The third season finale of 9-1-1 ticked a lot of boxes: big-name guest stars, a sprawling and tense central emergency, and a lot of satisfying conclusions to the smaller character arcs we’ve been following over the past few weeks. Michael’s brain tumor shrunk, and he went on a date with the Hot Elevator Doctor! Hen is going to medical school! Athena is getting an indoor fire pit! CONNIE BRITTON’S HAIR! It was all, frankly, pretty great — and it was all completely blown out of the water in the episode’s finale moments, by one last delightful reveal:
MADDIE AND CHIM ARE HAVING A BABY! A surprise baby! And they’re happy about it! I’m happy too, though I’m already dreading whatever life-threatening incidents befall this poor kid during Sweeps next season. I mean, they wouldn’t do the rebar-through-the-skull thing a second time, would they? On a baby? Rebar baby?!
Speaking of things that probably won’t happen next season: Abby. It’s pretty clear that Connie Britton’s surprise return during the season finale is not the start of a more permanent return, mostly because her character is getting married. To Ben the Soldier from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia! I mean, if Buck is her type, then Ben the Soldier is also very much her type. Good for Abby.
Showrunner Tim Minear shared the story of how they got Connie Britton to come back for the episode with TV Guide, and spoiler alert: it involves basically throwing Angela Bassett at her.
We were sort of in the middle of the season, and somebody had pitched — I think it was Chris Monfette, a producer on the show — “Wouldn’t it be great if in the penultimate episode before the finale, Maddie gets a 9-1-1 call from some disaster — let’s say, a train derailment — and the woman on the other end of the line seems to know a lot about the protocol. And we reveal it’s Abby, and she’s calling from this train derailment; she’s on her way to L.A. from Phoenix, where we’ve established her brother lives.” And I was like, “Well, that’s a great idea. It’ll never happen. I’ve been trying to get Connie back for a year, and now we’re in Season 3 … although she had finished Dirty John, so maybe she’d be available?”
Well, it just so happened that, I think maybe the next day, it was the 100th episode party for American Horror Story, which was over at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. And so I show up at this thing, and of course there’s Connie. She was the star of Season 1. And I’m standing there talking to Angela Bassett, and I’m like, “Let’s double team her!” So we went over to Connie, and I said, “Look, why don’t you come back and guest on the finale?” And she said, “Oh, I’d love to!” And so that’s how it came about. It was that easy.
So yes, there’s a train derailment, and Abby is on board with her fiancé — and this is the first time Buck has seen her since she left to find herself on a Eurotrip at the end of Season One. Remember how Buck told her he’d wait for her? Yeahhh. AWKWARD. Anyway, Ben the Soldier is trapped under a support beam in an unstable train car, and Rumer Willis is trapped under the same beam, and only one of them can be saved before the beam crushes the other one. Buck, who promised Abby he’d bring her boyfriend back alive, decides to risk his life by cutting through the train car from the outside, and it is obviously a dangerous, dumb, and emotional Buck thing to do but hey — both victims survive!
Buck gets to be Abby’s hero, but that doesn’t mean he forgives her for leaving him behind the way she did. He finally gets the opportunity to ask her why she never came back to him, and Abby says she was worried that, after spending all that time trying to find herself abroad, she’d lose herself all over again if she ever came home. It’s a reasonable concern for a woman who always lived for the sake of others, and Buck’s pain at being essentially forgotten is also reasonable. For fans who have watched the show since the first season, the scene was another reminder of the tremendous character growth Buck has gone through — in large part because of his relationship with Abby — and a pitch-perfect resolution to the longest running dangling plot thread of the series. Buck finds closure not through forgiveness, but simply by acknowledging he’s happy for her. That’s enough.
Now, a Willis/Moore child and the best head of hair in Hollywood should be enough surprise star power for this finale, but 9-1-1 threw in a little bonus Brooke Shields for us. As a treat! Shields plays Dr. Kara Sanford, a victim advocate who meets with Athena to discuss the trial around the Real Estate Rapist — but she’s really there to talk about Athena’s own injuries. Athena is initially in denial about the repercussions of her attack, but eventually she opens up to Sanford about the root of her fears: that she can no longer trust her gut instincts as a cop. That’s something I suspect we’ll continue to see Athena processing next season, and the door definitely appears to be open for more appearances from Shields. And maybe for Rob Lowe too, as Minear has hinted at a potential 9-1-1 / 9-1-1: Lone Star crossover in the future.
So, I guess that’s something to look forward to? As for me, I’ll just be over here imagining my perfect Chim unicorn baby — who is definitely swaddled almost entirely is fluffy towels and bubble wrap and maybe kevlar, because we all know how dangerous it is to be a fan favorite on this show.
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