9-1-1 Season 5: A ‘Chaotic’ Season Unpacked
There’s something to be said for being on the air for five seasons and still being one of the top television shows.
9-1-1 continues to be a star, but unfortunately, this season was a tough pill to swallow at times.
I roped fellow TV Fanatic Jasmine Blu into a conversation about the season at large. And we covered A LOT of territory, so settle in and let us know how you’re feeling in the comments!
Whitney: 9-1-1 Season 5 was all over the place. The beginning of the season with the hacker storyline and the zoo animals on the loose feels like a fever dream now.
How would you describe this season in one word?
Jasmine: Just one, Whitney? Chaotic. Just… chaotic. Bless its heart.
Whitney: Chaotic is a great word. I would probably say uneven. There were things to like (mainly in the second half), but as a whole, it didn’t feel like the same show in a lot of ways.
Jasmine: The second half was infinitely stronger than the first half. The first half had me scratching my head more times than not. So I at least appreciate that they left on a high note and turned things around.
What were the weakest points for you? Why would you call it “uneven?”
Whitney: I’m used to 9-1-1 being a dependable procedural. Not every episode is a home run, but you know what to expect each week for the most part. However, I honestly didn’t know what each episode would bring this season.
The hacker story lacked the usual pizzaz of the big disasters we know they’re capable of (though, I’m beginning to think they will never be able to top the tsunami at this point). And I know it was out of their control, but they struggled with Maddie’s absence and then Chimney’s as well.
There is no reason we should have had an episode with an entire plot revolving around Taylor Kelly and Lou Ransone solving a case together. And I say that as someone who loves themselves some Lou Ransone.
9-1-1 has always struggled to incorporate all the characters properly. It’s like you can only get one or two good storylines at a time, and everyone else can only show up for the emergencies during a stretch of the season.
Jasmine: Essentially, why I picked “chaotic.” I never really knew what we would get next, and not in a fun way either. I feel like they attempted too many things and didn’t pull all of them off at once.
And I agree that the balance was very much off during this season. They have rich characters but didn’t do all of them justice. And tossing in new ones or focusing too much on recurring ones didn’t help.
Taylor had WAY too much narrative space this season. And then they introduced characters like Lucy instead of developing characters they already had like Ravi or giving Eddie’s arc more breathing room.
Whitney: Yes! I understand that shows need to switch things up and expand, especially veteran shows that need to keep audiences invested because people get bored with the same old thing. But if there is one thing I learned after this season, 9-1-1 would benefit from sticking to what works.
Their core audience is coming back week after week, year after year, to watch Athena and her colleagues at the police station, Maddie and her call center people, and the core five at the 118 work together. Add in their families, and this is the series we love and the series we want to watch.
Jasmine: Right. There was such a void with Maddie and Chimney’s absence. I felt like there wasn’t enough Athena for me. I felt weirdly detached from many of the characters I love this season because of the pacing and storyline focus.
Whitney: Yes, especially in the second half of the season, Athena felt very absent, and it was extremely noticeable. With such a large cast, you’d think we wouldn’t be able to tell as much when certain characters get sidelined, but that wasn’t the case this season.
Circling back to the recurring characters, what did you make of Lucy and Jonah’s introductions in the second half?
Jasmine: I HATED Lucy’s introduction. I was not a fan of the whole introducing a female version of one of their leads. That seemed to be a thing this season as they did it on The Resident, too, and I rolled my eyes. I thought it was cheesy, and then it went downhill. Ironically, I didn’t mind Jonah as much because Hen’s attitude toward him was amusing.
And go figure. He turned out nuts!
Whitney: I hated both of their introductions, but at least Jonah ended up serving a purpose, and now he’s gone. As soon as they described Lucy as a female Buck, I knew it wouldn’t work. And then, to make things worse, they decided to have them kiss, and that be her only contribution to the season.
It’s a shame, really, because if she HAD to team up with Buck somehow, she would have worked much better as a friend only, but everything was tainted with them from the jump because of how we met Lucy. It was nearly impossible to look at all their scenes as platonic moving forward, no matter how hard the show tried to show us that.
