“Back in the Saddle” finds the 126 back in action with some significant changes, but 9-1-1: Lone Star still thankfully retains its personable attitude.
This recap of 9-1-1: Lone Star season 2, episode 1, “Back in the Saddle”, contains spoilers.
One of last year’s most underrated network shows is back for its Season 2 premiere with the fittingly titled “Back in the Saddle”, and since it arrives not only with a new status quo but in a world thoroughly ravaged by a global public health crisis, this opening hour has a lot of table-setting to get through. Because of that, there’s a little less character patter than you might be used to in this show, with a couple of plot strands taking precedence and some others being offhandedly dismissed when they could really do with a bit more explanation. It’s up and down, then, but much the same as it always was, which is to say pretty damn good and always liable to get even better.
The big news is that Liv Tyler’s Michelle Blake is no longer part of the team, having apparently quit her job to focus on helping people like her sister, Iris, living on the streets with mental illnesses. Which is fine, and in-character, but didn’t she spend virtually all of the first season doing that anyway? She seemed pretty good at managing her time. There might well be a spin-off in Tyler’s future, which would be nice to see, but for now, as far as 9-1-1: Lone Star is concerned, she’s gone.
That means she has to be replaced, and “Back in the Saddle” spends a good chunk of time introducing her successor, even though she was technically Michelle’s mentor in the first place. Anyway, her name is Tommy Vega, she’s played by Gina Torres, and she fits right in. She’s immediately introduced as the breadwinner of a very charming family, who is returning to work earlier than planned after a leave of absence due to the pandemic. This isn’t the only time that the episode mentions Covid-19. It’s name-checked several times, and one of the obligatory emergency responses is to save a guy who started choking to death during a Zoom meeting.
The other emergencies are functional. At the very top of the episode, Owen stops a man from driving a tank into a veteran’s hospital in his usual brave and bold manner, just reminding audiences that he’s much the same guy and isn’t going to change any time soon now that his cancer is in remission (this news is also delivered to him remotely, and features a funny gag where a spotty connection causes him to totally misinterpret what the doctor is saying.) Tommy gets to make a good first impression when she saves the arm of a girl who is accidentally impaled at a roller derby and keeps her cool under fire when she’s pinned down atop a cell tower. Talk about first days back.
One of the things I like about Tommy’s inclusion is that she has a close relationship with Judd and Grace, which anyone who read my recaps of the first season will know was my favorite pairing. It helps to give the setting and these characters some texture, seeing them interact outside of work and helps Tommy not to feel like a random replacement plucked out of nowhere. It’s a small thing, but it matters, and 9-1-1: Lone Star has always paid attention to that kind of stuff.
Speaking of pairings, perhaps the biggest new one is Owen and his ex-wife, Gwyneth (Lisa Edelstein), who arrived to help T.K. recover from his gunshot wound and Owen cope with his cancer, ended up getting stranded thanks to Covid-19, and, well… you get the idea. Edelstein is apparently sticking around for most of the season, so it remains to be seen how this will affect Owen and indeed T.K. going forwards.
9-1-1: Lone Star season 2, episode 1 puts all this across as personably as ever, and it’s great to see the show back in this slightly new form. As I said at the top, it was one of last year’s most unappreciated network shows, and if this sophomore outing retains the same quality, it’ll be fun to see what it comes up with this time.