9-1-1 season finale recap: The serial bomber targets the 118
9-1-1 is making sure you paid attention this season. The season 2 finale was full of callbacks and familiar faces—some friendly and some definitely not-so-friendly because holy hell, of course, we know the serial mail bomber. Some of those surprises are dramatic twists and some are simply to help us send most of our first responders into hiatus on a happy, well wrapped up note. There is, of course, one firefighter who gets no such thing, but we will get to that.
As the title indicates, the theme of the night is “the life we choose,” so the rescues are all about people put into harm’s way because of the life they lead. Like the old daredevil whose wife wants him to retire but he just can’t quit…and so ends up with his hair caught in the engine of his car and part of his scalp peeling off. When the 118 arrives and cuts him out of his car, they inform him that he’ll survive this—and now he feels more emboldened never to quit on daredeviling, or whatever. Good luck to you, sir. More important, good luck to your wife.
If you think a man’s scalp peeling off from his head via car engine is disgusting, let me point you to another rescue this evening: A social media influencer is hosting a live Instagram story in which she’s showing her followers how to properly pop a pimple after her acne flared up thanks to a recent trip to Belize (THIS IS THE TIME WE LIVE IN). Only, when she pops that pimple, pus doesn’t come out…a live maggot does. Excuse me, I need to go gag twice. First, because it is truly heinous. Second, because I just had to write that sentence. What a world! We’ve seen some pretty gruesome stuff on this show, but a maggot crawling out of a woman’s pimple, well, I am forever changed. Although most of this episode is a heartfelt ode to the 118, 9-1-1 does not disappoint in a ridiculous rescue to end the season. And sure, most of that scene felt like someone inception-ed me and put my actual nightmare on the TV screen, there was one lovely development: The influencer’s live story keeps going throughout her rescue and we get to watch as people comment on how hot Buck and Eddie are, and in a nod to all those fans out there who ‘ship the hell out of those two, one person notes how cute they’d be together. 9-1-1 sees you.
But, of course, the theme most aptly applies to our first responders. People who choose a career in which they put themselves in danger every single day. When Eddie’s family begs him—just one day after they bury Shannon, mind you—to move himself and Christopher back to Texas, Eddie says no. He has a life here now. He has a family here, too. He chooses his life in Los Angeles and by the end of the episode, his family gets to see why: Station 118 celebrates Eddie’s probation year coming to an end and him officially becoming a firefighter. Christopher brings him his helmet and that’s like the sixth thing that made me cry in this episode. Listen, I try not to cry at this show because, hi, sharks on the freeway, but this 9-1-1 finale came for my tears and reader, it got them.
The 118 family comes together for one another again during the episode’s big set piece. Let’s talk about the serial mail bomber, shall we? After sending bombs to the defense attorney (the woman celebrating her anniversary last week), and an insurance adjuster, the city is in a panic. Maddie and her team are dealing with a huge influx of paranoid people calling 9-1-1 and it seems like the firefighters and bomb squad are called out to deal with a package or backpack every hour. Nothing comes of it…until a suspicious looking package lands on Athena’s doorstep just in time for Michael and the kids to come across it. Bless Michael, he saves them all, because as we discover—this package is the real deal.
The bomb does go off, but it’s already safely inside the bomb squad’s box before it does. It’s a tense few moments, but everyone is fine. The question then becomes: Why was Athena targeted? Aside from the three bombs she knows of, Athena learns that just that morning another bomb had been delivered and killed its target: a judge. How are they all connected? Well, folks, remember in Bobby’s LAFD origin story episode when he turned that guy in for setting his restaurant on fire for insurance money and the guy went to prison and the guy’s son RAGED on Bobby? Well, the son is the serial bomber. I KNOW.
Freddy’s dad got cancer while in prison and died and now Freddy’s mom has no idea where her son is. Once they figure out Freddy is the culprit and he’s seeking vengeance for his father, they suspect that Bobby will be the next one to receive a mail bomb. But when they check his apartment, they find nothing. It’s Bobby who suggests that they checked the wrong house. HELLO THE BOMB IS DEFINITELY AT STATION 118.
Before they can investigate, 118 is out on a call and the ladder truck explodes, Buck goes flying, lands on the street, and the truck lands on top of his leg. He’s crushed and needs help, except no one can get near him because Freddy is on the scene WITH A BOMB STRAPPED TO HIS CHEST. Maybe this is residual emotion left from seeing that maggot crawl out of that girl’s face, but this is truly wild.
Might I take this time to point out that this entire thing is playing out live on the news, so both Buck’s sister Maddie WHO HAS BEEN THROUGH ENOUGH, and Buck’s girlfriend Allie, who also has been through a lot if we’re being honest, have to watch this person they love suffering in the street on TV while they are unable to do anything. It’s a precarious situation and Freddy only wants Bobby. You guys, of course, Bobby and Athena are there and of course Bobby tells Athena he loves her before walking right up to Freddy to confront him. Bobby has to save Buck, come on!
Is it just me or is Bobby, like, sort of aggressive with this kid who has a bomb strapped to his chest? Like, what he’s saying is true—the moment Freddy sent out a bomb, he stopped being the victim in his family’s tragic story—but also the kid has a bomb strapped to his chest. Eventually, they bring out Freddy’s mom to distract him and Bobby grabs him—again, do I want Bobby at any future hostage situations? Probably not—and he gains control of the bomb detonator, and the police grab Freddy. So that part of the situation is, ahem, diffused. But they still need to save Buck, who is trapped under the firetruck. Another sentence that makes me gag but in a good way because bless this show.
The problem is an obvious one, the firetruck is too heavy for just the firefighters at the scene to lift while they wait for backup—and Buck is fading fast. So what happens next, you ask? All of the civilian bystanders break through the police barriers to help! THIS IS NO JOKE. ALSO I AM CRYING AGAIN. Together, the citizens of Los Angeles help save a first responder.
Buck survives his long surgery, and he’ll walk again—aw, the person waiting at his bedside is Carla!—but his future as a firefighter is up in the air. Well, to people with medical degrees it is, but not to Buck. There’s no way he’s not getting back to work. This scares Allie, who doesn’t think she can take a life of worrying about Buck’s safety now that she’s seen what can happen. It also scares Maddie, especially when she learns that Buck is going in for a follow-up surgery much sooner than his doctor suggests because he has to get back to 118 as soon as possible, even if it’s not totally safe. Maddie tries to convince him that he’s more than his job, but it doesn’t matter. Buck is spiraling from this injury and the implications it may have—but we won’t know his fate until next season.
The entire ordeal affects those around Buck, as well. Reminded that life is short, two couples take big steps forward. First, Maddie shows up at the firehouse and stands in the same place she did when she first asked Chimney out, this time, telling him that just because they’ll never have what they might’ve before the attack, doesn’t mean what they could have now wouldn’t be just as good. And so they kiss and all seems right with the world.
Perhaps inspired by his heart-pounding run-in with the BOMB VEST, or perhaps just really hitting the Rent soundtrack hard, Bobby (whose suspension has been lifted because you don’t fire heroes) realizes there is no day but today and he asks Athena if they can just make this whole thing official. So they do! They grab the kids and head to the courthouse and Athena and Bobby get married. This feels good and special and nice, and sometimes that’s all you really need. For a show that puts us through the ridiculous and grotesque on the regular, it closes out its sophomore season on an earnest, hopeful note. You get yours, 9-1-1.