Everything involving Buck in the second half of the season was raggedy. If I had to describe Buck’s storyline, that would be my word.
Jasmine: I was just so irritated with the kiss plot. WHAT was the reason? I was genuinely perturbed by how it setback Buck’s progress and growth, and I was angry that they used a female character for THAT. And it was all so pointless by the end that it didn’t even need to happen.
Because then they tried to walk it back and act like Lucy and Buck had become besties minus any realistic awkwardness offscreen, and I was still stuck on that dumb kiss and cheating plot.
And I guess she’s staying, but I have no interest in her as chick Buck he cheated with and nothing else.
Buck’s storyline in the second half was just unfathomable. To quote Nene Leakes…” the ghetto.” It was just so wildly unsatisfying and regressive for his character. I thought we had gotten beyond this. I had hoped he’d have a step up from his being a baby for parts plot, and then they just gave us this.
I was so disappointed with Buck’s arc. I’m getting angry again just thinking about it. I wanna speak to the manager, Whitney!!
Whitney: I’m right there with you. Throughout the years, Buck’s growth has been my favorite aspect of the whole series because when you watch back 9-1-1 Season 1, he was a MESS. And he really did work hard to become a better firefighter and person, and it was like they forgot who Buck was.
Buck, who told Eddie not to string Ana along when his heart wasn’t in it and who stayed faithful to a woman who ghosted him, was suddenly cheating and trying to trap someone into living with him? Make it make sense.
And you’re right. The kiss amounted to absolutely nothing. If Lucy is staying, good luck to them trying to figure out how to incorporate her when they can’t incorporate the other 50 cast members they have consistently. She didn’t bring anything refreshing to the team, and I struggle to see that changing with Eddie back.
Speaking of Eddie, he dumped Ana, disappeared for a bit, and then had that incredible PTSD arc in the second half. What did you think of his overall season 5 arc?
Jasmine: I appreciated Eddie’s PTSD arc, though I wished it was handled with more consistency. It was so touch and go, and they’d put it on the backburner and then bring it back, and I just wanted more consistency. But I thought it was mostly handled well enough. In particular, Eddie’s baseball bat scene was such a standout for me.
I thought it was something long overdue to focus on. I also wish it wasn’t such an isolated arc. I missed having more group support for him. Some of the stuff with Buck barely-there felt perfunctory, and there wasn’t as much Bobby there for it either. It was good, but Guzman felt very isolated for it.
Whitney: I thought every scene they dedicated to the PTSD arc worked. You mentioned earlier that it could have been given more room to breathe, and I agree. But I thought Ryan Guzman did some of his best work on the show. And the makeup department deserves a shoutout for genuinely making him look like he was going THROUGH IT.
Jasmine: YESSS!! That montage sequence of him going through his routine and just looking more and more dead inside haunted me. Loved that sequence. And Guzman definitely did some of his best work on the series with that arc!
Whitney: Bringing in Buck made the most sense because of how close they are, and I loved that image of Buck busting down the door to get to him. I truly think Buck, Eddie, and Christopher are a family in their own right and those kinds of scenes just reaffirm that.
Jasmine: Definitely solid Buddie content with Chris. For sure. I guess I missed more team family stuff this season, so I loved Buck and Chris but also wanted more just in general. It was still good though
Whitney: One thing I will say about Eddie, though, which was very noticeable to me here, is how much he really only has Buck. Whereas Buck has deeper connections with practically everyone, we don’t see Eddie having those same relationships. Like have Maddie and Eddie spent any time together?
And if Eddie and Chimney are close, they aren’t showing us. Same with Hen.
What did you think about the various relationships this season? From Buck/Taylor to Maddie/Chimney and Hen/Karen. It was kind of a lot of drama.
