By Rosy Cordero
November 04, 2019 at 09:00 PM EST
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Fall TV
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Warning: This article contains spoilers about Monday night’s episode Fox’s 9-1-1.

Athena Grant has been keeping a big secret from everyone.

But on Monday’s episode of Fox’s 9-1-1, titled “Athena Begins” (directed by Empire and For Better or Worse actress and Tasha Smith), everything unraveled for the character, played by Angela Bassett.

In a flashback, we saw Grant meet an officer named Emmett Washington (Jeff Pierre) while she was studying pre-law at the University of Southern California in 1991. With his guidance, Grant was able to find her place in the world — the police force. They were a young couple in love who later became engaged, but their love was not meant to be.

Emmett was murdered while he was on duty and his killer was never found — until now.

“It was exciting! I was thrilled that I got to do it,” Bassett tells EW about Athena, played in flashbacks by Pepi Sonuga, finally getting an episode about her backstory. “I was looking forward to it because we’ve done it for just about all the other characters, so I was wondering when it would be Athena’s turn. It was informative and really interesting to find out she had a fiancé 30 years ago that was taken too soon out of her life and the effect that had on her life, his mom’s life, and his family’s lives.”

Jack Zeman/FOX

Bassett thinks learning Athena’s backstory also gives insight into her relationship and later marriage to Michael (Rockmond Dunbar). Michael and Athena divorced during season 2, after he confirmed he is gay and in a relationship with a man.

“Maybe Emmett’s death also affected [Athena] when it came time for her to pick a new mate and her love choices thereafter,” she wonders. “Michael accused her of knowing somewhere deep inside that she picked him for a reason. They never could connect emotionally 100 percent. Maybe Michael was a safe choice for her?”

With the murder finally solved — Emmett was killed during a grocery store hold-up by a druggie robber — Bassett says a huge weight will be lifted off of her character’s shoulders and her heart. She even has hopeful parting words for the man who killed Emmett all those years ago.

“She can finally give herself permission to remember him fondly and not push his memory to the crevices of her mind,” Bassett explains. “There’s some satisfaction that she was able to do this for him — to bring closure to this and dignity. I think it’s probably good that whatever her thoughts have been about this person who took him away from his family and his loved ones, that people do and can change for the better. I think that was helpful, as well, although he still has to bear the responsibility for the crime — and because it was a cop, he’ll probably go away forever. But he still has to bear that responsibility.”

9-1-1 airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.

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