With new faces, crazy cases, and the same charm, 9-1-1 Lone Star is back, settled in, and has found its groove.
Most of 9-1-1: Lone Star Season 2 Episode 1 served as an introduction to newcomers Tommy Vega and Gwyn, and the additions of Torres and Edelstein (albeit in a guest-starring role) are seamless.
They have already added something distinctive to the series, and both of their characters round out the eclectic bunch of diverse personalities beautifully.
It seems we can't discuss our favorite series without addressing the COVID elephant in the room. Lone Star is a show that centers frontline and essential workers, so acknowledging the pandemic is a given.
However, while the show plays it a bit fast and loose with pandemic culture and protocol, the series addresses and references it often.
Rosewater: She abandoned us, Nancy. For some new rando captain who hasn't been on the job in forever. You realize how much EMS changed since 2013?
Marjan: I remember 2013.
Paul: Live concerts.
The characters wear masks at the scene of their cases, but it doesn't dominate nor overwhelm the series, nor has it changed the show's formula much. In that sense, hell, I'll take the slight reprieve.
Instead, they've found a way to use the pandemic to drive more personal plot points, including the reasoning behind Tommy Vega's return to a field that she departed nearly a decade ago.
As a longtime Gina Torres fan, there is nothing she can't do, so Tommy's addition was highly-anticipated. And she didn't disappoint.
One of the biggest critiques of 9-1-1 Lone Star Season 1 was they introduced their very diverse group of characters by focusing exclusively on their token identity and reduced them to it more often than not.
Charles: Hey, doesn't your mom look like a boss?
Twins: Mama is the boss.
Fortunately, they avoided that with Tommy. We've only had her an hour, and it already feels as if we've known her forever. She didn't come in as a newbie from some random city, and they didn't spend her opening moments sounding the alarms that she's Afro-Latina.
She's a devoted mom and wife, and she's a seasoned paramedic reentering her field, and Torres' nuanced, effortless portrayal of Tommy as she struggled with finding her footing was compelling.
It was also a smart move on their part to give Tommy a connection to the woman she's essentially replacing, Michelle, and a couple of characters we already love, the Ryders.
The show wasted no time addressing Michelle's absence as the team discussed their feelings about her decision to leave.
It's a pain when a series uses throwaway lines to explain how they wrote out a character, but it worked here. And Michelle's choice to quit her job at the station to devote her time to helping mentally-ill homeless individuals felt true to her character given the storyline with her sister and her personality.
The best part about it is how it opens the door for her to return, too. As Marjan said, Michelle found her calling. And in her absence, they get to work with the woman who taught Michelle everything that she knows.
Tommy Vega is a badass, and Rosewater better not forget it. It felt as if almost every case they went on had the goal of showcasing her skillset and how she adapted to the job.
After eight years away from the field, she was bound to have some jitters and require a moment to find her footing. But what was most interesting about Tommy jumping back into the field was that it wasn't necessarily by choice but a necessity.
Charles: Like the scripture says, "We rejoice in our suffering."
Tommy: Well, I wish this last year hadn't given us quite so much to rejoice about.
Charles: You and me both, baby. You and me both.
She would've preferred to stay home with her daughters and raise them, but the pandemic, as we know, has wreaked havoc on the food industry, namely restaurants.
Charles' restaurant was a success before, but they couldn't make ends meet when he had to shut things down, and it forced Tommy to reenter the workforce. I love what they've done with this storyline, and these are the ways shows can touch on the pandemic without explicitly focusing on those fighting or dying from the virus.
It's the everyday stories that everyone has, and given that this show has focused on Texas and its "salt of the Earth" people, it works here.
Judd: So first day; I know it's not the most fun circumstances, but how ya feel?
Tommy: Like I need a lot of Jesus and a little bit of Jack.
Tommy getting upset that she went a full day without seeing her daughters because she got home after they went to sleep and woke up after they went to school was so real and raw.
And Charles is doing a great job taking care of them on his own, but it's not the same as when she's there. We learn that Tommy is a God-fearing woman, a loving mother who wants to be with her kids, and an adoring and supportive wife.
The glimpses of her home life are pleasant, and I hope they continue. It's the personal elements that make the 9-1-1 franchise successful -- the balance of characters and their personal lives being as engaging as the insane cases of the week.
We spent a lot of time with Tommy, similar to how we did with Michelle, and every second of it was great. I hope it also means that it will continue to branch out to the other characters more, too.
And another great thing about seeing Tommy in her downtime is that she is close friends with the Ryders. The Ryders are the cornerstone relationship of this series, and it's absolutely precious that both the couples are best friends.
I already love that Tommy was the one who set Judd up with Grace, and they all get along so well. If a character has Judd's approval, then you know they're every bit as amazing as he says, and he did nothing but sing her praises.
And Grace's friendship with Tommy means that she has another line to the station outside of Judd, and she won't fall to the wayside as much. We also get female characters interacting more, which was something that was also lacking before.
The characters all have such natural chemistry that you can buy they've been friends for years. Tommy fit in with ease at the station, too.
Owen: Hey, Cap, I think we're going to have some fun.
Tommy: You bet your ass we are.
Despite others questioning if she was ready to go back into the field, she proved she had not lost her touch to Owen and the others. The Roller Derby case was a total cringe-fest, but I loved it.