Jasmine: ¡Dios mÃo! For the life of me, I didn’t understand why Buck and Taylor were still a thing. It never made any sense to me anyway, and they just did nothing to sell me on that relationship. But it got so progressively worse all season long. I don’t even like Taylor and was livid for her when Buck kissed Lucy and then did the whole move-in thing.
It was just so messy and not in a fun or entertaining way. I just felt like Buck stayed with Taylor just because, even though it wasn’t working, and they’re fundamentally different people. And then, after all that drama, their breakup was so anti-climatic.
Maddie and Chim had me the most emotional all season. I just wanted them together again and to just work through things. I love Chim, but he did drop the ball with her postpartum and not paying enough attention, but then he did whatever it took to get her back. They had me in a chokehold all season long.
I will say of all the queer ships on TV this season, I was just so relieved that Karen and Hen had normal little couple issues, and at no point did they do a disservice to them this season. The bar is low these days with any ships, but especially queer ones, and Karen and Hen may be the most stable, healthiest, and underrated one on the air.
I loved their vow renewal! But in general, I just love Aisha Hinds and Traci Thoms onscreen together.
Also, my parents Bathena are everything to me and deserve their vacation.
Whitney: Bobby and Athena hanging out at their house are always some of my favorite scenes of any episode. And May walking in while they were role-playing? Top 10 funniest moment of the series! I hope they enjoy their cruise, come back well-rested, and continue to be the best relationship in the entire 9-1-1 universe.
Hen and Karen spent this season solid, and I love that for them. They’ve had their fair share of drama over the years, but they really got to lean into their love for one another this season. And it culminating with that beautiful vow renewal (that was way too short) was the perfect way to end the season for them.
I know people are mad that Maddie and Chimney ended the season apart, but their journey worked for me. Maddie was gone a long time, and in that time, they changed. And that naturally meant that their relationship changed. They needed this time apart to reacclimate themselves to each other and co-parent first and foremost.
The love was never a question, but they did need time and space. Season 6 will be their season of happiness. I’m manifesting it.
Buck and Taylor. Raggedy storyline and Raggedy storyline, Jr. Nothing about this relationship ever worked. There was no chemistry. No fun. No spark. Their journey was not there as an endgame couple, so there was literally no reason to ever get invested.
But you should still be able to enjoy a couple, even when you know it’s not meant to be, and they failed here. Spectacularly.
Alas, all I can say is that I hope the Taylor Kelly experiment is over now. Let Buck be single challenge!
Jasmine: Relationships are a marathon, not a sprint, and it feels perfectly natural that Maddie and Chim are where they are now and will cautiously and carefully find their way back to each other romantically and be stronger than ever.
And all I wanted was for Buck to have one healthy relationship, and I thought he was ready for that. But now he can just stay single because the Taylor saga was a dumpster fire…
Whitney: Did you have a favorite episode this season? Or a favorite scene?
Jasmine: Ugh. Favorites are tough. As I said, I loved so many parts of Eddie’s arc with PTSD. I loved Bobby and May’s relationship this season. Honestly, any Bobby off-the-job shenanigans will have my heart. I’m so glad we squeezed in some Bobby and Michael before Michael left. Those two always have me cackling when they’re together.
I loved the zoo madness and everyone’s reaction to it. It wasn’t the tsunami level of goodness, but it entertained me.
Ohhh. I was shocked how much Claudette’s death would get to me but loved her final scenes with May. That fire got to me too.
Whitney: I loved the zoo madness, too. I wanted it to last longer! But my favorite episode was May Day. It felt like old 9-1-1, and it worked on every single level. It had some humorous moments and several emotional beats, and it gave me a lot of my favorite things.
Bobby forever the badass captain and caring dad. And Buck and Eddie working together seamlessly. That episode was truly top tier in a season that had me scratching my head a lot.
Eddie: Josh, you’re a dispatcher, not a firefighter. Today you’re a guest in this house.
Josh: He’s been waiting months to say that.
An iconic quote.
Jasmine: I lived for that quote because Josh was totally a hardass when Eddie was there.
