“In a month, it’ll end up being a fun hate watch.” - Dustin Rowles
Is this it? Have we hit the tipping point, and it’s all downhill from here? Or is the show still finding its footing? Honestly, that’s the question I ponder every week with this show. It’s like that rollercoaster from the second episode — we keep climbing and climbing and at some point we’re gonna hit that peak… and then it’s either going to be a fun ride or people are going to fall off and it’ll end in disaster. For a show like this, there is no middle ground. I’ve been waiting to see if it could strike the right balance between the pumping adrenaline of the emergencies and the personal crises of the central characters since the pilot, and five episodes in, I don’t think they’re any closer to finding that mix. In fact, in lieu of “balance” the writers seem to have simply upped the ante on the personal drama to insane levels. It’s like they know people are more invested in the actual 9-1-1 calls that drive the show, so every episode they try throwing more shit at Abby, Bobby, Athena and the others in an effort to pull focus. “Oh, you thought that plane crash was crazy? Well here’s Bobby falling off the wagon!”
And here’s thing: the drama they’ve slapped on these characters is actually a big turn off. The only reason it works isn’t because it’s well written — it’s because they have people like Connie Britton, Angela Bassett, and Peter Krause to sell the hell out of it. And this week the cracks really started to show, because the actual tipping point they’ve reached is taking characters from “complicated” to “maybe actually terrible human beings.” I’m talking, of course, about the big Bobby revelation — a revelation so horrible even the imminently sympathetic Krause had a hard time selling it in his big confessional scene at the church. What did he do that was so damn bad? Spoilers…
He caused a fire that burned down an entire apartment building, killing over 140 people inside INCLUDING HIS OWN WIFE AND CHILDREN. Sure, OK, the fire got out of hand because the sprinkler system in the building wasn’t hooked up. But he’s a fucking FIREMAN. He should have noticed the sprinklers. He also should have known to turn off the space heater in his personal drug den, a.k.a. the empty apartment a few floors down that he used to pop his pain pills and drink his alcohol in peace. Addiction is real, and makes people do terrible things that they regret. I’m not saying otherwise. But when Bobby expressed his concern over how he could be honest with his fellow firefighters about his past and still expect them to trust him and follow him, I wanted to ask the writers the same thing. They haven’t done the legwork to make me accept and forgive this character for a past that over-the-top bad yet. I’m not even sure what groundwork they COULD have done to make that reveal not turn me off. And that’s not the end of it. After Abby’s mom wandered off and was thankfully found by some helpful, tatted-up cholos (who were very sweet, and even though it was obviously supposed to DEFY OUR EXPECTATIONS, I loved it anyway — she reminded the one guy of HIS senile abuela!), Abby just brought her home and stuck her back in bed. Abby, who is a smart, capable woman, somehow doesn’t realize that maybe she should place her mother in a facility that she WON’T be able to just walk away from. Like, are we supposed to believe that her guilt complex outweighs her concerns for her mother’s safety? And Athena, who had less to do this episode, is still a very good cop who decided to abuse her authority and target a teenage girl for personal reasons. Is the girl in question a monster? Of course. But c’mon.
Which brings me to our exciting new feature:
Where The Fuck Is Kenneth Choi?
Remember “Chimney” Han, or as I like to think of him, “Ol’ Rebar Skull”? It was only two episode ago that he was horribly injured in a terrifying manner (the aforementioned piece of rebar, in his skull), yet miraculously pulled through! He’s since been mentioned in an offhand manner (“wish he was here right now” is the gist), but there has been no check-in or substantive mention of his progress. He’s clearly in recovery, and that will take awhile, so the question now is: How long will the writers wait before they bring him back and all the drama in the firehouse is centered around how much he’s changed and whether he can still do the job? This is the start of that countdown…
But let’s get to the fun, horrible emergencies! The big one that kicked off the episode was the dance floor collapsing at a wedding reception, crashing down through two stories. Remind me to never dance with a lot of people unless we’re on the ground floor…
And yes that’s totally a thing that happened, dubbed the “Versailles Wedding Hall Disaster”. Hundreds injured and over 20 people died when the floor gave out during a wedding reception at a popular hall in Jerusalem in 2001. This description in the New York Times sounds eerily similar to the events in the episode:
The ragged 100-foot-wide hole left in the center of the top banquet hall revealed sandy concrete flooring underpinned by wire mesh, but without visible crossbeams or supporting columns from below.
Buckling under the weight of dozens of dancers, the entire central section of the floor collapsed onto the dining hall below, pulling down with it much of the north and south walls of the building. Large slabs of concrete flooring crushed dinner tables and smashed car-sized holes though the second floor, as panicked guests on the edges fled for the exits. In the crowded center of the rooms, hundreds fell into a gaping crater.
But that’s not the only time a dance floor has collapsed. Just a few months ago the floor of a nightclub on the Spanish island of Tenerife collapsed, killing about 40 people. And in the same month, a homecoming game afterparty at the University of North Texas broke through the floor of a student apartment onto those below it — though luckily it resulted in only minor injuries and a lot of property damage.
As for the other emergencies of the episode:
- Abby and Buck took a break from their hunt for Abby’s mom to respond to a call, where a little girl was stranded on a pool float when a power line crashed down into the pool. The water was deadly (as evidenced by the unexplained dead guy also floating in the pool), but they managed to get the girl to safety without injury. In 2013 a power line came down near a swim club in North Carolina, sending a current into the water and killing an 11-year-old girl.
- And finally, what about Bobby’s apartment fire! Finding cases of fires in apartment buildings that never had a sprinkler system installed is easy (look at the disastrous Grenfell Tower fire in London), but I had a harder time finding stories about buildings with sprinklers that had simply never been hooked up. So instead I looked into space heaters… and instead of citing a litany of different horror stories, I’m just going to point you to this TODAY show segment that demonstrates how quickly a a space heater can start a fire… in almost the exact same way it happened on 9-1-1.
So no dancing above the ground floor, no pools under power lines, and no space heaters. But yes to phone sex! (By the way, Abby and Buck had phone sex. It was… cute? I guess?) Man, this show sure is educational.