Women's Roller Derby set to Joan Jett is the ultimate duo, and the one skater impaling herself on the wooden floorboard was brutal. It didn't seem as if it could get much worse, but they brought the "go big or go home" approach to it and mangled her arm, too.
I love that it took Tommy a moment to center herself before she snapped the woman's arm into place again. Once she got that out of the way, she knew she was ready for the job. And then she proved it again with the cell toward escapade.
Bless both Tommy and Owen for scaling the tower to save the guy and dealing with bolts getting shot at them too. It was a wild case that only got funnier when the team worked together to take down the crazy woman with the crossbow.
All of them have found their groove, and the team element is top-notch. In addition to Grace, they've also managed to incorporate Carlos into the series better, too.
He ran point from the police side of things with the sad case of the war veteran, Velasquez, stealing the tank and attempting to drive it into the V.A. hospital.
And because of the pandemic and the crew limiting their interactions outside of work, Carlos' apartment is their hangout. Carlos is the sweetest for opening up his home to T.K. and his friends. T.K.'s annoyance with the grocery run was so relatable and funny.
A guest stops being a guest after a month or four. From that point on, you're a squatter.Owen
The events taking place at his house with Owen and Gwyn were just as fun. It's no surprise at all that Lowe and Edelstein have smoking hot chemistry, and damn, she looks good!
I will forever love this show for not only adding two of the hottest and sexiest actresses over 50 but actually allowing and writing them as hot, sexy, and badass.
Gwyn is a spitfire, and she can match Owen toe-to-toe with his wit, overbearing nature, and appreciation for skin and hair care products. You can believe that they're the couple who fights hard and loves harder.
It's enough to make you wonder why they ever broke up in the first place. The pandemic has changed a lot of things, including family dynamics and living situations. Even though T.K. had mostly healed since getting shot, you understood why Gwyn would relocate to Texas to look after him.
Do not make your daughter a footnote to something stupid you do today in her name.Owen
And since Owen had to continue his chemotherapy, too, she was right there the whole time. Is it messed up that I can't recall the name of the other woman Owen was dating?
Anyway, Gwyn and Owen have such a spark, and the two of them navigating their relationship may be a highlight of the season, depending on however long Edelstein sticks around.
We had a lot of Owen, but this time around, his screentime with the cases and his home life were interesting, and it didn't feel as though we were spending time on him when it could've been elsewhere.
Fast-forwarding through most of Owen's cancer treatment and writing him as in remission feels a bit like a cheat. We didn't even get to see him freak out about any hair loss he may have experienced.
Vazquez: You have no idea how that feels. No idea.
Owen: Oh, but I do, lieutenant. You see, on 9/11, the one day this country swore it would never forget, it did. Those of us who were there that day we don't have that luxury. We don't get to forget, and I know too many people who survived that day only to die years later forgotten because their problems were too expensive and too inconvenient, so yeah, I understand your rage.
Owen's cancer felt like such a fundamental part of his character, so it felt like a cop-out to get past it. Sure, there's always a chance of returning, but it's no longer convenient to the plot, or it didn't test well, so they just threw it to the wolves.
However, Owen adjusting to his life after beating cancer can open the door for some engaging storytelling, too. Part of him clinging to Gwyn is probably due to his state of mind in this post-remission stage.
The doctor said that sometimes accepting remission is as hard as if the news were unpleasant, and it's probably some foreshadowing. Owen doesn't even want to tell his team yet, and you can understand his position.
Sometimes news seems too good to be true, and you don't want to get your hopes up.
Owen: Gwyn, remember when you said we both know what this is? I'm not sure we do, or what it could be, but do you want to find out?
Gwyn: Are you sure you aren't just trying to get out of driving me to the airport?
Owen: I was going to get an uber.
Gwyn: This could end in homicide.
Owen: It could, but how many times are we going to get a second chance at the best relationship of our lives?
It also feels as though Owen harbors some pain and anger because of how he got cancer in the first place. Sure, Owen's grand moment at the top of the hour was a bit extra, and so was the team standing behind him as the tank came to a halt in his face.
What Owen said about the parallels between what the military did to Velasquez's daughter and how society has responded to first responders at 9/11 is the truth.
We always say, "never forget 9/11, but then no one is there when those first responders are ill and dying years later from the effects of what happened that day and the day after.
It also felt like a subtle nod to the pandemic. We're still in it, and people forget those lost, those fighting it, surviving it, and working to treat it are more than numbers and statistics.
Doesn't it feel as though years from now, when we get past this, it'll feel the same way?
Owen's storylines feel promising and not overdone. And in a lovely piece of news, T.K., aside from his parents driving him nuts, seems happy.
We didn't spend too much time with T.K. and Carlos, not one-on-one at least, but he called him his boyfriend, so it's safe to say the last few months they've gotten more serious, and their relationship is going strong.
It's what he and we deserve.
Tommy: You're my hero. You know that?
Charles: Really? You're the one who's climbing up a tower and getting shot at.
Over to you, 9-1-1 Lone Star Fanatics! Do you think the season is off to a strong start? Do you miss Michelle? What's your first impression of Tommy Vega?
Hit the blue Show Comments button below, and tell us what you think.
You can watch 9-1-1: Lone Star online here via TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.