Whitney: Oh, May was such a lovely addition at the dispatch this season. I’m going to miss her a lot. And Claudette’s death was so sad.
Alright, so what grade would you give season 5 and why?
Jasmine: I’m going with something in the B-/C+ territory. I know it probably reads critical, but there were many things I enjoyed about the season. I thought the PTSD arc was a great bit of much-needed development and exploration for Eddie. I felt like they handled things with Maddie and Chimney well once they got into their episode. ‘
May was easily one of the highlights of this season, and I genuinely loved her as a dispatcher and will miss her so much in that context. And some of the cases were just wild or memorable like the gasoline woman still comes to mind often for me.
It was one of those seasons where when they were on it, they were on it. But the other unappealing bits dragged it down. Buck’s entire storyline with Lucy and Taylor should’ve been yeeted into the sun. I feel like they sidelined too many characters for specific plot points, which detracted from the team vibe of the series.
I felt like the continuity was off for some storylines, which frustrated me.
My season six wishlist is just more of what makes this series so great-this team kicking butt and being a family. I want a slow build to Maddie and Chimney getting back together. I need a better personal arc for Buck.
I just want him to continue to grow. I’m torn on him being single because we’ve seen that more often than not, and I genuinely want him to be in a healthy relationship, and just learning how to navigate that can be compelling. I want some development with Chim’s brother and Ravi, and if Lucy is staying, they need to overhaul her character and dig deeper.
I want all the Bathena. I just love them so much, Whitney. I need my parents to be happy and relaxed and in love and for the “kids” not to drive them insane too much.
Whitney: I struggle to give the season something higher than a C. Especially in the first half of the season, so many episodes fell flat. The dynamics were off, and the show struggled to find its footing among the cast changes. 9-1-1 Season 5 Episode 7 was probably one of the weirdest hours the show has ever had.
So, it was very average if I’m looking at it and stacking it against seasons past. Though, as you said, there were things to truly enjoy. My tops are the Eddie storyline, anything Athena and Bobby, Hen and Karen moments, and Maddie and Chimney’s journey back to Los Angeles.
But on the flip side, everything Buck and his personal life was a disaster I don’t want to see again.
For me, I want season 6 to go back to basics. This show can be SO GOOD when it sticks to the winning formula because this cast has insane chemistry, the stunts are crazy and captivating, and this show has a beautiful spirit.
I’d like Buck to be single for a bit and dig into what he actually wants because I genuinely feel like much of his relationship with Taylor was born out of the idea that she was there and wanting him, which was enough for him to commit. I need him to continue working on himself.
I want to see the core 118 back together in the truck cracking jokes.
I need them to remember they have Angela Bassett and never forget it!
Oh, yes, to your assertion about the recurring characters. Use them if they’re going to be there, and let them be their own characters. Especially Ravi. The potential is there. Let Ravi be great!
Jasmine: “I need them to remember they have Angela Bassett and never forget it!” Let the church say amen. Auntie is an icon, and they have to put more respect on her name. She truly disappeared, and she’s like the glue. No wonder it felt undone.
Ravi is sunshine, and we deserve more, okay? I just love him!
Whitney: Exactly! She really is the one who keeps it all together.
Any final thoughts for the congregation?
Jasmine: So happy we got our renewal, and even though this season has been rough, I’m super excited about what’s to come next year and also thirsting over my mens again. So much pretty. It’s at its peak when they’re all under the same roof.
Also, bless, Taylor is finally gone. Maddie, Eddie, and Chim are finally back. And the family is intact.
A humble request that Christopher stop getting so big. He’s going to be a full-grown man when they come back. I need my precious baby to stay a baby forever.
Whitney: YES to all this. I’ll add in that they need to keep feeding me my favorite dynamics of Buddie, Madney, Chim/Hen (Chimen?), and Bathena, and never stop. And whatever the big emergency ends up being, please make sure it doesn’t drag out for an unnecessarily long amount of time.
Also, please check in with May whenever possible! And once again, LET RAVI BE GREAT.
Whitney Evans is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.