characters.
Do you think Bobby could talk him out of the surgery even though his sister couldn't?
I guess we'll see.
Speaking of making a family at the firehouse, Eddie has made a home for himself and his son, but how much of a struggle is it for him to not just fall back on the support system of his family after losing his wife?
It's interesting because Eddie's family is bifurcated. His immediate family — his mother and his father and his sisters — all live in El Paso, Texas, and he spent some of his formative years growing up there. They probably moved there when he was still in grade school or high school at the most. But his family originated in Los Angeles, so he's got this extended family of his abuela and his aunt and a support system out here, but I don't think that it's any temptation for him to move back to Texas.
He is definitely making a life for himself here and now that he's found Christopher this great school and this great support system for him, he really feels like he doesn't want to uproot Christopher. For Eddie, it's always all about Christopher.
So it's always going to be a struggle for him, because being a single dad again — and really, he's always been a single dad once he's had Christopher, even when Shannon was back in the picture — there's always going to be challenges. Even though Shannon has died, I think he's weirdly in a good place because he has finished his probationary period and he's got these people around him to support him, and it's partially his extended family too.
Chimney stepped in as captain while Bobby was suspended. Is that something for him to pursue or is he happy where he is at the firehouse?
I think Chimney's happy where he is right now, particularly now that Maddie's back in his life. I don't think he loves being captain of the firehouse, but Chimney is, as we saw in his origin story, a rather ambitious fellow, so while I think he is very content with where he is right now, that doesn't mean his ambition won't reappear in some way.
Maddie went through quite a lot this season, and she's come out of it stronger.
Quite a lot.
Can you talk about what you put her through and where you wanted her to end up by the end of the season?
The Maddie story, the domestic abuse story, was very important for us. It was, I would say, the longest game for us in some ways, not really counting Bobby's backstory — all those backstories figure into the threads of the current stories — but just in terms of a season arc, we set up Maddie's story, that she was running away from her abusive husband, in the first episode of this season, and we knew we wanted to play it out. We knew we didn't want to play it out in three episodes.
We wanted to seat it in there, and then once we got to the inevitable confrontation, that it wouldn't be exploitative or we wouldn't be doing a disservice to victims of actual domestic abuse. Jennifer Love Hewitt was very strong on this point, as the writers were.
We wanted to give her a moment of victory, but we didn't want to sugarcoat it either. So what we put her through was a confrontation that happens to a lot of women who are trying to escape an abusive spouse and a lot of them are not as lucky as Maddie because they don't end up living through it. It's a very dangerous time, the first two years, I think, after a woman tries to get out of an abusive relationship. She is in danger, mortal danger, for those first two years, statistically.
It's a network television show. It's entertainment, and we wanted to give her a victory. It's easy for us as television writers to create a happy ending.
What we don't want to do is forget the trauma she's been through or say that everything's okay now. There's a whole new trauma really to confront, right? She killed the man that she ostensibly loved enough to stay with when he was abusing her. So, yeah, she's coming out stronger, but she's come out doubly traumatized and stronger at the same time.
I think there's more to explore in that story and the fallout and the vibrations and ramifications of that story, and we want to make sure we honor that without the show becoming a downer because at the end of the day, 9-1-1 is about heroes and it's about hope and it's about family and it's about love.
It's about the people that you love and I think that's what we love about the show, that we're telling the story of people who love each other and who would sacrifice themselves for one another, and that's nice. I think that's nice in this day and age to have a show that is unambiguously blue sky and positive in that way, with all the drama and all the thrills and chills that go along with it.
So is she content now at the 9-1-1 call center after seeing the people and how she changed their lives? I thought that was such a moving scene.
Thank you. Yes, and I think it was a real question she needed to ask herself, right? She says to Josh and to Sue that she didn't really choose this, that she was running away and hiding and this was a place for her to nest and to be safe. Would she have chosen this if she didn't have to choose it?
Now, I think she can honestly say she's there because she wants to be and because it's the thing that's actually giving her meaning in her work life, so it's no longer the legacy of the abusive situation with Doug or her having to flee for her life or something. Now she's not there to keep from dying. She's there to live. So it's the same job that means something new to her.
Hen's family may be growing. I like how easy that conversation was, after some of the drama earlier for the couple. Why is now the right time?
Why not? Again, there's a theme that we explore with all of our characters, which is, why wait to live? These are people who see life turn on a dime on a daily basis in their professional lives, and it really gives them a sense of the impermanence of life and so I think that's why. And also, they are women of a certain age.
And I agree, that was an easy conversation, and chalk that up to Tracie Thoms and Aisha Hinds being incredibly wonderful actors who are just so natural, with each other for sure, but I've worked with both of them on other things, and these are just two great actors who can be in the moment for anything, and so I want to see their family grow and I love Denny.
On the other side of the relationship spectrum, we have Buck and Ali, who end in somewhat of a tentative place. Buck's entire life seems to be up in the air right now — his career, his love life. Can you talk about where you wanted to leave Buck's love life?
I went back and forth on that. I loved Ali, and she wasn't a plan from the very beginning. She first appeared in the earthquake episode, and we just really felt like Tiffany [Dupont] had a lot of chemistry with both of the guys, but particularly with Buck, I thought, and it was interesting to see the online response, because in the episode when she reappeared, which was "Buck, Actually," people were so mad at Buck having slept with the TV reporter that no matter who I brought in at the end, they'd be like, "Okay, she's fine."
It's difficult when you're coming into a season after you have Connie Britton and you cannot just ignore the fact that you had this sort of epic love story between Connie Britton and Oliver in the first season. So, we spent a lot of time not getting over it, just as I didn't think the audience would get over it. And it felt like maybe Ali was somebody who is different than Connie, who is not a first responder, that people like to see him with.
So, when I finally brought her back for the finale, the question was, does she break up with him? But then that would be too similar to what happened with Connie at the end of Season 1. So, tentative is exactly where I wanted to go out with that because what you have is the beginnings of a relationship.
We haven't really been tracking a lot of it throughout the season. We've heard about it in the background, and when we see them in the finale, it's very clear that they're in that early honeymoon stage of just loving to be together, but they're not ready to move in together, as evidenced by the scene where he's finally getting his own place.
But by the end of the story what I wanted to have was a character who is on the outside of this world taking in the gravity of it and saying, "Wow, I watched you almost die and realized this is every day for you, and I'm not asking you to give that up because I know that's who you are. I just don't know if it's who I am." She's not dumping him. She's not saying, "Let's not move forward." She's just saying, "I have to weigh this and I don't know yet." So I wanted to go out of season 2 with Ali as a possibility, so that's where we are.
9-1-1, Season 3, Fall 2019, Fox